FYI March 10, 2017



On this day:

1629 – Charles I of England dissolves Parliament, beginning the eleven-year period known as the Personal Rule.
The Personal Rule (also known as the Eleven Years’ Tyranny) was the period from 1629 to 1640, when King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland ruled without recourse to Parliament. The King was entitled to do this under the Royal Prerogative. His actions caused discontent among the ruling classes, but the effects were more popular with the common people.[citation needed]

Charles had already dissolved three Parliaments by the third year of his reign in 1628. After the murder of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who was deemed to have a negative influence on Charles’ foreign policy, Parliament began to criticize the king more harshly than before. Charles then realized that, as long as he could avoid war, he could rule without Parliament.

Whig historians sometimes called this period the Eleven Years’ Tyranny, a term meant to foreshadow the political ruptures of the English Civil War. More recently, however, scholars[who?] have described the eleven years as a period of “Creative Reform”, due to the measures taken by Charles to restructure English politics.[citation needed]

The greatest problem Charles initially encountered at this stage was a continued lack of funds. The main sources of income for the King were customs duties, feudal dues and income from the King’s personal estates. Nationwide taxation was widely understood to be for emergencies and special purposes, such as war, and it was by this time generally accepted that only Parliament could authorise a general tax. But even in peacetime, the traditional sources of the King’s revenue were stretched to the limit to fund the business of government. So Charles and his advisers developed various schemes to raise additional revenue without recourse to Parliament.

A large fiscal deficit had arisen in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I.[1] Notwithstanding Buckingham’s short lived campaigns against both Spain and France, there was little financial capacity for Charles to wage wars overseas. Throughout his reign Charles was obliged to rely primarily on volunteer forces for defence and on diplomatic efforts to support his sister, Elizabeth, and his foreign policy objective for the restoration of the Palatinate.[2] England was still the least taxed country in Europe, with no official excise and no regular direct taxation.[3] To raise revenue without reconvening Parliament, Charles resurrected an all-but-forgotten law called the “Distraint of Knighthood”, in abeyance for over a century, which required any man who earned £40 or more from land each year to present himself at the king’s coronation to be knighted. Relying on this old statute, Charles fined individuals who had failed to attend his coronation in 1626.[4][a]

The chief tax imposed by Charles was a feudal levy known as ship money,[6] which proved even more unpopular, and lucrative, than poundage and tonnage before it. Previously, collection of ship money had been authorised only during wars, and only on coastal regions. Charles, however, argued that there was no legal bar to collecting the tax for defence during peacetime and throughout the whole of the kingdom. Ship money, paid directly to the Treasury of the Navy, provided between £150,000 to £200,000 annually between 1634 and 1638, after which yields declined.[7] Opposition to ship money steadily grew, but the 12 common law judges of England declared that the tax was within the king’s prerogative, though some of them had reservations.[8] The prosecution of John Hampden for non-payment in 1637–38 provided a platform for popular protest, and the judges only found against Hampden by the narrow margin of 7–5.[9]

The king also derived money through the granting of monopolies, despite a statute forbidding such action, which, though inefficient, raised an estimated £100,000 a year in the late 1630s.[10][b] Charles also raised funds from the Scottish nobility, at the price of considerable acrimony, by the Act of Revocation (1625), whereby all gifts of royal or church land made to the nobility since 1540 were revoked, with continued ownership being subject to an annual rent.[12] Sales of Royal lands, especially the large expanses of under-developed Royal forests also contributed to finances. Courtiers were asked to survey the lands, to provide programmes to disafforest these areas. The focus of the programme was disafforestation and sale of forest lands for development as pasture and arable, or in the case of the Forest of Dean, development for the iron industry. This included providing compensation to people using the lands in common, especially manorial lords and their tenants. Others who had settled illegally were not entitled to compensation and frequently rioted. The discontent following a major wave of sales was known as the Western Rising.[13]

The practice of granting extensive monopolies agitated the public, who were forced to pay higher prices by the monopoly holders. Against the background of this unrest, Charles faced bankruptcy in the summer of 1640 as parliament continued to refuse new taxes. The City of London, preoccupied with its own grievances further refused to make any loans to the king, and likewise he was unable to subscribe any foreign loans. In this extremity, Charles seized the money held in trust at the mint of the Exchequer in the tower of London. The royal mint held a monopoly on the exchange of foreign coin and from this the mint operated as a bank containing much capital of the merchants and goldsmiths of the city. In July, Charles seized all £130,000 of this money, and in August he followed it up by seizing all the stocks of pepper held by the East India Company, and selling it at distress prices.[14]

On the other side of the ledger, the government tried to reduce expenditure, especially by avoiding war (thus pursuing an isolationist foreign policy) and also avoiding large-scale innovations on the domestic front. Of equal importance, Charles learned to spend less extravagantly compared to his father.

Despite the King’s unconventional methods of raising money, the absence of Parliamentary taxation limited the tax burden during the Personal Rule. This combined with the country’s avoidance of the Thirty Years’ War that was ravaging Europe made the 1630s a time of relative prosperity in England compared to the Continent, which in turn helped to make the Personal Rule popular with the common people, who had no political influence with parliaments in any case. Charles became especially popular with commoners in rural areas, this not coincidentally being the constituency where the King would find his most reliable support in the coming Civil War.[citation needed]

End of the Personal Rule
The Personal Rule began to unravel in 1637, when Charles, along with his advisor Archbishop Laud, attempted to reform the then-episcopal Church of Scotland to bring it into line, especially in its liturgy, with the Church of England. This met with immense Scottish opposition, and when negotiations broke down, a Scottish army invaded England. Charles could not afford to pay English troops to fight the Scots, and was obliged in 1640 to call the Short Parliament. This ended the Personal Rule, though Charles dissolved the Short Parliament after only a few days; by the end of the year, with the Scots still in England and no other routes left to him, he summoned the Long Parliament. In the months that followed, the Parliamentary leaders, turning their attention to domestic matters, demanded from Charles ever more sweeping concessions over government policy. In 1642, Charles left London to raise an army and regain control by force, and the English Civil War began.



1891 – Almon Strowger, an undertaker in Topeka, Kansas, patents the Strowger switch, a device which led to the automation of telephone circuit switching.
The Strowger switch was the first commercially successful electromechanical stepping switch telephone exchange system. It was invented by Almon Brown Strowger, and first patented in 1891. Because of its operational characteristics it is also known as a step-by-step (SXS) switch.

Strowger, an undertaker, was motivated to invent an automatic telephone exchange after having difficulties with the local telephone operators, one of whom was the wife of a competitor. He was said to be convinced that she, as one of the manual telephone exchange operators, was sending calls “to the undertaker” to her husband.[1]

He first conceived his invention in 1888, and patented the automatic telephone exchange in 1891. It is reported that the initial model was made from a round collar box and some straight pins.[2]

While Almon Strowger may have devised the concept, he was not alone in his endeavors and sought the assistance of his brother Arnold, nephew William and others with a knowledge of electricity and money to realize his concepts. The Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company was founded in 1891.[2]

The company installed and opened the first commercial exchange in his then-home town of La Porte, Indiana on November 3, 1892, with about 75 subscribers and capacity for 99. It used two telegraph type keys on the telephone, which had to be tapped the correct number of times to step the switch, but the use of separate keys with separate conductors to the exchange was not practical for a commercial system. Early advertising called the new invention the “girl-less, cuss-less, out-of-order-less, wait-less telephone”. [3]

The Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company became the Automatic Electric Company, which Strowger was involved in founding, although Strowger himself seems not to have been involved in further developments. The Strowger patents were exclusively licensed to the Automatic Electric Company. Strowger sold his patents in 1896 for US$1,800 and sold his share in Automatic Electric in 1898 for US$10,000. His patents subsequently sold for US$2.5 million in 1916. Company engineers continued development of the Strowger designs and submitted several patents in the names of its employees.

The Strowger system was widely used until the development of the more reliable crossbar switch, an electromechanical switch with a matrix of vertical and horizontal bars and simpler motions.

Patent details
Strowger’s patent (US 447918) specifies dialing equipment at the customer location and the switching equipment at the central office.

The customer device creates trains of on-off current pulses corresponding to the digits 1-9, and 0 (which sent 10 pulses). This equipment originally consisted of two telegraph keys engaged by knife switches, and evolved into the rotary dial telephone.

The central office switching equipment had a two-motion stepping switch. A contact arm could be moved up and down to select one of ten rows of contacts, and then rotated to select one of ten contacts in that row, a total of 100 choices. The stepping motion was controlled by the current pulses coming from the originating customer’s telegraph keys, and later from the rotary dial.

Two-motion mechanism
The Strowger switch had three banks of contacts; what appear to be continuous arcs of metal might be shields; individual contacts are hidden. Toward the upper end of each shaft are two copper-colored ratchets. The upper one has ten grooves, and raises the shaft. The lower one has long vertical teeth (on the other side, hidden).

The Strowger switch used two telegraph type keys on a telephone set for dialing. Each key required a separate wire to the exchange. The keys were tapped to step the switch in two stages. The first set of incoming pulses raises the armature of an electromagnet to move a shaft which selects the desired level of contacts, by engaging a pawl with the upper ratchet. Another pawl, pivoting on the frame, holds the shaft at that height as it rotates. The second set of pulses, from the second key, operates another electromagnet. Its pawl engages the (hidden) vertical teeth in the lower ratchet to rotate the shaft to the required position. It is kept there against spring tension by a pawl pivoted on the frame. When the switch returns to its home position, typically when a call is complete, a release magnet disengages the pawls that hold the shaft in position. An interlock ensures that the spring on the shaft rotates it to angular home position before it drops to its home position by gravity.

Development of the Strowger system
The commercial version of the Strowger switch, as developed by the Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company, used a rotary dial for signalling to the exchange. The original final selector (connector) switch which connected to 100 customers was supplemented by preceding group selector stages, as the “cascading” enabled connection to many more customers, and to customers at other exchanges. Another requirement for commercial systems was a circuit to detect a busy connection (line) and return a busy signal to the calling subscriber.

Instead of dedicating an expensive first-stage selector switch to each customer as in the first exchange, the customer was given access to the first-stage switch of a telephone network, often by a line-finder which searched “backward” for the calling line; so requiring only a few relays for the equipment required for each customer line.

Later Strowger (SXS) exchanges often used a subscriber uniselector as part of the line equipment individual to each line, which searched “forward” for a first selector. This was more economical for higher calling-rate domestic or business customers, and had the advantage that access to additional switches could readily be added if the traffic increased (the number of linefinders serving a group was limited by the wiring multiple installed). Hence exchanges with subscriber uniselectors were usually used at British exchanges with a high proportion of business customers e.g. director exchanges, or in New Zealand where the provision of local free calling meant that residential customers had a relatively high calling rate.

The fundamental modularity of the system combined with its step-by-step (hence the alternative name) selection process and an almost unlimited potential for expansion that gives the Strowger system its technical advantage. Previous systems had all been designed for a fixed number of subscribers to be switched directly to each other in a mesh arrangement. This became quadratically more complex as each new customer was added, as each new customer needed a switch to connect to every other customer. In modern terminology, the previous systems were not “scalable”.

British deployment
From 1912, the British General Post Office, which also operated the British telephone system, installed several automatic telephone exchanges from several vendors in trials at Darlington on 10 October 1914 (rotary system), Fleetwood (relay exchange from Sweden), Grimsby (Siemens), Hereford (Lorimer) and Leeds (Strowger).[4] The BPO selected the Strowger switches for small and medium cities and towns. However, the selection of switching systems for London and other large cities was not decided until the 1920s, when the Director telephone system was adopted. The Director systems used SXS switches for destination routing and number translation facilities similar to the register used in common-control exchanges. Using similar equipment as in the rest of the network was deemed beneficial and the equipment could be manufactured in Britain.



Born on this day:

1604 – Johann Rudolf Glauber, German-Dutch alchemist and chemist (d. 1670)
Johann Rudolf Glauber (10 March 1604 – 10 March 1670) was a German-Dutch alchemist and chemist. Some historians of science have described him as one of the first chemical engineers.[1] His discovery of sodium sulfate in 1625 led to the compound being named after him: “Glauber’s salt”.

Born in 1604 in Karlstadt am Main, the son of a barber, he was one of a large family and did not finish school, but is thought to have studied pharmacy and visited laboratories.[2] He said that he was glad that he had not suffered the grind of high school but had instead learned by experience. He lived in Vienna (1625), Salzburg, Giessen, Wertheim (1649–1651), Kitzingen (1651–1655), Basel, Paris, Frankfurt am Main, Cologne and Amsterdam (1640–1644, 1646–1649, 1656-death). He worked first manufacturing mirrors and later for two periods as Apothecary to the court in Giessen, the second time as the Chief Apothecary, leaving because of the Thirty Years War. In Amsterdam he built up a business manufacturing pharmaceuticals (including chemicals such as Glauber’s salt). This led to both great financial success and in 1649 bankruptcy, which is the reason for his move from Amsterdam to Wertheim.

He married twice, and with his second wife Helena Cornelius (married 1641) had eight children. His son Johannes Glauber probably helped him with his engraved illustrations.

In 1660 he became seriously ill, which has been attributed to poisoning from the various heavy metals used in his work,[3] and in 1666 was crippled by a fall from a wagon and was confined to bed for the rest of his life. As a result, he had to sell off books and equipment to provide for his family. He died on 16 March 1670 in Amsterdam.

Glauber carried out studies on the chemistry of wine production and had commercial success by licensing improvements. He was also an apothecary, supplying medicines, and known for providing free medical treatment to the poor. He is known for his contributions to inorganic chemistry and the fact that he was able to live from the proceeds of chemical production based upon his discoveries, and was thus an industrial chemist. His improvements to chemical processes and equipment (notably furnaces and distillation devices[4]) make him an early chemical engineer.[1]

He was first to produce concentrated hydrochloric acid in 1625 by combining sulfuric acid and table salt. He also made an improved process for the manufacture of nitric acid in 1648, by heating potassium nitrate with concentrated sulphuric acid. His production of sodium sulfate, which he called sal mirabilis or “wonderful salt”, brought him fame and the honour of being named “Glauber’s salt”. It was an effective but relatively safe laxative at a time when purging (emptying the digestive tract) was a popular treatment for many diseases.[5]

The chemical garden (or silica garden) was first observed by Glauber and described by him in 1646.[4] In its original form, the chemical garden involved the introduction of ferrous chloride (FeCl2) crystals into a solution of potassium silicate (K2SiO3, water glass).

He was the first to synthesize and isolate antimony trichloride, arsenic trichloride, tin tetrachloride and zinc chloride.

In addition he wrote about 40 books. A visionary one is Dess Teutschlands Wohlfahrt (Germany’s Prosperity) in which he proposed the chemical industries as a means for Germany’s economic recovery after the Thirty Years War.




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