1880-1881: Edward Alfred Cowper

1880-1881: Edward Alfred Cowper


Edward Alfred Cowper (1819-1893)

14th President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Cowper was born in London, England in 1819.

He was apprenticed in 1834 to John Braithwaite of St Pancras, a locomotive and railway engineer. While there invented the detonating fog signal, in 1837, which was subsequently widely used. At the end of his apprenticeship, he went to Fox and Henderson at the London Works, near Birmingham, where he held the position of chief draughtsman and engineer.

In 1846, he played an active part in the establishment of the Institution, and presented on of the earliest papers, on an 'inverted-arch suspension bridge'.

In 1851, he returned to London and set up as a consulting engineer. He was involved with two important projects. He worked on the 1851 Exhibition Building, later the Crystal Palace, and he designed the wrought-iron roof of the railway station, Birmingham New Street. At the time of its construction it was the largest span roof in existence, at 211 feet.

Another invention of his was the modern bicycle wheel; a wire-spoke suspension wheel with India-rubber tyre, which is, in principles, the same as that used today.

Cowper died in 1893.

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