HOW THE INTERNET WAS BORN ON THE
Access to the World Wide Web is only possible due to a vast global network of subsea fibre optic cables carrying terabits of data under the oceans. This unheralded technology did not grow up overnight, it was more than one hundred and sixty-five years in the making and the Greenwich Peninsula was the focal point of its development.One man did more than any other individual to develop a global communications network and that man was Scotsman Sir John Pender GCMG (1816-96).
John Pender made his first fortune in the calico printing industry in Manchester.His association with Greenwich began in 1857, when Glass, Elliot & Co acquired the Enderby Wharfsite from Messrs Enderby Brothers to armour half of the cable ordered by the Atlantic Telegraph Co. At that time Pender was a director and major shareholder in the Atlantic Telegraph Co but had little to do with the 1857 and 1858 attempts to lay a working cable across the Atlantic.
|Oil painting of the SS Great Eastern laying the 1865 cable|
by Robert Dudley, presented to Telcon by the artist and now
owned by ASN at Greenwich and on display in their SS Great
Eastern conference room
Pender never gave up his stock holding in Telcon and, whenever his operating companies needed a new cable, it was invariably Telcon that was awarded the supply contract. From its formation, through Pender’s patronage, Telcon went on to dominate the submarine cable supply industry for the next 100 years. After John Pender’s death, two further generations of Penders were directors of Telcon until it merged with BICC in 1959.
|Sepia wash water colour by Robert Dudley. Pender seated in|
the cable hut at Porthcurno, watching the first message sent
over his cable system to India in 1870.
Despite his outstanding achievements, very few people have heard of him or understand the debt we owe to him for the legacy that he has left us. Now there is a biography of this great man, written with the benefit of access to the Pender family archive. It is available from Amazon as an e book https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D341689031&field-keywords=The+Cable+King
hard copy with either black & white or full colour illustrations: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Cable+King
The cover notes have been written by Bill Burns, one of the world’s leading experts of the history of the submarine cable industry. They are repeated below: ‘John Pender was a key figure in one of the 19th century’s most important technological enterprises: the interconnection of the British Empire through undersea telegraph cables, a network that Tom Standage has called the Victorian Internet. Pender exemplified the best that the 19th century could produce, he was a hard-working businessman with concern for the welfare of his staff, and who sought public office to speak for Manchester merchants and Lancashire cotton workers during the Cotton Famine. Always a forward thinker, he saw that telecommunications was destined to be the great development of the second half of the 19th century.
|Miniature of John Pender in 1866|
John Pender kept his personal life private and this perhaps explains why there has not been a biography of him before now. The Pender family granted Stewart Ash unrestricted access to the family archives, and this book gives us a detailed account of John Pender’s ascent from his humble beginnings in Scotland. A truly remarkable man, he made his first fortune in the cotton trade, then dedicated his life to the development of the undersea cable industry and its rise to pre-eminence, becoming a Member of Parliament in successive governments in furtherance of his dreams.