Edward Orange Wildman Whitehouse, English electrician, 1854-1866.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photographic studio portrait by Maull and Polyblank, London, of Whitehouse, the electrician behind the first failed attempt at lay the Atlantic telegraph. Whitehouse was appointed electrician of the Atlantic Telegraph Company by its director Cyrus W Field, who knew little about telegraphy. Whitehouse's experiments led him to conclude, inaccurately, that mesages should be sent over the cable using high voltages and that the conducting wire should have a small diameter. These mistakes were compounded by the need to rush manufacture because Field had promised that the Atlantic telegraph would be operational by the end of 1857. Construction of the cable began, but after only 350 miles had been laid, it snapped and fell into the sea.