Papers of George Forbes

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Articles and reports by Forbes; Testimonials; Map books; Recollections of Forbes by Jen Stockdale; Articles on Forbes's carbon brushes; Obituaries and biographical information; Papers relating to James D Forbes, Principal of St Andrews University

Administrative / Biographical History

George Forbes, the electrical engineer, was born in Edinburgh in 1849, the younger son of James David Forbes (later Principal of St Andrews University) and his wife, Alicia. Forbes was educated at Edinburgh Academy, St Andrews and Cambridge Universities, and graduated BA in 1871. From 1872-1880 he was Professor of Natural Philosophy at Anderson's University, where he collaborated with James Young on research into the velocity of light. He took a keen interest in astronomy, and led the British expedition to Hawaii in 1874 to observe the transit of Venus, returning to Scotland via Beijing and St Petersburg. Through contacts made during this journey, Forbes returned as a war correspondent with the Russian Army during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, reporting for 'The Times'. In the 1880s and 1890s, Forbes worked extensively on electrical power engineering and advocated the use of carbon brushes in electric motors rather than the wire or gauze which were then employed. From 1891-1895 Forbes was Consulting Engineer on the Niagara Falls hydroelectric scheme and advised on other schemes in India, South Africa, New Zealand and Upper Egypt. In the early twentieth century Forbes became interested in military engineering and developed rangefinders and methods of signalling for submarines. He also returned to his early love of astronomy and delivered the David Elder Lectures on Astronomy at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, the successor to Anderson's University. Forbes published extensively, received many honours and was a member of many distinguished learned societies worldwide. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1887. In later life he lived modestly in his 'Shed' at Pitlochry, overlooking the hydroelectric dam at Loch Faskally.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Other Finding Aids

Typed list to item level

Archivist's Note

Archivist's note: Description prepared by Margaret Harrison, Web version by Graham S. Holton, Jordanhill LibraryRules or Conventions: Description based on Scottish Archive Network guidelines, based on ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000). and Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997)Date of descriptions: January 2009

Related Material

GB 249 OP/ 4/67, 68 Photographs of George Forbes

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