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A Mysterious Signature from 1902

Marconi, Graham Bell, Steinmetz—and Sanderson?

1 min read
A Mysterious Signature from 1902

In its latest newsletter [PDF], the IEEE History Center invites readers to consider the 110-year-old program from the 1902 annual dinner of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, one of the predecessors of the IEEE. The program’s cover features a photo of radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. But what makes the program a “true gem,” the newsletters says, is that it’s autographed:

“…and not just by Marconi, but by a who’s who of giants of the early years of our fields—Charles Steinmetz, of General Electric and electrical theory fame; Alexander Graham Bell, telephone inventor; Elihu Thomson, electric light inventor and co-founder of one of the two predecessor companies to GE; Frank Sprague, pioneer of the first electric streetcar; Michael Pupin, inventor of the loading coil…”

So here’s the mystery: In addition to these distinguished signatures, there is one in the lower right that the staff of the History Center had been unable to identify. You can view the cover here [PDF]. Was it a prominent engineer of the era? Or just the industrious individual who gathered all those autographs?

Apparently neither, reports Robert Colburn, the History Center’s research coordinator, who credits IEEE Life Member Walter Keevil with providing a plausible ID:

“(Sir) Percy Sanderson… the British Consul General in New York City between 1894 and 1907. It is certainly possible that he would have attended the dinner since Marconi's transmissions in 1901 were between the US and England and his earlier work had been done primarily in England.”

Chalk up another victory for crowdsourcing. If you think you have a better answer, though, you can e-mail the History Center at ieee-history@ieee.org, or post your comment here.

PHOTO: IEEE History Center



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