1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Drummond, Thomas

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DRUMMOND, THOMAS (1797-1840), British inventor and administrator, was born at Edinburgh on the 10th of October 1797, and was educated at the high school there. He was appointed to a cadetship at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1813; and in 1815 he entered the Royal Engineers. In 1819, when meditating the renunciation of military service for the bar, he made the acquaintance of Colonel T. F. Colby (1784-1852), from whom in the following year he received an appointment on the trigonometrical survey of Great Britain. During his winters in London he attended the chemical lectures of W. T. Brande and M. Faraday at the Royal Institution, and the mention at one of these of the brilliant luminosity of lime when incandescent suggested to him the employment of the lime light for making distant surveying stations visible. In 1825, when he was assisting Colby in the Irish survey, his lime-light apparatus (“Drummond light”) was put to a practical test, and enabled observations to be completed between Divis mountain, near Belfast, and Slieve Snaght, a distance of 67 m. About the same tune he also devised an improved heliostat, and in 1829 he was employed in adopting his light for lighthouse purposes. In 1831 he entered political life and was appointed superintendent of the boundary commission. Four years later he was made under-secretary of state for Ireland, where he proved himself a most successful administrator, and did much to promote law and order. It was he who in 1838 told the Irish landlords that “property has its duties as well as its rights.” In 1836 he proposed the appointment of a commission on railways in Ireland, and took a large share in its work, which resulted in the recommendation, not, however, carried out, that the state should construct a system of lines throughout the island. Drummond's health was undermined by overwork, and he died at Dublin on the 15th of April 1840.

See Life by J. F. M‘Lennan (1867); Life and Letters by R. Barry O'Brien (1889); and Sir T. A. Larcom in Papers on the Duties of the Royal Engineers, vol. iv. (1840).