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Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge, FRS (12 June 1851 – 22 August 1940) was a physicist and writer involved in the development of key patents in wireless telegraphy . Lodge, in his Royal Institutionmarker lectures ("The Work of Hertz and Some of His Successors"), coined the term "coherer." He gained the "syntonic" (or tuning) patent from the United States Patent Office in 1898. He was also credited by Lorentz (1895) with the first published description of the Length contraction hypothesis, in 1893.


Oliver Lodge was born in 1851 at Penkhullmarker in Stoke-on-Trentmarker and educated at Adams' Grammar Schoolmarker. He was the eldest of eight sons and a daughter of Oliver Lodge (1826-1884) - later a Ball Clay merchant at Wolstantonmarker, Staffordshire - and his wife, Grace, née Heath (1826-1879). Sir Oliver's siblings included Sir Richard Lodge (1855-1936), historian; Eleanor Constance Lodge (1869-1936), historian and principal of Westfield College, London; and Alfred Lodge (1854-1937), mathematician.

Lodge obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of London in 1875 and a Doctor of Science in 1877. He was appointed professor of physics and mathematics at University College, Liverpoolmarker in 1881. In 1900 Lodge moved from Liverpool back to the Midlands and became the first principal of the new Birmingham Universitymarker, remaining there until his retirement in 1919, overseeing the start of the move from Edmund Street in the city centre to the present Edgbastonmarker campus. Lodge was awarded the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society in 1898 and was knighted by King Edward VII in 1902. In 1928 he was made Freeman of his native city, Stoke-on-Trent.

Lodge married Mary Fanny Alexander Marshall at St George's church, Newcastle-under-Lymemarker in 1877. They had twelve children, six boys and six girls: Oliver William Foster (1878 - 1955), Francis Brodie (1880 - 1967), Alec (1881 - 1938), Lionel (1883 - 1948), Noel (1885 - 1962), Violet (1888 - 1924), Raymond (1889 - 1915), Honor (1891 - 1979), Lorna (1892 - 1987), Norah (1894 - 1990), Barbara (1896 - 1983), Rosalynde (1896 - 1983). Four of his sons went into business using Lodge's inventions. Brodie and Alec created the Lodge Plug Company, which manufactured sparking plugs for cars and aeroplanes. Lionel and Noel founded a company that produced a machine for cleaning factory smoke in 1913, called the Lodge Fume Deposit Company Limited (later changed in 1919 to Lodge Fume Company Limited and later changed in 1922 through agreement with the International Precipitation Corporation of California to Lodge Cottrell Ltd). Oliver, the eldest son, became a poet and author.

After his retirement in 1920, Sir Oliver and Lady Lodge settled in Normanton House, near Lake in Wiltshiremarker, just a few miles from Stonehengemarker. Lodge and his wife are buried at St. Michael’s Church, Wilsfordmarker (Lake), Wiltshire. Their eldest son Oliver and eldest daughter Violet are buried at the same church.


Lodge is notable for his defence of the aether theory - a deprecated model postulating a wave-bearing medium filling all space. On 14 August 1894, at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Oxford University, he transmitted radio signals, one year before Marconi but one year after Tesla. In 1995, the Royal Society recognized this scientific achievement at a special ceremony at Oxford University. . Lodge improved Edouard Branly's coherer radio wave detector by adding a "trembler" which dislodged clumped filings, thus restoring the device's sensitivity. He worked with Alexander Muirhead on the development of wireless telegraphy, selling their patents to Marconi in 1912. Lodge also carried out scientific investigations on lightning, the source of the electromotive force in the voltaic cell, electrolysis, and the application of electricity to the dispersal of fog and smoke.

Raymond Lodge (1889 - 1915)

Lodge also made a major contribution to motoring when he patented a form of electric spark ignition for the internal combustion engine (the Lodge Igniter). Later, two of his sons developed his ideas and in 1903 founded Lodge Bros, which eventually became known as Lodge Plugs Ltd. He also made discoveries in the field of wireless transmission . In 1898, Lodge gained a patent on the moving-coil loudspeaker, utilizing a coil connected to a diaphragm, suspended in a strong magnetic field . His "syntonic" tuner patent allowed the frequency of transmitter and receiver to be "verified with ease and certainty". This was a basic patent in the industry, unusually recognised as such when extended, and purchased and used by the Marconi Company.

In political life, Lodge was an active member of the Fabian Society and published two Fabian Tracts: Socialism & Individualism (1905) and co-authored Public Service versus Private Expenditure with Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Ball. They invited him several times to lecture at the London School of Economicsmarker.

Lodge is also remembered for his studies of life after death. He first began to study psychical phenomena (chiefly telepathy) in the late 1880s, was a member of the Ghost Club and served as president of the London-based Society for Psychical Research from 1901 to 1903. After his son, Raymond, was killed in World War I in 1915, Lodge visited several mediums and wrote about the experience in a number of books, including the best-selling "Raymond, or Life and Death" (1916). Altogether, he wrote more than 40 books, about the afterlife, aether, relativity, and electromagnetic theory.

In 1889 Lodge was appointed President of the Liverpool Physical Society, a position he held until 1893. The society still runs to this day, though under a student body.

Tribute in The Times

The author of his obituary in The Times wrote:

Always an impressive figure, tall and slender with a pleasing voice and charming manner, he enjoyed the affection and respect of a very large circle…

Lodge’s gift as an expounder of knowledge were of a high order, and few scientific men have been able to set forth abstruse facts in a more lucid or engaging form… Those who heard him on a great occasion, as when he gave his Romanes lecture at Oxford or his British Association presidential address at Birmingham, were charmed by his alluring personality as well as impressed by the orderly development of his thesis. But he was even better in informal debate, and when he rose, the audience, however perplexed or jaded, settled down in a pleased expectation that was never disappointed.

Historical records

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Sir Oliver Lodge's letters and papers were divided after his death. Some were deposited at the University of Birminghammarker and University of Liverpoolmarker and others at the Society for Psychical Research and the University College Londonmarker. Lodge was long-lived and a prolific letter writer and other letters of his survive in the personal papers of other individuals and several other universities and other institutions. Among the known collections of his papers are the following:

  • The University of Birminghammarker Special Collections holds over 2000 items of Sir Oliver's correspondence relating to family, co-workers at Birmingham and Liverpool Universities and also from numerous religious, political and literary figures. The collection also includes a number of Lodge's diaries, photographs and newscuttings relating to his scientific research and scripts of his published work. There are also an additional 212 letters of Sir Oliver Lodge which have been acquired over the years (1881-1939).

  • The University of Liverpoolmarker holds some notebooks and letters of Oliver Lodge and also has a laboratory named after him, the main administrative centre of the Physics Department where the majority of lecturers and researchers have their offices.

  • Devon Records Office holds Lodge's letters to Sir Thomas Acland (1907-1908).

  • The London Science Museummarker holds an early notebook of Oliver Lodge's dated 1880, correspondence dating from 1894-1913 and a paper on atomic theory.


  • Pioneers of Science", 1893
  • "The Work of Hertz and Some of His Successors", 1894 (after "Signalling Through Space Without Wires", 1900)
  • " Electric Theory of Matter". Harper Magazine. 1904. (Oneill's Electronic Museum)
  • "Life and Matter", 1905
  • " The substance of faith allied with science. A catechism for parents and teachers", 1907
  • Electrons, or The Nature and Properties of Negative Electricity, 1907
  • "Man and the Universe", 1908
  • "Survival of Man", 1909
  • "The Ether of Space", 1910. ISBN 1-4021-8302-X (paperback) , ISBN 1-4021-1766-3 (hardcover)
  • "Reason and Belief", 1910. Book Tree. February 2000. ISBN 1-58509-226-6
  • "Modern Problems", 1912
  • "Science and Religion", 1914
  • "The War and After", 1915
  • "Raymond, or Life and Death", 1916
  • "Christopher", 1918
  • "Raymond Revised", 1922
  • "The Making of Man", 1924
  • "Ether and Reality", 1925. ISBN 0-7661-7865-X
  • "Relativity - A very elementary exposition". Paperback. Methuen & Co. LTD. London. June 11, 1925
  • "Talks About Wireless", 1925
  • "Ether", "Encyclopedia Britannica", Thirteenth Edition, 1926
  • "Evolution and Creation", 1926
  • "Science and Human Progress", 1927
  • "Modern Scientific Ideas". Benn's Sixpenny Library No. 101, 1927
  • "Why I Believe in Personal Immortality", 1928
  • "Phantom Walls", 1929
  • "Beyond Physics, or The Idealization of Mechanism", 1930
  • "The Reality of a Spiritual World", 1930
  • "Conviction of Survival", 1930
  • "Advancing Science", 1931
  • "Past Years: An Autobiography". Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932
  • "My Philosophy", 1933

Notes and references

Notable relatives

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