By Aisling O’Malley, IET Archivist
Albert Henry Midgley is best known for his work on organ building. During the 1920s, Midgley saw commercial success in an organ he developed for cinemas and theatres, and his 1931 electric organ. However, Midgley’s career was far more diverse than just the creation of musical instruments.
During the First World War, while he developed car lighting systems for C A Vandervell and Company, Midgley was seconded to the Ministry of Munitions to create inventions for the war effort. Midgley’s time with the Ministry of Munitions resulted in the development of bomb fuses, mortars, hand grenades, gyroscopes, and signalling equipment for aeroplanes.
After the First World War, Midgley focussed on the enhancement of radio receivers. In the 1920s, Midgley was granted 13 patents for radio valves, receivers, and loudspeakers. During this time, Midgley also developed an amplifier which would later be marketed as a high quality radio gramophone, and a microphone and sound recording equipment for use in the film industry.
Midgley’s skills would again be required for national interest due to the outbreak of the Second World War. Midgley’s company, the Midgley Harmer Ltd, designed and manufactured fuses and bombs, including the W bomb used by the RAF, and the fuse for the Barnes-Wallis Tallboy bomb. After the Second World War, Midgley moved into the production of timing switches for washing machines, cookers, and signalling indicators for the control of traffic. Between 1947 and 1958, Midgley was granted 28 patents for timing devices and motors.
Midgley’s diverse career that supported the developments in sound, travel, and national interest ended with his death on 1 October 1961.
The A H Midgley papers are held at the IET Archives.