Robert Stirling Newall

1812 - 1889

Engineer, responsible for many of the early undersea telegraph cables. Born in Dundee, the son of a merchant, Newall began work as a clerk but soon moved to London. In 1840, he was granted a patent for the making of wire rope and invented a machine for its manufacture. He established factories in Dundee and Gateshead (NE England) which made rope for use in mining, railways and other industries. His company made the rope which towed Cleopatra's Needle up the River Thames. He went on to develop a wire-sheathed design for undersea telegraph cables, successfully making a cable which was laid between Dover and Calais in 1851. His company manufactured much of the cable laid across the Atlantic in subsequent decades. He personally supervised the installation of the cables linking Holyhead to Howth, Dover to Ostend, Malta to Corfu, and several others in the Mediterranean, from Suez to Aden, Aden to Karachi, and Istanbul and Varna to Balaclava. He was also responsible for inventing equipment to simplify the laying cables in the deep ocean.

Newall served as Mayor of Gateshead (1867-68) and entertained King Leopold of Belgium at his home. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Durham in 1887. He also maintained amateur interests in astronomy and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1864 and of the Royal Society in 1875. He died in Gateshead and lies buried at nearby Whickham.

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