1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pitman, Sir Isaac

20946161911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 21 — Pitman, Sir Isaac

PITMAN, SIR ISAAC (1813–1897), English phonographer, was born at Trowbridge, W1ltshire, on the 4th of January 1813, and was educated at the local grammar school. He started in life as a clerk in a cloth factory, but in 1831 he was sent to the Normal College of the British and Foreign School Society in London. Between 1832 and 1839 he held masterships at Barton-on-Humber and Wotton-under-Edge, but he was dismissed by the authorities when he became a Swedenborgian, and from 1839 to 1843 he conducted a private school of his own at Bath. In 1829 he took up Samuel Taylor’s system of shorthand, and from that time he became an enthusiast in developing the art of phonograph. In 1837 he drew up a manual of Taylor’s system and offered it to Samuel Bagster (1771–1852). The publisher did not accept the work, but suggested that Pitman should invent a new system (see Shorthand) of his own. The result was his Stenographic Soundhand (1837). Bagster’s friendship and active help had been secured by Pitman’s undertaking to verify the half-million references in the Comprehensive Bible, and he published the inventor’s books at a cheap rate, thus helping to bring the system within the reach of all. Pitman devoted himself to perfecting phonograph and propagating its use, and established at Bath a Phonetic Institute and a Phonetic Journal for this purpose; he printed in shorthand a number of standard works, and his book with the title Phonography (1840) went through many editions. He was an enthusiastic spelling reformer, and adopted a phonetic system which he tried to bring into general use. Pitman was twice married, his first wife dying in 1857, and his second, whom he married in 1861, surviving him. In 1894 he was knighted, and on the 22nd of January 1897 he died at Bath. Sir Isaac Pitman popularized shorthand at a time when the advance of the newspaper press and modern business methods were making it a matter of great commercial importance. His system adapted itself readily to the needs of journalism, and its use revolutionized the work of reporting. He was a non-smoker, a vegetarian, and advocated temperance principles.

His Life was written by Alfred Baker (1908) and (1902) by his brother, Benn Pitman (1822–1911).