The Madras College Archive


Former Pupil Biographies

William Aitken (1863 - 1957)

William Aitken was born in St Andrews in 1863. He died 8 November 1957 in Muswell Hill, London.

Who's Who in Engineering carries the following description:

AITKEN, William. M.I.E.E., A.Am. I.E.E. Private Address: 14 King's Avenue, Muswell Hill, N.10. Career: 1903, Chief of the Tech. Staff, National Telephone Co., Ltd.; 1913, Engr.., Liverpool Works, British Insulated, Ltd.; 1920, Tech. Advisor Relay Automatic Telephone Co., Ltd.; retained by Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Co., Ltd., and Automatic Electric CO. Inventor of subject matter of about one hundred patents. Books: "Aitken's Manual of the Telephone"; "Automatic Telephone Systems" (3 vols.), "Who invented the Telephone", etc.

The 'Old Boys Chronicle' in the Madras College Magazine for Summer 1912 reported:

'Aitken's Manual of the Telephone ' By W. Aitken, M.l.E.E.

"Mr. W. Aitken is one of the ' Old Boys ' of whom the Madras College has great reason to feel proud, one who, having made choice of his profession, has taken the trouble to master it and to become conversant with all the details in connection with it.

That Mr. Aitken has done this in his own province of Electrical Engineering is abundantly manifest in the bulky volume which he has written on the Telephone. He is peculiarly fitted to be the author of such a work, for since 1882 he has intimate acquaintance with the practical working of Telephonic systems, a period which is almost co-extensive with the existence of the telephone, which was originally patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876.

In the book, Mr. Aitken, after devoting a chapter to the electrical theory of the telephone, and giving an account of the history and development of telephony, deals with each part of the instrument in detail, showing the advantages and defects of the various types of transmitters, receivers, bells and batteries.

A chapter on Private Telephone Installations is of especial interest to business men and to schools, as by means of such an arrangement the head of the establishment can communicate with any of the department without leaving his desk.

The greater part of Mr. Aitken's book deals with the ' Central Exchange ' in its varied forms and with all its wealth of complicated details, and he has brought the work quite up-to-date by describing and discussing very fully the best automatic systems, whereby the ' telephone girl ' is completely dispensed with. This system, which has taken root in America, is as yet only on its trial in this country.

The value of Mr. Aitken's book to the student of Electrical Engineering cannot be over estimated, and this value is much enhanced by the excellent photographs and diagrams with which the book is illustrated."

He was married in 1891 to Ellen Mary Prosser and they had one son, William Allan. Ellen died in 1927 and he married Lucy Helen Boyd in 1928 in Edmonton, Middlesex.