Alexander Bain

Alexander Bain was born to Margaret Paul and George Bain on June 11, 1818. George, his father, was a veteran soldier and a weaver. In fact, Alexander Bain left school at 11; he got a weaver job and this is why in the rex philosophorum, he was described as a “Weevir.”


Alexander Bain also attended lectures held in the Aberdeen Public Library and the Mechanic’s Institute of Aberdeen. In 1839, he enrolled in Marischal College and met Professor John Cruickshank, a professor of mathematics who was of great influence to Alexander Bain.


He also met Thomas Clark, a professor of chemistry, and William Knight who taught Natural Philosophy. The year 1845 was a big year for Alexander Bain since he was given the job as a Professor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics at the University of Glasgow.


In 1846, he quit the position and made more time for writing since he preferred a wider field. Two years later, he decided to make the move to London and took under Sir Chadwick at the Board of Health. His work was focused on becoming a noted affiliate of the intellectual circle along with John Stuart Mill and George Grote.


He also devoted a lot of his time and work to social reform. Several years after when he was 37 years old, he had the chance to publish a major work of his which was The Senses and Intellect.


In 1859, he followed it up with another major work that was entitled The Emotions and the Will. Alexander Bain was a very busy man. At the University of London he worked as an examiner in Moral Philosophy and Logic from 1857-61 and 1864-69. It was also there that he became an instructor for Indian Civil Services and Moral Science Examinations.

The chemical he employed to saturate the paper was a solution of nitrate of ammonia and prussiate of potash, which left a blue stain on being decomposed by the current from an iron contact or stylus.


The signals were the short and long, or ‘dots’ and ‘dashes’ of the Morse code. The speed of marking was so great that hand signaling could not keep up with it, and Bain devised a plan of automatic signaling by means of a running band of paper on which the signals of the message were represented by holes punched through it.


Obviously if this tape were passed between the contacts of a signaling key the current would merely flow when the perforations allowed the contacts of the key to touch. This principle was afterwards applied by Wheatstone in the construction of his automatic sender.


Alexander Bain was a man ahead of his time and it was one of his greatest triumphs that he got people to pay more attention to the study of linguistics. In 1959, the subjects of English and logic were not really a focus in Aberdeen so he put a lot of his time and effort into rectifying any deficiencies.


He not only raised the educational standards in North Scotland in the University of Abderdeen, but he also worked to establish the School of Philosophy. His work at Aberdeen also influenced the way grammar and composition was taught in the entire United Kingdom.