Charles K. Aked, Alexander Bain, The Father of Electrical Horology, Antiquarian Horology, December, 1974, pp. 51-63
Alexander Bain was born in October 1810 in a small croft outside the village of Watton in Caithness. Bain was a surprisingly poor pupil, regarded as the dunce of the class and upon showing some mechanical aptitude was secured an apprenticeship with John Sellar, watchmaker in Wick. In an autobiographical pamphlet written in 1866 Bain recounts attending a lecture at the Masonic Hall in Thurso, the title of the lecture was 'Heat, Sound and Electricity'. This was his first introduction to electricity and immediately after he began to experiment with a primitive electric telegraph using an old coil of wire bought in Thurso which he fastened to the jaw bones of animals stuck in the ground to serve as insulators, with a magnetic needle to indicate when current flowed in the line. Besotted with the whole concept of electricity Bain broke off his apprenticeship in about 1831 and set off for Edinburgh and was in London by 1837 where at the age of twenty-six he worked in Clerkenwell and attended lectures on electrical subjects at the Adelaide Gallery and Polytechnic Institution.
By 1840 Bain had experimented on applying electricity to clocks, he had given much thought to ideas for an electric telegraph, something he thought could potentially make him a wealthy man. Unfortunately for Bain he had very little money and in his persuit to gain sponsorship he fell into the unscrupulous hands of Professor Charles Wheatstone who himself had been working on very similar projects. Wheatstone paid Bain to make a model of his invention for an electric clock but then stole the idea and introduced it as his own invention in a lecture to the Royal Society. Bain was furious but was still only a lowly clockmaker and Wheatstone a pre-eminent scientist; he could do nothing but bide his time. Soon after Bain found honest backing in the form of John Barwise and continued with his experiments culminating in the first ever electrical clock patent which was given the Royal seal on 10th July 1841.
Subsequently Bain found an even better sponsor and long-lasting friend in the person of John Finlaison who lent Bain £3,000 to set up a telegraph line of some 46 miles between two railway stations. In 1843 he took out patent No. 9745 for a clock with an electromagnetic pendulum driven by the interaction of a solenoid and a consequent pole permanent magnet drawing current from an earth battery which he had devised, consisting of a simple cell formed by a zinc plate and a copper plate or a mass of carbon buried in moist soil. This was the patent upon which the present clock is closely based.
Bain and Wheatstone continued to clash at every inventive step until finally in 1846 the Committee of the House of Lords was forced to decide which system to adopt and an enquiry was set up. Bain was totally vindicated and Wheatstone and his partner Cooke had to offer considerable sums of money to use Bain's rightful patent, in addition Bain was to receive half the profits of the company. Each dial would be engraved The Electrical Telegraph Company but it would also have to be engraved A. Bain - Inventor. Wheatstone resigned but Bain remained the managing director.