Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 3.djvu/672

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

[Life and Voyages of Joseph Wiggins, by H. Johnson (London, 1907); private information. See also H. Seebohm's The Birds of Siberia for incidents of the journey on which he accompanied Wiggins, and Miss Peel's Polar Gleams (1894) for the voyage of the Blencathra. An interesting speech of Wiggins on Nansen's project for his drift across the polar area in the Fram is reported in the Geographical Journal, i. 26. See also Journ. Soc. of Arts, xliii. 499, and (for a report of one of Wiggins' lectures) Journ. Tyneside Geog. Soc. iii. 123.]

O. J. R. H.

WIGHAM, JOHN RICHARDSON (1829–1906), inventor, born at 5 South Gray Street, Edinburgh, on 15 Jan. 1829, was youngest son in the family of four sons and three daughters of John Wigham, shawl manufacturer, of Edinburgh, and member of the Society of Friends, by his wife Jane Richardson (d 1830).

After slender schooling at Edinburgh, he removed at fourteen to Dublin, where he privately continued his studies, while serving as apprentice in the hardware and manufacturing business of his brother-in-law, Joshua Edmundson. The business, subsequently known as ‘Joshua Edmundson & Co.,’ passed, on Edmundson's death, under Wigham's control. It grew rapidly, a branch being opened in London which was eventually taken over by a separate company as ‘Edmundson's Electricity Corporation,’ with Wigham as chairman. In Dublin the firm devoted itself largely to experiments in gas-lighting, Wigham being particularly successful in designing small gas-works suitable for private houses and public institutions. In addition to his private business he held various engineering posts, and as engineer to the Commercial Gas Company of Ireland designed the gas-works at Kingstown. In the commercial life of Dublin he soon played a prominent part. He was from 1866 till his death a director of the Alliance and Dublin Consumers' Gas Company, director and vice-chairman of the Dublin United Tramways Company from 1881 to his death, and member of council (1879), secretary (1881–93), and eventually president (1894–6) of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

Wigham is mainly memorable as the inventor of important applications of gas to lighthouse illumination. In 1863 he was granted a small sum for experiments by the board of Irish lights, and in 1865 a system invented by him was installed at the Howth lighthouse near Dublin, the gas being manufactured on the spot. Its main advantages were that it dispensed with the lamp glass essential to the 4-wick Fresnel oil lamp of 240 candle-power then in universal use, while the power of the light could be increased or decreased at will, a 28-jet flame, which gave sufficient light for clear weather, being increased successively to a 48-jet, 68-jet, 88-jet, and 108-jet flame of 2923 candle-power on foggy nights. Though highly valued in Ireland, the system was condemned on trial by Thomas Stevenson [q. v.], engineer to the Scottish board of lights. It was made more effective, however, in 1868 by Wigham's invention of the powerful ‘composite burner,’ and in 1869 its further employment in Ireland was strongly advocated by John Tyndall [q. v.] in his capacity of scientific adviser to Trinity House and the board of trade. Wigham's ingenuity also acted as a powerful stimulant to rival patentees, leading to various improvements in oil apparatus by Sir James Nicholas Douglass [q. v. Suppl. I] and others.

In 1871 Wigham invented the first of the many group-flashing arrangements since of service in enabling seamen to distinguish between different lighthouses. His arrangement was adopted at Galley Head, Mew Head, and Tory Island off the Irish coast. In 1872 a triform light of his invention was installed experimentally at the High Lighthouse, Haisbro', Norfolk; but its further adoption in English lighthouses was discouraged by a committee of Trinity House in 1874. The board of Irish lights, however, continued to favour Wigham's system, and in 1878 they installed at Galley Head a powerful quadriform light of his with four tiers of superposed lenses and a 68-jet burner in the focus of each tier. In 1883 the board of trade appointed a lighthouse illuminants committee to consider the relative merits of gas, oil, and electric light. For some years Tyndall had felt that Sir James Douglass had used his influence as engineer to Trinity House for the furtherance of his own patents and to the disadvantage of Wigham's system. He now protested that, as rival patentees, Douglass and Wigham ought both to be members of the lighthouse illuminants committee or ought both to be excluded. His objection was overruled, and consequently he resigned his position of scientific adviser to the board of trade in March 1883. A bitter controversy followed in the press between Tyndall and Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, president of the board of trade. On Tyndall's resignation