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Name: James Blyth

Born: 1839 in Marykirk, Scotland

Died: 1906 in Glasgow, Scotland

Profession: Electrical engineer



James Blythe was described as "a true man of science...one who by insight, patient toil, and mechanical ingenuity did much in his day to explain and illustrate many of the facts of physical science." He is best known as the inventor of the world's first wind turbine for electricity generation.

Born in April 1839 in Marykirk, Kincardineshire, Blyth was educated at the local Parish school and Montrose Academy before winning a scholarship to the General Assembly Normal School in Edinburgh. After obtaining a BA from the University of Edinburgh, he taught mathematics at Morrison's academy in Crieff.

After obtaining his MA in 1871, Blyth  was appointed Freeland Professor of Natural Philosophy at Anderson's College in 1880 (now the University of Strathclyde), where he began a research program on the use of wind power for electricity generation and storage. This research culminated in the installation of a cloth-sailed, horizontal wind turbine (as opposed to the now more common vertical wind turbine) at his Marykirk holiday cottage in July 1887. This was several months before the American Charles F. Brush installed what many mistakenly believe to be the first wind turbine, though Brush's was considerably larger and included the useful safety feature of an automatic brake to prevent damage in high winds. Blyth's design was 33 ft in diameter and stored the electricity generated in 'accumulators', otherwise known as batteries.

After a lack of success offering his surplus electricity to local villagers, who branded electricity 'the work of the devil', Blyth was able to install a larger, much-improved version of his wind turbine at the Montrose Lunatic Asylum, Infirmary and Dispensary, where it ran successfully for 30 years.

Blyth received an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow in 1900 and died in 1906. After the turbine at Montrose Asylum was dismantled in 1914, there would not be another public utility wind turbine in Britain until 1951. However, his legacy today is an important one, as his old college, now the University of Strathclyde, conducts world-leading research into wind turbine technology and Scotland seeks to become a world leader in wind energy generation.

Image: http://phys.strath.ac.ukhttp://phys.strath.ac.uk/information/history/index.phpshapeimage_2_link_0

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