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Frederic N. Gisborne

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Biography

Frederick Newton Gisborne was a nineteenth century engineer and electrician who played a leading role in the development of electromagnetic telegraphy in North America.

Gisborne was born in Broughton, England, in 1824. His second name was inherited from his mother’s side, from her famous ancestor Isaac Newton. Gisborne received special education in mathematics and civil engineering. In 1842, at the age of eighteen, Gisborne set out on a world tour and journeyed to several Atlantic islands, Australia, New Zealand, California, Mexico, Yutacan, Guatemala and other places before settling in Canada with his younger brother in 1845.

Gisborne observed the successful electric telegraphs in England and the U.S. and he became one of the first operators of the Montreal Telegraph Company. Gisborne was appointed the general manager of the British North American Electric Telegraph association. He studied the potential of ocean telegraphy and gave public lectures and speeches to the legislatures explaining the usefulness of telegraphic communications. In 1852, under Gisborne’s supervision, the first deep-sea cable was laid down in North America between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

Between 1852 and 1854, by a series of mergers and acquisitions, the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company was formed under the enthusiasm of Charles Bright and Cyrus Field. Gisborne was appointed the chief engineer of this organization. Under his engineering supervision, this company attempted to lay the first transatlantic deep-sea cable between Europe and North America. In 1879, Gisborne was appointed as the superintendent of the Canadian government telegraph service. He held this position till his death in 1892.