Lives Remembered: Edward Cooke

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The Independent Online

My father, Edward Cooke, who died on 19 March at the age of 89 years, was an industrial chemist who contributed significantly to the development of international telecommunications in the immediate post-war period. Born the eldest of three children to the maths master and matron at Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk, he spent most of his childhood in Norfolk, being educated at Norwich Cathedral School and later Cambridge and London Universities. He read organic chemistry and metallurgy and wrote a chemical dictionary and a book on the soap industry before he was 25.

During the war he did materials research at Telcon in Greenwich, London, and was variously employed designing heat resistant cables for aircraft and PLUTO (PipeLineUnderTheOcean) which eventually was not used. After the war he was involved in the design and production of the first transatlantic telephone cable, TAT-1. This was eventually successfully laid in 1954, to be followed by many more over the following 15 years. Telephone cables made at Greenwich eventually linked most of the Commonwealth countries and the Far East.

He married Pauline, a fellow laboratory worker, in 1946, and they had three sons. A keen interest was taken in teaching us chemistry from an early age, and we learned the Periodic Table about the same time as multiplication tables.

The introduction of communication satellites brought the end of the manufacture of new underwater telephone cables at Greenwich, and redundancy at an early age for Edward. Not one to stay idle, he wrote 60 letters to all the juniors he had trained in the laboratory, and within a few weeks was employed at a rival company developing the new fibre-optic cables which were eventually to replace satellites for long-distance telephony. One of the first big tasks they took on was to link banks and the stock exchange in the City of London in preparation for "The Big Bang", the start of computerised trading, in the 1980s.

Edward's other passions at home included DIY and music. He could never see the point of buying something if you could make it yourself. A conservatory, chicken sheds, kitchen cabinets, a camping trailer, a television and numerous transistor radios appeared thanks to his handiwork over the years. Home was also the location of numerous experiments brought home from the laboratory, and pieces of metal variously coated in plastics and paints would rust in jam jars of salt water in the kitchen or garden.

Chopin was a great love, and he could be heard playing the Nocturnes at all times of day when he was at home. He also sang in choirs, and it was later with the Correlli choir that he met Claire, with whom he spent nearly 30 years of marriage and companionship in his long retirement at their house in Shobdon, Hereford. Here he continued to maintain an active interest in science, but also gardening and bread-making.

He leaves Claire and two sons by his first marriage and four grandchildren. His siblings, George and Elizabeth, Pauline, and a son Julian predeceased him.

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