John Watkins Brett

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


Brett was the son of a cabinetmaker, William Brett of Bristol, and was born in that city in 1805. Brett is known as the founder of submarine telegraphy. The idea of transmitting electricity through submerged cables is said to have been originated by him in conjunction with his younger brother. 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 by undersea cable in 1850, and the construction of numerous other submarine lines followed. Brett always expressed himself confident as to the ultimate union of England and America by means of electricity, but he did not live to see it accomplished.

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.


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), and contributed several papers on the same subject to the Institute 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.


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

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