John Watkins Brett

John Watkins Brett (1805–1863) was an English telegraph engineer.

John Watkins Brett.jpg


Brett was the son of a cabinetmaker, William Brett of Bristol, and was born in that city in 1805.[1] Brett is known as the founder of submarine telegraphy. He formed the Submarine Telegraph Company in conjunction with his younger brother, Jacob Brett. After some years spent in perfecting his plans he sought and obtained permission from Louis-Philippe in 1847 to establish telegraphic communication between France and England, but the project was deemed too hazardous for general support. However, he was successful in connecting the two nations briefly by undersea cable in 1850.[2] A more durable cable was laid in 1851,[1][3] and the construction of numerous other submarine lines followed. Brett founded the English and Irish Magnetic Telegraph Company in 1850 which laid the first submarine telegraph cable to Ireland.[4] He was involved in the transatlantic telegraph cable project and was confident that England and America would be linked, but he did not live to see it accomplished.[5]

Brett died on 3 December 1863 at the age of 58, and was buried in the family vault in the churchyard of Westbury-on-Trym, near Bristol.[1][6]


Brett published a work of 104 pages, On the Origin and Progress of the Oceanic Telegraph, with a few brief facts and opinions of the press (London, 1858),[7] and contributed several papers on the same subject to the Institution of Civil Engineers, of which he was a member. A list of these contributions can be found in the index of the 'Proceedings' of the society.


  1. ^ a b c Roberts, Steven. "John Watkins Brett". History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications. Steven Roberts. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  2. ^ "John Watkins Brett". Grace's Guide. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  3. ^ Halpenny, Francess G. (1990). Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume 12. Springer. p. 374. ISBN 9780802034601.
  4. ^ Huurdeman, Anton A., The Worldwide History of Telecommunications, p. 129, Wiley, 2003 ISBN 0471205052.
  5. ^ "John Watkins Brett, English telegraph engineer". Science Photo. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  6. ^ "John Watkins Brett". Find a Grave. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  7. ^ "John Watkins Brett 1805 - 1863". Science Museum. Retrieved 21 September 2017.

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainStephen, Leslie, ed. (1886). "Brett, John Watkins". Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 6. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

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