Silvanus P Thompson

The BIR waSilvanus Thompsons established in 1897 and Professor Silvanus Thompson became the first President to lead the Institute.  He was born in York on 20 June 1851 and died in London in 1916.  His early life was influenced by his home circle.  His grandfather was a chemist, his great uncles were both Fellows of the Royal Society, his father was a teacher of botany and his mother a field botanist.

He was a recognised authority in electricity, magnetism and acoustics.  He was a man of many talents chiefly a physicist and an electrical engineer, also a writer of text books, a minister of religion, a public lecturer, an artist, a translator and an inventor. He was a professor of physics from 1885 for 30 years at the City and Guilds Technical College in Finsbury, London.

Silvanus left an astonishing record of his work behind him and authored several key texts:

  • The Electromagnet 1892
  • Calculus Made Easy 1921
  • Elementary Lessons in Electricity and Magnetism 1895
  • Polyphase Electric Currents 1900
  • The Quest for Truth 1917
  • Dynamic Electric Machinery 1892

Silvanus Thompson wrote over 166 papers and some of his papers can be found online in the BJR archives:


Russ, S. (1944) Silvanus Thompson Memorial Lecture, The British Journal of Radiology, 17 (201), pp: 261-264.

No author (1916) Obituary: Silvanus P. Thompson, The Journal of the Rontgen Society, 12(48)

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