27 July 1849|
|Died||27 August 1898
Val d'Herens, Switzerland
|Known for||electrical engineering|
John Hopkinson, FRS, (27 July 1849 – 27 August 1898) was a British physicist, electrical engineer, Fellow of the Royal Society and President of the IEE (now the IET) twice in 1890 and 1896. He invented the three-wire (three-phase) system for the distribution of electrical power, for which he was granted a patent in 1882. He also worked in many areas of electromagnetism and electrostatics, and in 1890 was appointed professor of electrical engineering at King's College London, where he was also director of the Siemens Laboratory.
Life and career 
John Hopkinson was born in Manchester, the eldest of 5 children. His father, also called John, was a mechanical engineer. He was educated at Queenwood School in Hampshire and Owens College in Manchester. He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1867 and graduated in 1871 as Senior Wrangler, having placed first in the demanding Cambridge Mathematical Tripos examination. During this time he also studied for and passed the examination for a BSc from the University of London. Hopkinson could have followed a purely academic career but instead chose engineering as his vocation.
After working first in his father's engineering works, Hopkinson took a position in 1872 as an engineering manager in the lighthouse engineering department of Chance Brothers and Company in Smethwick. In 1877 Hopkinson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of his application of Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism to problems of electrostatic capacity and residual charge. In 1878 he moved to London to work as a consulting engineer, focusing particularly on developing his ideas about how to improve the design and efficiency of dynamos. Hopkinson's most important contribution was his three-wire distribution system, patented in 1882. In 1883 Hopkinson showed mathematically that it was possible to connect two alternating current dynamos in parallel-—a problem that had long bedevilled electrical engineers.
Hopkinson twice held the office of President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. During his second term, Hopkinson proposed that the Institution should make available the technical knowledge of electrical engineers for the defence of the country. In 1897 the Volunteer Corps of Electrical Engineers was formed and Hopkinson became major in command of the corps.
Personal life and legacy 
On the 27 August 1898, Hopkinson and three of his children, John Gustave, Alice and Lina Evelyn, were killed in a mountaineering accident on the Petite Dent de Veisivi, Val d'Herens, in the Pennine Alps, Switzerland.
As a memorial to John Hopkinson and his son, the 1899 extension to the Engineering Laboratory in the New Museums Site of University of Cambridge was named after him. A plaque commemorating this is fixed to the wall in Free School Lane. The Hopkinson and Imperial Chemical Industries Professorship of Applied Thermodynamics is named in his honour.
See also 
- Electric motor
- Three-phase electric power
- Polyphase system
- Bertram Hopkinson, his son
- Alfred Hopkinson and Edward Hopkinson, his younger brothers
- Austin Hopkinson, his nephew
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Hopkinson, John by T. H. Beare
- Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). "Hopkinson, John". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Original papers on dynamo machinery and allied subjects (London, Whittaker, 1893)
- John Hopkinson biography
- Cambridge University - 125 Years of Engineering Excellence
- The Book of Manchester and Salford. Manchester: George Falkner & Sons, 1929; p. 73
Further reading 
- Hopkinson, Mary & Ewing, Irene, Lady (eds.) (1948) John and Alice Hopkinson 1824-1910. London: Farmer & Sons, printers
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Hopkinson, John.|
- Works by John Hopkinson at Internet Archive. Scanned, illustrated original editions.
- John Hopkinson
- John Hopkinson Biography