October 2013

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‘The Invisible Man’
A spooky tale by John Logie Baird

Born in the coastal town of Helensburgh in the West of Scotland, John Logie Baird (1888-1946) studied at the Royal Technical College from 1906-1914, gaining the Associateship of the College and a Diploma in Electrical Engineering. Despite constantly battling against ill-health and inadequate funding, he went on to make his reputation by giving the first public demonstration of television in January 1926, followed by the first transatlantic transmission, the first demonstrations of colour television and stereoscopic television, and the first video recording, amongst other technological achievements.

Though subsequently revered for his brilliance as an inventor, it was Baird’s forays into fiction, as an enthusiastic contributor to the Royal Technical College Magazine, which won him admirers amongst his student peers. Writing under the pseudonym of ‘H2O’ (the chemical formula for water), Baird published eighteen stories, articles and features in the magazine between 1909 and 1914. In his final year at the College (popularly known as ‘the Tech’), these literary efforts were rewarded with a position on the committee in charge of the magazine. The Editor, Alexander Rhind, wrote to Baird on 12 October 1913: ‘Many thanks for your welcome contributions. Keep it up. By the way, I have been chasing you nearly all over Glasgow. I want to tell you that you are evening sub-editor . . . [and] will be pleased to hand over your badge of office if you will let me know when I can see you in the Tech’ (archive reference: OM/11/14/4). The position was readily accepted, and the image below shows a proud Baird (back row, first on the right) with his fellow Magazine Committee members for session 1913-14.  

John Logie Baird (back row, first on the right) with his fellow Royal Technical College Magazine Committee members, session 1913-1914

One of Baird’s most atmospheric pieces, ‘The Invisible Man’, appears in the Royal Technical College Magazine for December 1912. Though subtitled ‘A Creepy Christmas Drama’, the story seems equally appropriate, if not more so, for Hallowe’en. Working late and absorbed in trying to finish an exercise for his engineering drawing class, a lone student finds himself accidentally locked in the College buildings overnight. Suddenly, he detects a muffled footfall within the empty room, followed by a rustling and a clanking noise . . . As well as injecting a nicely-judged degree of suspense, Baird incorporates some of his own experiences of College life into the tale, including a familiarity with the classroom layouts and a wry reference to the heavy workload of the engineering students (‘there is the drawing to finish, and the maths. exercise, and the mechanics problem for Friday, and the Thermodynamics for Tuesday, and the Chemistry and Motive Power exercises for Wednesday, and the Natural Philosophy and Strength of Materials examples for Thursday’). Intrigued? Why not read the full story below!

John Logie Baird, ‘The Invisible Man', Royal Technical College Magazine, December 1912.

Anne Cameron, Archives Assistant

Further information:

GB 249 OM/11 John Logie Baird papers

GB 249 OJD/1/1-5 Royal Technical College Magazine, volumes 1-5 (1908-1913) 

GB 249 OP/4/118/6 Photograph of the Royal Technical College Magazine Committee, 1913-1914

Antony Kamm and Malcolm Baird, John Logie Baird: A Life (National Museums of Scotland Publishing: Edinburgh, 2002) D 621.388009 BAI/K
 

John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird (ref: OP/4/118/7)