Letter: The full fax behind Bain's sad end

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The Independent Online
WHILE it is true that Alexander Bain died in poverty ('As a matter of fax', 7 February), this was due to expensive litigation in the United States during the latter part of his career, when he unsuccessfully disputed the US patent rights to the electric printing telegraph.

Bain was rather more successful in this country earlier in his career, although equally litigious. He received pounds 7,500 from the Electric Telegraph Company for some of his telegraph and electric clock patents. Bain is also credited with a number of other inventions in the field of electric telegraphy for which patents were registered.

In later life he was befriended by Sir William Thompson, later Lord Kelvin, who was instrumental in the government granting Bain a Civil List pension in 1872. The following year the Royal Society made him a grant for his pioneering work in electricity. Since his death in 1877, Bain has been commemorated at least three times. One of his memorials reads: 'He thought above himself and so helped to raise a great new world industry.'

David Hay

Group Archivist

British Telecommunications plc

London EC4