Lodge, Oliver Joseph 1851 - 1940

English; British

(1851-1940), Knight, physicist

Oliver Joseph Lodge, born on the 12th June 1851 in Penkhull, Staffordshire, perfected the coherer, a radio-wave detector and the heart of the early radiotelegraph receiver. Two of his brothers, including Sir Richard Lodge (1855–1936), and his sister, Eleanor Constance Lodge (1869–1936), also had distinguished academic careers. After attending a local dame-school Lodge studied and boarded at Newport grammar school, Shropshire, from 1859 to 1863, and then for two years with his uncle at Combs, Suffolk. He worked in his father's business until 1874 before enrolling s a full-time student at University College, London, obtaining the BSc degree in the following year. In June 1877 he was awarded the degree of DSc.

In June 1881 Lodge was elected professor of physics at the new University College, Liverpool, ahead of fifteen other candidates, and immediately went on a scientific tour of Europe, where he met such great physicists as Helmholtz and Hertz. In 1883 he discovered the electrostatic condensation of fog. This observation eventually led to the development of the commercial electrostatic precipitator. After making a name for himself as a public lecturer He was elected FRS on 9 June 1887.

Lodge was awarded the Rumford medal of the Royal Society in 1898, and became president of the Physical Society in 1899, a year in which he narrowly survived a bout of typhoid fever. A major career change occurred in 1900 when, he left Liverpool to become principal of the new University of Birmingham, where he remained until his retirement in February 1919. Lodge was knighted in June 1902 and other awards included the Albert medal of the Royal Society of Arts (1919) and the Faraday medal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1932), and he was president of the British Association at Birmingham in 1913.

Although he had less time for research at Birmingham, Lodge took up the commercial exploitation of radio. The Lodge–Muirhead Syndicate was formed in 1901, and a new receiver, the wheel coherer, patented in 1902. The syndicate won a major contract with the Indian government in 1904, to link Burma and the Andaman Islands, but was never able to break the Marconi Company's commercial stranglehold. In 1911, however, Lodge's patent was extended in the law courts. This led to a settlement with Marconi. The syndicate was wound up; Lodge was paid for his patents and became a nominal consultant to Marconi.

On the 22nd August 1877 Lodge married Mary Fanny Alexander Marshall (1851–1929) of Newcastle under Lyme, they had six sons and six daughters. After 1900 he became prominent in psychical research, believing strongly in the possibility of communicating with the dead. In his later years he wrote his autobiography, Past Years (1931), and his summary, My Philosophy (1933). Lodge died at his home, Normanton House, Lake, near Salisbury, on 22 August 1940, and was buried at St Michael's Church, Wilsford.