Harry Grindell Matthews (1880-1941)
Studied at the Merchant Venturer's School in Bristol and became an electronic engineer. Having served in the South African Constabulary in the Second Boer War he developed an interest in the possibilities of voice communication by wireless. After returning to Britain he invented the Aerophone device, a radiotelephone that transmitted messages between a ground station and an aeroplane from a distance of two miles. In 1914, the British government offered £25,000 for an effective weapon against zeppelins. Matthews created a remote control system that used selenium cells. In 1921 he designed and built a camera that recorded an optical sound track alongside the photographed image. The device was not pursued as film producers believed that ‘talkies’ had no commercial future... In 1923 he invented the infamous 'Death Ray' a means of transmitting energy without wires capable of shooting down aeroplanes, stopping ships and incapacitating infantry from the distance of four miles. The government unconvinced and sceptical, believing the demonstration to be a hoax rejected his invention. In 1934, facing bankruptcy after the commercial failure of his ‘Sky Projector’ he relocated to South Wales where he worked on rocket travel, a submarine detection system, and an Aerial Torpedo for defending cities from airborne attacks until his death from a heart attack.
© Arfon Jones 2010. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.
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