LDG - Lodge, Sir Oliver - 1870-1936

The Oliver Lodge Papers contain 30 of Lodge's research notebooks up to 1912 (including some from his student days), loose notes, printed material, and letters from correspondents including Lodge, Davies, Larmor and Fitzgerald (LDG/1). 

Also included, and later added to the collection,...

Full description

Main Creator: Lodge, Oliver
Archive level description: Sub-sub fonds
Physical Description:5 Boxes

The Oliver Lodge Papers contain 30 of Lodge's research notebooks up to 1912 (including some from his student days), loose notes, printed material, and letters from correspondents including Lodge, Davies, Larmor and Fitzgerald (LDG/1). 

Also included, and later added to the collection, are photographs of Lodge (LDG/2) and other items relating to Lodge’s life and work. (LDG/3).

Reference Number:LDG
Custodial History:
  • LDG/1: presented to the University of Liverpool Library in 1941 by Oliver Lodge's executors
  • LDG/2: deposited by Vice Chancellor, Liverpool per Dr D N Edwards, Department of Physics, University of Liverpool, 28 Jul 1975
  • LDG/3: deposited by Dr Michael Houlden, Senior Lecturer in Physics, Sep 2005, Mar 2006, Jan 2008
Biographical/Administrative Information:

Oliver Lodge (1851-1940) was the first Professor of Physics at the University of Liverpool and a leading scientist of his age, remembered among scientists mainly for his investigations of electrical phenomena. His work on the transmission of electrical waves, building on the work of Clerk-Maxwell, and later on that of Hertz, laid the foundation for the discovery of the wireless telegraphy. He is also remembered as one of the first large-scale public educators, whose very popular lectures, illustrated by experiments, drew crowds of up to a thousand at the height of his career.Lodge was a typically Victorian gentleman and a Fabian.

He left school at fourteen to work in his father's business and studied part-time for an external degree with the University of London. He only began to study higher mathematics at the age of twenty-three when he enrolled for a full-time degree at University College. After graduating in 1875 he became a demonstrator on the staff, was awarded the D.Sc. in July 1877, and had risen to Assistant Professor before he left London for Liverpool in 1881.Lodge believed that there was a unified theory in physics throughout his career, which spanned the transition from classical nineteenth-century physics to modern physics. He was a natural synthesiser and speculator, who did not at any point pursue a single narrow objective to its ultimate end, but often made vital contributions to the understanding of discoveries made by others. He was also a very clear communicator, popular both with his students and with the public at large for his ability to convey fundamental ideas clearly and transfer his enthusiasm to an audience.

In June 1881, Lodge was appointed to the Lyon Jones Chair of Experimental Physics and Mathematics at University College, Liverpool, where he was very influential in college affairs. He became a close friend of leading Liverpool merchants such as George and Alfred Holt, and especially William Rathbone VI. From the time of his appointment at Liverpool, Lodge gave a weekly lunch time lecture on physics illustrated by experiments, which was initially attended mainly by teachers.

The Royal Society recognised his services to science by the conferment of a Fellowship in 1887, and the Rumford medal in 1898.In 1889, Lodge was invited to form a society to encourage the study of physics in the city. The University Physical Society was very successful at first, but attendance and interest gradually declined until it was maintained only by the efforts of Lodge's department. Lodge himself was nominally involved with the Society for over fifty years: from 1889-1897 as their main organiser and contributor, and from 1898-1908 as the Society's main attraction as a star speaker.

Lodge left Liverpool in 1900 to become the first Principle of the University of Birmingham, returning to lecture under other auspices at various times until 1927.While still at Liverpool in 1894, Lodge demonstrated the transmission of morse signals through three stone walls and over a distance of sixty yards. He believed using smaller waves could produce signals over greater distances but did not pursue this. It was left to Marconi to take out the first patent in space telegraphy in 1896. Such a lack of commercial sense was not untypical.  His sons were left to exploit the commercial possibilities of other discoveries such as the use of electical discharges for fume and dust deposition in industry, and the application of the electric spark ignition method to the internal combustion engine.

Lodge's main contributions in the field of physics were the discovery of electromagnetic waves, the development of radio telegraphy and his famous experiment disproving the theory that ether could be dragged along with moving matter.  Lodge also contributed to the theoretical discussions on the concept of the electron as it emerged from the work of Larmor, Lorentz, Thomson and others, and to discussions on the Zeeman effect, relativity and ether, radioactivity and astronomy. Lodge's collaborations with other scientists included notably his work with Larmor, acting as expositor and experimenter for theories originating in Larmor's mathematics.

Lodge's later career was prolific, and particularly focussed upon the investigation of psychic phenomena, a line of research he began in Liverpool in 1883. Lodge's research into the supernatural was carried out with the same rigour  he applied to his physics experiments, and he believed that he  had demonstrated the survival of the human personality after death; following the death of his son at Ypres in 1915, he laid out his views in the book Raymond: or Life and Death (1916) . Of the one hundred or so articles and papers he published between 1920 and his death in 1940, many are concerned with aspects of the "life and mind" issue, spiritualism, psychical research and survival after death.  Lodge himself died in 1940.