Trotter, Alexander Pelham 1857 - 1947

English; British

(1857-1947), engineer

Alexander Pelham Trotter, electrical engineer, was born on 25 June 1857 at Woodford, Essex. As a boy Trotter lived with his mother and four sisters at 40 Montagu Square, London, and attended local schools. He then went to Harrow School but did not enjoy it. Trotter spent a year at King's College, London, then a period with a private tutor named Fletcher, preparing for the entrance examination for Trinity College, Cambridge. At King's he gained practical experience of carpentry in the college's excellent workshop. With Fletcher he learned practical photography, making his own glass-plate negatives. Having passed the entrance examination, he entered Trinity in 1876, taking the natural sciences tripos, and graduated BA in 1879. Trotter took an engineering apprenticeship with Easton and Anderson at Erith, Kent. By this time both his parents had died, leaving him about £5000. His brother William, a stockbroker, 'overhauled' his investments and produced the 500 guinea fee for the apprenticeship.

In 1881, Trotter attended the first International Electrical Exhibition in Paris, from which he said marked the birth of electrical engineering; from that time on, his main professional interest was electric lighting. In 1883 Trotter went into partnership with W. T. Goolden, at Halifax, as a manufacturer of electric dynamos. The partnership ended in 1887 when he returned to London. In 1890 he became editor of The Electrician, a post he held until 1896, when he moved to South Africa as electrical adviser to the government of Cape Colony. In 1899 he returned to London and succeeded Philip Cardew as electrical adviser to the Board of Trade, where he played a major part in drafting electricity legislation and regulations and conducted inquiries for the board.

On retiring from the Board of Trade in 1917, Trotter joined H. W. Handcock and A. H. Dykes in their consulting engineering practice, but he retired again after two and a half years. He moved to Teffont, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, and continued to be actively involved in electric lighting. He was a founder member of the Illuminating Engineering Society, established in 1909, active in its committees, and president from 1917 to 1920. He gave the second Faraday lecture, on 'Illumination and light', in 1926.

Trotter presented extensive manuscript reminiscences to the Institution of Electrical Engineers. In 1886 he married Alys Fane Keatinge, they had one son, Nigel, killed in the First World War, and one daughter, Gunda. He died of heart failure at his home, Greystones, Teffont, on 23 July 1947.