Elizabeth Bruton

Elizabeth Bruton

Postdoctoral Researcher

Summary: "Innovating in Combat": Telecommunications and intellectual property in the First World War.

I am the postdoctoral researcher for an AHRC-funded project "Innovating in Combat: Telecommunications and intellectual property in the First World War", a collaborative project between the University of Leeds and the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. Other partners include British Telecom (BT) archives, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) archives, and Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Cornwall. The project builds upon the work of a previous project managed by Professor Graeme Gooday at the University of Leeds, "Owning and Disowning Invention" and uses research from this project to highlight and build awareness of First World War telecommunications material and objects held by British museums and archives. Outcomes include public events and lectures, online resources, YouTube videos and podcasts, educational material, publications, research and more.

Prior to this, I undertook an AHRC-funded PhD at the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds and was supervised by Professor Graeme Gooday and Dr Stephen Lax. My PhD thesis, entitled "Beyond Marconi: the roles of the Admiralty, the Post Office, and the Institution of Electrical Engineers in the invention and development of wireless communication up to 1908", examined the role of institutional invention and associated engineering communities in the development of wireless communications in Britain prior to 1908.  I was awarded a collaborative doctorate award (CDA) for my PhD from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, and am working with the Institution of Engineering and Technology and British Telecom archives. 

My interest in history of communications began with a small project on the history of mobile telephones as part of my undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering at Trinity College, Dublin.  This interest was further focussed on wireless history with my postgraduate dissertation, "Marconi Wireless Telegraphy in the British Army during World War One", produced as part of my Masters' degree in history of science at the Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford.  Upon finishing my Masters, I began cataloguing and researching the Marconi Collection, now held by the Museum of the History of Science.  Much of this work was included in the 2006 exhibition "Wireless World: Marconi & the making of radio" and the permanent display of the collection.  I also gave a number of public lectures on the collection at the museum and worked as a researcher for the Marconi Foundation, Bologna.

I enjoy public presentations and, in addition to numerous public lectures, museum talks, and conference papers, I have also been featured on BBC 2's "The Genius of Invention" (February 2013) and BBC 4's "Shock and Awe: The History of Electricity" (November 2011) . My research interests include museums, telecommunications history, military history, electrical history, Victorian technologies, scientific institutions, computing history, and scientific instruments.