Use our images
Download images for
personal or educational
use for £2.99/US$5 each
All of these articles and images are available for licensing: click on an image to see further details and licensing options; contact us about licensing textual content.
Posted in America, Communications, Historical articles, History, Royalty, Sea, Ships on Wednesday, 1 May 2013
This edited article about the transatlantic cable originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 238 published on 6 August 1966.
Paying the cable into the hold of the Agamemnon
On 5th August, 1858, a messenger arrived at Windsor Castle and delivered to Queen Victoria a telegram from James Buchanan, President of the United States. It informed Her Majesty that the submarine cable between Britain and America had been laid across the bed of the Atlantic and that the two countries could now for the first time communicate with each other by electric telegraph.
Great difficulties beset the undertaking from the start. It had been decided that two ships, each carrying half of the cable, should sail to the mid-Atlantic. There the two halves would be spliced together, after which the British warship Agamemnon should sail eastward to Knightstown in Ireland, while the American ship Niagara should set her course westward for Trinity Bay, in Newfoundland.
Hardly had the splice been made before the cable broke, and then the vessels ran short of fuel and had to go back. Finally, after a fresh start, the Agamemnon ran into a violent storm and nearly capsized. Her crew had to work like Trojans to untangle tons of cable and continue paying it out.
At last the Agamemnon reached Knightstown, and the end of the cable was brought ashore on the same day as the Niagara landed her end in Newfoundiand.
Misfortune still dogged the enterprise. By 20th October seawater had penetrated the cable and destroyed insulation. Not until 1866 was a completely new design of cable laid which gave a regular telegraph service between Europe and America.
Posted in Communications, Historical articles, History, World War 1 on Monday, 29 April 2013
This edited article about Lord Kitchener originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.
London during WW1 with Lord Kitchener's face looking down from that famous call-up poster by Frank Bellamy
The stern face of Lord Kitchener, which stared down accusingly from call-up posters all over England during the First World War, was probably the best incentive young men in Britain could have had to join the Army. In his young days, this man had been involved in colourful exploits that had made him famous throughout the British Empire.
The plaque above marks the house at 2 Carlton Gardens, near St. James’s Park, London, where he lived from 1914-1915, during the war for which his poster with the slogan: “Your Country Needs You” helped to recruit troops.
Son of a colonel, Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916) was brought up in Ireland. After a spell of training at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1870 he offered to join the French Army to help repel German invaders.
Kitchener’s attempt to get into the French Army was frowned upon in England and he was reprimanded for “a breach of discipline”. His next three years were spent more quietly in the Royal Engineers. Then, quite suddenly, he was sent to explore Palestine – a first small step that was to carry him far.
When Britain acquired Cyprus in 1878, Kitchener was the officer chosen to survey the island. Then he became a temporary vice-consul at Kastamuni, in Asia Minor. In 1882 he asked if he could join an expedition to crush a rebellion in the Egyptian Army. His request was refused, so he took a “holiday” instead, dressing himself up as a Levantine and spending his time reconnoitring the Nile valley.
His “holiday” over, Kitchener returned to Cyprus and to an uncomfortable interview with an angry superior officer. Shortly afterwards he found himself second-in-command of a unit of Egyptian cavalry.
At this time, severe trouble was brewing in the Sudan, where the Mahdi, a Moslem religious leader, had united rebellious Arab tribes against the British.
The Mahdi was a powerful man with a large, determined and skilful army. The important city of Khartoum in the Sudan fell to his men. In 1886, Kitchener, now a recognised authority on the Middle East, was appointed Governor-General of the Eastern Sudan, where for some years he steadily prepared an army to challenge the Mahdi. The result was the battle of Omdurman, 1898, in which the Mahdi was beaten by an army less than half the size of his own.
By 1914, Kitchener, famed and trusted by the public, had unrivalled knowledge of the British Empire. He was made Minister of War and was one of the few who realised that the fight with Germany would not be “over by Christmas”. He set out to expand the British Army to an extent never before attempted, and in three years the Army grew to three-and-a-half times its former size – three million of the men were volunteers. His success probably saved Europe from German domination.
In June, 1916, Kitchener sailed from Scapa Flow to visit the Tsar of Russia, who wanted his advice. He was never seen again. His ship, H.M.S. Hampshire, disappeared in bad weather off the Orkneys, probably sunk by a mine.
Posted in America, Communications, English Literature, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Space, Theatre on Friday, 12 April 2013
This edited article about H G Wells originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 223 published on 23 April 1966.
Hysteria swept American cities during the Welles broadcast of the H G Wells classic, by Andrew Howat
The evening of October 30, 1938, was just like any other quiet Sunday night to most of the people of America. Many families were at home reading the papers or contentedly listening to the radio.
There were two programmes that night which attracted large audiences. One was a long-running comedy series, and the other a play produced by the actor-writer Orson Welles, whose talent was already winning him wide fame. He was presenting a dramatization of H. G. Wells’s classic science-fiction novel, The War of the Worlds.*
The listeners prepared themselves for an hour of cosy thrills but, after the opening announcement, the play did not start. Instead there was dance music.
Then, just as people were beginning to wonder if something had gone wrong, an announcer broke in with a dramatic “news-flash.” In an excited voice, he said that a professor in an observatory had just noted “a series of gas explosions on the planet Mars.”
This sensational news was followed by a stream of rapid on-the-spot broadcasts. These told the now uneasy listeners that a meteor had landed near Princeton, New Jersey, “killing some 1,500 persons.” Next came the announcement that it wasn’t a meteor after all, but “a metal cylinder containing Martians armed with death-rays,” who had come to wage war on the world!
The sheer brilliance and realism of the reporting convinced nearly everyone that the “invasion” really was taking place. And by nine o’clock that evening panic raged throughout the entire length and breadth of the United States.
In New York City hundreds of families fled in terror from their apartments and sought sanctuary in the parks. In San Francisco, on the West Coast, citizens ran into the streets and searched the sky for the invaders. Some people, thinking they were under gas attack by the Germans, even wrapped wet towels and handkerchiefs around their heads.
Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Australia, Aviation, Communications, Historical articles, History on Thursday, 11 April 2013
This edited article about air mail originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 221 published on 9 April 1966.
Back in Britain the first airmail deliveries began in 1911 by a service flying between Hendon and Windsor, by Wilf Hardy
The pilot of the 100 m.p.h. D.H. Moth, City of Cairo, looked anxiously down from his enclosed cockpit to the Timor Sea below. He was on the last leg of a journey carrying the first official mail from England to Australia, begun in London two weeks before on April 4, 1931, and his petrol gauge registered nearly zero after only six hours’ flight in an aircraft rated as having seven hours’ endurance!
The island of Timor, 300 miles off the North Australian coast, came into view and, scanning the rocky jungle, the pilot heaved a sigh of deep relief as he noted and headed for a strip of lush green meadow.
From as early as 1919, the British Government had an air-service to Australia constantly in mind, though the Indian Government denied Britain facilities to cross the sub-continent.
In 1931, the Indian Government permitted an extension of the London-Delhi service, and on April Fools’ Day in the same year, the Post Office announced that the Air Ministry, London Airways and Quantas Airways of Australia would run two experimental air mail round-trips to Sydney.
The first flight ran into trouble on the island of Timor. What appeared to the anxious pilot of the City of Cairo to be a perfect surface was found on landing to be six-foot-high grass strewn with boulders, which caused considerable damage to the light aircraft.
An active Australian service was continually delayed, and not until the end of 1934 were major Imperial routes established.
Posted in Communications, Famous Inventors, Historical articles, History, Inventions, Science, Scotland on Wednesday, 10 April 2013
This edited article about John Logie Baird originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 221 published on 9 April 1966.
The pioneer of television is commemorated by a blue plaque above a famous Italian restaurant in Soho, the famous “bohemian” district of London.
The world’s first television demonstration was given in the two attic rooms of No. 22 Frith St., Soho, where about fifty scientists assembled to see the new marvel on January 26, 1926.
The apparatus used on that occasion can now be seen at the Science Museum, South Kensington, but if you go there, do not expect to see anything like the familiar set that graces so many living-rooms today. Baird’s equipment was made of a biscuit tin (which housed the projection lamp), cardboard scanning discs, and cheap cycle lenses. It was built on an old wash-stand, and the whole was held together with scrap wood, darning needles, string and sealing-wax.
The machine was actually built at Hastings, where Baird lived at the time of his earlier experiments, and it was there that he first obtained an image – a flickering shadow of a Maltese cross thrown over a distance of a few feet.
Not until he moved to London, dogged by ill-health and poverty, did he manage to transmit a recognizable picture of a person – the office-boy from the film company’s offices below his workroom.
Later in 1926, Baird developed Noctovision, or night vision, a process using infra-red rays.
In 1928 he arranged the world’s first transatlantic television transmission, both to New York and to the ship Berengaria in mid-ocean. In this year he also demonstrated natural-colour transmissions, and a form of stereoscopic television. In addition he experimented with large-screen television, once shown at the London Coliseum, and in 1931 he televised the Derby from Epsom. The following year he gave the first demonstrations of ultra-short wave transmission.
Despite physical and financial handicaps, Baird was the first practical exponent of every device associated with television. Fittingly, he also became the first Briton to be awarded the gold medal of the International Faculty of Science. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
After his success, Baird moved to Bexhill, Sussex, where he continued experimenting to solve television problems until his death on June 14, 1946.
The son of a parson, Baird was educated at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, and the University of Glasgow. Rejected as unfit for military service in 1914, he spent some years as super-intendent-engineer of the Clyde Valley Electric Power Co. Afterwards he started several business ventures, successively marketing patent socks, jam, honey and soap. Each was brought to an end by ill-health, and a major physical and nervous breakdown compelled him to retire to Hastings in 1922.
Posted in Communications, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Law, Ships on Monday, 18 February 2013
This edited article about Dr Crippen originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 139 published on 12 September1964.
Crippen was arrested after the Captain gave police a tip-off via the radio, by Neville Dear
The date: July, 1910. The place: the Atlantic Ocean, aboard the liner Montrose, on its journey from Antwerp to Quebec.
On deck the ship’s captain listened intently to the faint clicking of a Morse key coming from the wireless cabin below deck, where, intent over his transmitter, the radio operator was sending an urgent message to Scotland Yard. It read:
130 miles west Lizard stop have strong suspicion that Crippen London Cellar murderer and accomplice are among saloon passengers stop. . . .
This was to prove an historic message, for it was the first time that the invention of radio had been used in the hunt for a killer.
The captain had just given the order for it to be transmitted, and as the message flashed out from the aerial he kept his eye on two of his passengers – the suspected criminal Hawley Harvey Crippen and his companion Ethel le Neve. Crippen was wanted for questioning by the police in connection with the murder of his wife Cora.
The pair had lived at Hilldrop Crescent, London, where the woman was last seen on February 1, 1910. Crippen’s explanation of her disappearance, first, that she was dead, and second, that she had left him and gone to America, did not satisfy her friends. Their suspicions were confirmed when they saw Crippen’s typist, Ethel le Neve, wearing some of his wife’s jewellery.
Soon afterwards Crippen and Ethel le Neve fled to Belgium. There they embarked on the Montrose, bound for Canada, Crippen using the name of Robinson and Ethel le Neve in boy’s clothes, posing as his son.
The captain’s suspicions were aroused by the strange behaviour of the pair, and was shaken when he saw a French newspaper on deck which had been brought on board before they sailed. It had large headlines about the murder, and a picture of Dr. Crippen.
He established radio communication with Scotland Yard, and Inspector Dew, in charge of the Crippen case, was rushed aboard the liner Laurentic, also bound for Canada. She was a faster ship and arrived before the Montrose.
The trap was set. Inspector Dew disguised himself as a ship’s pilot and went aboard the Montrose before she came into port. Crippen was arrested, tried and hanged at Pentonville Prison in London on November 23, 1910.
Posted in Communications, Famous Inventors, Historical articles, History, Inventions, Science, Scotland, Technology on Tuesday, 8 January 2013
This edited article about John Logie Baird originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 809 published on 16th July 1977.
John Logie Baird, inventor of television by John Keay
Although he was born 89 years ago this week, and died in 1946, John Logie Baird would not have been surprised to learn that today colour television is an everyday part of life. Many years ago he was filing patents for his own colour television system, three-dimensional television, large-screen television projection for theatres, and a method for recording moving pictures on gramophone discs.
After completing an engineering course, Baird, the son of a Scottish minister, decided to become an inventor. Soon he became fascinated by the idea of transmitting pictures by “wireless”.
Baird gave his first demonstration of television in the mid-’20s, and in 1926 sent a just recognisable moving picture by telephone line between London and Glasgow. One of his most spectacular feats was the transmission of a television picture from London to New York on 9th February 1928 – long before the days of satellite communications systems.
His equipment for receiving television pictures consisted of an aluminium black disc, with a spiral of 30 holes cut in it. It spun round at high speed and built up a picture of 30 lines which was viewed through a lens. In the 30s this partly mechanical system was rivalled by the electronic system such as we have today, and which Baird, rather late in the day, adopted.
When the BBC began the world’s first television service on 2nd November 1936, two systems were used. It had been agreed that each should be given a fair trial; the Baird system operated on one night and the Marconi-EMI system the next. After six months the BBC decided to go ahead with the latter.
This was a bitter blow to Baird, but he continued his experiments right up until his death. The real reason for his lack of success was his distrust of electronic devices.
Posted in America, Communications, Travel on Saturday, 5 January 2013
This edited article about journalism originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 807 published on 2nd July 1977.
Jules Verne, whose famous book prompted Nellie Bly’s round-the-world assignment
Ninety years ago this week a nervous young girl walked into the “World” newspaper office in New York and asked to see the editor. She had no appointment and the receptionist tried to turn her away.
For three hours she pleaded with him until he could hold out no longer. “This way, Miss,” he said and showed Elizabeth Cochrane into the editor’s office.
“On the ‘Pittsburgh Dispatch’ I wrote under the name of ‘Nellie Bly’,” she told the editor. “Here is a list of articles I should like to write for you.”
The editor, already impressed by her determination to see him, was even more impressed when he looked at the paper she handed over.
“Try this one,” he said, pointing to a topic. “If you can do it I’ll take you on.”
The idea was that she would pretend she was mad so she could report on life inside a New York mental asylum. Her performance was so convincing that a panel of doctors committed her to the asylum. Here she was horrified by the wretched conditions of the patients.
When her experiences were printed in the “World” there was a public outcry and a Grand Jury was set up to investigate her criticisms. As a result of its findings the authorities allotted 3,000,000 dollars to improve conditions at the asylum.
Nellie Bly was given her permanent job.
She went from success to success, but her most exciting story began when, on 14th November 1889, she boarded the “Augusta Victoria” for London. Her assignment was to beat the round-the-world record of the fictional character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days”.
Great public interest was shown in her attempt. Each day the “World” printed a map showing her progress and there was heavy betting on whether she would reach certain points on time.
From London she went to Boulogne, whence she travelled to Brindisi. By 27th November she reached Port Said, Aden was her next stop, then Colombo, where she had to wait five days for a ship. On 18th December she was in Singapore. On the voyage to Hong Kong her ship encountered a terrifying monsoon storm, but by Christmas Day she had reached Canton – on schedule. On 28th December she embarked for Yokohama, thence across the Pacific to San Francisco.
The “World” hired a special train to take her across the continent to New York, where she arrived on 25th January 1890.
Nellie Bly had travelled round the world in 72 days, six hours and 11 minutes. Jules Verne cabled his congratulations.
She continued her career as a journalist and later married a millionaire industrialist. She died in New York on 27th January 1922.
Posted in Communications, Historical articles, History, Ships on Wednesday, 2 January 2013
This edited article about the trans-Atlantic cable originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 801 published on 21st May 1977.
Laying the Atlantic telegraph cable
“I’ve worked it out mathematically,” said the learned scientist. “It is impossible to lay a cable across the Atlantic Ocean and then use it for sending telegraphic messages”.
This man was polite. Others laughed and jeered openly at the idea. They said: “It can’t be done!” For a long while too, it looked as though they were right.
Almost everyone agreed that it would be a good thing to have a telegraphic cable linking Europe with America, for in 1851 there were plenty of overland telegraph wires on both sides of the ocean. One cable had already been laid under the sea between England and France, but as the maths expert pointed out – there is a great deal of difference between the 20-odd miles of the shallow English Channel and the 2,000 miles of the deep Atlantic.
However, there were a few men in both Britain and the United States who were determined to link the two countries by cable. The man in America was Cyrus Field. In the tradition of so many American millionaires, he began his working life in a grocery store as a delivery boy. At the time of his cable-laying venture he was the owner of a wholesale paper firm. Later he became a railway owner with an important share in the New York Elevated Railway. It was this Cyrus Field who founded the Atlantic Telegraph Company in America, persuading businessmen of the need of such a cable, by which they could communicate with London within minutes instead of weeks, and of the need for them to finance such a venture.
Having formed the company in America he came to England to found its British counterpart, £300,000 was raised.
Meanwhile, William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) was working on the technical problems of transmitting and receiving messages over long cable distances. For there was a lot more to the laying of the Atlantic cable than just dumping a length of wire along the sea bed and sending Morse signals along it. Very sensitive receiving instruments were designed by Lord Kelvin, which could detect the slightest variation in electrical current passing through a wire.
Sir Charles Tilston Bright was the expert at designing and laying cables. The copper message-carrying core had to be insulated against the water and strengthened against damage by fish, barnacles, corrosion, and rocks. So the core was covered with a spiral of copper wire, gutta-percha (a tough rubbery substance), hemp and steel wires. This made the cable weigh anything between a ton and a ton and a half for every mile in length. This meant that the cable had to be strong enough to bear its own weight when being laid in water 2,000 fathoms (4 kilometres) deep.
Read the rest of this article »
Posted in America, Communications, Famous Inventors, Technology on Monday, 17 December 2012
This edited article about Alexander Graham Bell originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 799 published on 7th May 1977.
“Mr. Watson, come here: I want you.” These were the first words spoken by the human voice to be heard over a wire.
In these days of jet planes, television and communication satellites, it is not easy to recapture the wonder of that moment when the voice of Alexander Graham Bell was heard by his assistant at the other end of a wire on the night of March 10, 1876.
The telegraph had been in use for about forty years, and though a marvel of its day, was easily explained. Intermittent currents sent along a wire were used to spell out the letters of the alphabet. Even when, in 1858, the “wire” – an undersea electric cable – spanned the Atlantic Ocean, enabling Queen Victoria and the American President to exchange messages of greeting before the flood of business telegrams began, it was only an extension of the same idea.
That the human voice could ever be sent by the same means was such a fantastic thought that few people ever regarded it as being within the bounds of possibility. And those who did had not the faintest idea how it could be achieved.
Why, then, was Alexander Graham Bell the first man to break that sound barrier? Because he had the finest beginning that any man could have in that particular realm. He was the son of a man who had been closely concerned with human speech. His father wrote a book called Visible Speech, instructing deaf mutes in lip reading.
Young Bell, born in Edinburgh in 1847, showed signs of inventive genius, and one day his father said to him and his young brother. “Make a machine that speaks.”
They fitted up bits and pieces inside a human skull, imitating the human tongue and throat, and using bellows for lungs. Did it speak? It squawked “Mamma” well enough for the woman in the flat below to call up the stairs. “Why can’t you keep that baby quiet?” but young Bell was not deceived about his success.
Their “little man,” as they called the robot, “has no muscles and he can’t open and close his throat, or touch his teeth or the roof of his mouth with his tongue, or puff out his cheeks or press his lips together.” Oh yes, Graham Bell knew enough about the wonder of the human voice to realize how far he failed to imitate it.
Yet he could not escape from the subject. At the age of twenty-one he came to London, and read a translation of a book by a German named Hemholz describing how scientists had made tuning forks vibrate by electro magnets and imitate the human voice. Was this the way?
Read the rest of this article »