Albert George Dew-Smith


Albert George Dew-Smith

Salisbury, Wiltshire Unitary Authority, Wiltshire, England
Death 17 Mar 1903 (aged 54)
Putney, London Borough of Wandsworth, Greater London, England
Burial Cambridge, City of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Plot A17-398
Memorial ID 156491721 View Source
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Co-founder of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, with Sir Horace Darwin. Buried on 17th March 1903.

Albert Dew was born in 1848 in Salisbury. After attending Harrow he came up to Trinity College in 1868 to read Natural Science. In 1870 a substantial inheritance made him a wealthy man. He added the ‘Smith’ to his name at this time which suggests that his wealth came from a relative of that name.

He became a prominent member of Cambridge society. Prof. J J Thomson described him as ‘a man of fine presence and distinguished manners’. After his undergraduate studies Albert went on to undertake research in the newly established Physiology Department with Prof. M Foster. He often used his own wealth to fund the purchase of the equipment he needed. His interest in instrument making began.

At this time there were few skilled instrument makers outside centres such as Birmingham and London to meet the growing needs of developing University departments. In 1875 Prof. J Stuart was appointed to the new chair of Mechanism. He set up an instrument making workshop which took on work from other departments as a source of funding. [This would later become the Engineering Laboratory of the University] Albert initially provided additional financial backing for this enterprise but then set up his own workshop in 1878 with Robert Fulcher a skilled technician in an unused hay loft in Panton Street.

Meanwhile Horace Darwin [son of Charles] , a close friend of Albert at Trinity, had established himself as a skilled mechanical designer often using Albert’s new workshop to manufacture his designs. It soon became apparent that Albert and Robert did not have the expertise to make the increasingly complex designs and in 1881 Albert set up a new partnership with Horace, this was the ‘Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company’. Premises were taken in Tibbs Row. [now the entrance from Downing Street to the cavern below John Lewis] Albert took charge of the administration of the Company which became known within the University as ‘Horace’s Workshop’. Their first foreman W T Pye would later, with his son, set up another well known Cambridge company.

At the same time Albert pursued other interests : An accomplished amateur photographer he took portraits of leading figures in Cambridge. A number of these are now held at Trinity College and at the National Portrait Gallery. He also set up a small publishing business producing the Journal of Physiology and became an expert in the preparation of high quality lithographs for printing. In 1891 his partnership with Horace was dissolved and he left the Instrument Company to concentrate on his Cambridge Engraving Company.

Although never a fellow of Trinity College his support of so many University related enterprises seems to have justified his being provided with College rooms for many years. He enjoyed the social life of the College and established many friendships with well known people such as Robert Louis Stevenson with whom he corresponded for many years.

In 1895 he married Alice Lloyd. They lived at Chesterton Hall on Chesterton Road until Albert died, aged 55, in 1903.

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