Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

Henry Wilde (engineer)

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Name  Henry Wilde
Role  Engineer
Died  March 28, 1919

Henry Wilde (1833 – 28 March 1919) was a wealthy individual from Manchester, England who used his self-made fortune to indulge his interest in electrical engineering. He invented the dynamo-electric machine, or self-energising dynamo, an invention for which Werner von Siemens is more usually credited and, in fact, discovered independently. At any rate, Wilde was the first to publish, his paper was communicated to the Royal Society by Michael Faraday in 1866. The self-energising dynamo replaces the permanent magnets of previous designs with electro-magnets and in so doing achieved an enormous increase in power. The machine was considered remarkable at the time, especially since Wilde was fond of spectacular demonstrations, such as the ability of his machine to cause iron bars to melt.


Academic patronage

Wilde joined the Lit & Phil Society in 1859 and was president 1894-1896. He made many gifts and endowments to further the cause of science including;

  • The Wilde Memorial Lecture of the Lit & Phil Society
  • Acedémie des Sciences (Paris) annual prize
  • A large gift to the Institute of Electrical Engineers, Benelovant Fund
  • A Readership at Oxford University
  • A Scholarship at Oxford University
  • A Lectureship at Oxford University
  • Donated two dynamos to the Clarendon Laboratory in 1888.
  • The remainder of his fortune was left to Oxford University in his will.

    Dynamo applications

    The very first application of the dynamo by Wilde was to provide the Royal Navy with powerful searchlights. The dynamo was also much used in electro-plating.


    Wilde launched a series of litigations to try to establish his priority for the dynamo, even disputing that the Siemens brothers had coined the name (Wilde credits Golding Bird with this). It seems that Wilde was much inclined to indulge in litigation; when the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) attempted to bestow their highest award, the Albert Medal, for his contribution to the invention of the dynamo, Wilde responded with a solicitor's letter berating them for not recognising him as the sole inventor. Nevertheless, the RSA still went ahead and made the award in 1900.

    Wilde's process

    Wilde's process is a method of copper-plating printing rollers which he patented in 1875. A dynamo is used to provide the electricity required for the plating process and the same mechanical power source is used to either rotate the work being plated or drive a paddle to agitate the electrolyte. This procedure ensures an even thickness of copper which is essential in printing.

    Albert Medal

    The citation for the Albert Medal awarded to Wilde by the RSA in 1900 reads;


    Henry Wilde (engineer) Wikipedia