Inventor, Chemist and Electrician
APPEAL FOR INFORMATION
Grampian Transport Museum (GTM) in Alford is keen to address topical issues in its annually changing exhibitions programme. One such is the recent emergence of the electric car as the possible successor to the motor car. Museum members, visitors and Aberdeenshire’s schools have urged the GTM to produce an exhibition charting the past, present and possible future of electric road vehicles and the social change associated with their gradual introduction.
A little known fact is that Aberdeen can claim to be home to one of the world’s electric car pioneers. Robert Davidson (1804 – 1894) was a student of Chemistry at Marischal College (1818 – 1821) who became interested in electric traction. He built a working model locomotive in 1837 and an electric car in 1839 that is credited with being the first in the UK, perhaps the world. The ‘Aberdeen Banner’ newspaper reported in 1840 that his ideas worked but his zinc – acid batteries were too expensive and on cost his inventions could not rival steam power.
Davidson’s work made further headlines when a locomotive he tested on the Edinburgh – Glasgow line in 1842, named, ‘Galvani’, was smashed up by steam apprentices…..perhaps fearing for their future!
Electric traction was gaining favour by the 1890s when the ‘Electrician’ magazine reported that Davidson was ‘the first to demonstrate the possibility of electric traction’.
GTM is delving deeply into the Davidson story and is very keen to hear from anyone who feels they can help with information, images or objects linked to this nearly forgotten pioneer of electric vehicles. Technical details would also be very welcome as it has been suggested that his original motor was reciprocating rather like a steam engine.
Interested parties should contact Mike Ward, Curator, who will be very grateful for any assistance with the project.