Generation: D

Donald Murray, "The Inventor"

Born: 1866 Died: 1945
Father: John Murray

Patricia Cosgrave

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[Picture] "The Inventor". Born invercargill.

See Encyclopedia Britanica, 11th Edition (date 1911, before it became thoroughly Americanised), page 521, for a good paragraph on his telegraph printer invention.

There is a book entitled "Murray Printing Telegraph" by Donald Murray, M.A. Sydney, 23/2/1905. Published by Unwin Bros., The Gresham Press, Woking, London. It is in the G.P.O. Library in St. Martins-le-Grand, 1970.

He was a pupil at Auckland Grammar School from 1880 till 1881 and also in 1875-7.

Copy of his "The Philosophy of Power" I obtained from our local library. It is in National Central Library, London and its number is 301-65183. Also a copy in the British Museum.

In London 1916. "Sold out Inventions" in 1925. Died at Territer (spelling?), Switzerland.


Donald Murray, B.A. Auckland, M.A. Sydney, M.I.E.E. London.

From the Journal of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, London. 1945. 92. pt 1.

Donald Murray, M.A. was born at Invercargill, New Zealand, in 1866 [actually it was on 20th September 1865. RLM] and died at Territet, Switzerland, on the 14th July, 1945. After leaving the University of Sydney he took up journalism, for he had a facile pen. He was also a born mechanic, so that the mechanical features of a newspaper office attracted him, and ideas of setting type by telegraph began to germinate in his mind.

In 1898, when these ideas had taken a practical form, he went to New York where he joined the staff of the Postal Cable Company. Two years later, he came to London and for a short time worked at the General Post Office on the development of his first system of printing telegraphy. This system was fully described in his paper on "Setting Type by Telegraph" which was published in the Journal in 1905 and for which he was awarded the Fahie Premium. The paper marked an era in the presentation of papers on telegraphy; among other things it laid down the fundamentals required of a successful printing telegraph system with respect to the form of the alphabet or code to be employed.

He then designed a system of multiple telegraphy which possessed important advantages over that of Baudot; his phonic wheel motor, in combination with Baudot's epicyclic correcting train gave such excellent synchronism that it was adopted by the French Telegraph Administration. This system was described in a second paper, which was published in the Journal in 1911, and for which he was again awarded the Fahie Premium. In 1914-15 he contributed a series of articles to the Telegraph and Telephone journal, entitled "Press the Button Telegraphy", and in 1925 he was awarded the Paris Exhibition Premium for his Institution paper on "Speeding up the Telegraphs; a Forecast of the New Telegraphy".

Murray sold his American rights in his multiplex system, but he retained its manufacture and sale in Europe in his own hands until his retirement. As an employer he was stern but just. Nothing but the best was good enough for him, and he gathered around him a group of craftsmen who were unrivalled.

In his later life abroad he engaged in literary work. Two of his books, "The Philosophy of Power" and "The Theory of Control" have been published. A third book, "Speeding up the Railways" is unfinished; he was half-way through this, in 1940, when brain trouble set in. He underwent three operations at Monte Carlo, after which he and Mrs. Murray moved into Switzerland: but he was too ill to take up his work again and lingered on in a state of invalidism, never fully recovering.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1910. In the field of machine telegraphy his name deserves to rank with those of Wheatstone, Kelvin, Baudot and Gulstad.


[H.H.H. is dead. RLM]

I have a photocopy of the postscript to the article mentioned above as "Press the Button Telegraphy". It runs thus: "Notice! Attention is specially invited to the letter at the end of this pamphlet. I ask for the sympathy of all fair-minded men against the unscrupulous tactics of a big American Company, which is trying to deprive me of the legitimate fruits of my labour". Signed. Donald Murray.

This refers to an offer by the Western Electric Company which Donald considered inadequate. "The answer then made to me by the company was that they could get round any patents".

If you have read thus far in these notes you must have deduced something about the character of the compiler!

What do you make of the following extracts taken from Donald's book, "The Philosophy of Power"? Note, however, that Donald wrote it in the main around the years 1930-32. He was then 65-67 years of age. The book was published in 1939, probably a few months before the out-break of War. Presumably he revised it shortly before publication, when he was age 74. He had in view a work of six volumes of which this was the first. The local library obtained the copy for me to read from the National Central Library, London. It had apparently been taken out only twice before, once in August 1941, and once in June 1948. I wonder who these borrowers were! I could not get a copy of his second book, "The Theory of Control".

Extracts from "The Philosophy of Power".


I dedicate this work on the Philosophy of Power to all men of power; moulders of the destiny of mankind by work and deed; religious and secular leaders, philosophers, statesmen, inventive engineering and scientific pioneers, social organisers, builders of industry; and above all to Christ and Lucifer!

May those who are still with us, long be spared to serve their country and mankind; and when at last the Great Lady of Night comes to guide them, may the Winds of Ururangi, between the worlds, blow gently on their crossing.

Donald Murray.

Page 285. Stevinus and the inclined plane will be dealt with in a later volume, because Stevinus used the Conservation of Energy, apparently for the first time, to prove the principle of the inclined plane. He preceded Galileo.

Page 285. There is a strange muddle about the principle of reversibility and irreversibility, especially in regard to the steam-engine. People do not seem to know what they are talking about. The matter will be cleared up by a proper analysis in a future volume.

Page 291. But if Herbert Spencer is right in saying that all things proceed from Energy, then there is no Ether, unless it is a form of Energy. The question of the existence of a sub-stratum serving as the vehicle of energy will be considered in another volume.

Page 293. See Max Plank's Treatise on Thermodynamics, pp 103 and 104. His logic and arguments are excellent, but his basis is erroneous, and if I prove, as I shall, that the distinction between "perpetual motion of the first kind" and "perpetual motion of the second kind" is invalid, the whole of Max Planck's arguments will collapse like a house of cards. The classification of Nernst's Heat Theorem as the "Third Law of Thermodynamics" is now obviously absurd.

Thereafter follows a five page Appendix about Donald, written, (except the last paragraph) in the third person, obviously by himself. I quote therefrom now:

Donald Murray, Author of "The Philosophy of Power"

Biographical Notes.


Member of the Murray Clan - a turbulent German tribe in Moravia, afterwards in the Black Forest. Also known as the Catti, and mentioned as such by Tacitus. The Romans got tired of the Morrayes and drove them out of Germany in the time of Nero, A.D. 60. They went down the Rhine, then sailed to the North of Scotland, where they made friends with the Scottish King and settled in Sutherlandshire and around the Moray Firth. In modern times some of these Northern Scottish peasant farmers came to Glasgow where they developed into bankers. One of them, John Murray, emigrated to New Zealand in 1863 and ultimately became head of the Bank of New Zealand. His son, Donald Murray, was born in New Zealand in 1865 and brought up in Auckland.


Suffered the usual idiocies of better-class English education in Canterbury, New Zealand, for two years. Had a first-class scientific and, particularly, electrical and mechanical education, combined with seventy two years of extremely varied experience all over the world, from Fiji to Moscow and Rio de Janeiro, including twelve years of newspaper work and twenty five years of telegraph engineering.


Farmer, New Zealand. Journalist, New Zealand and Australia. Printing Telegraph Engineer and Inventor, New York, London, Berlin, Petrograd. Philosopher, Monte Carlo. Several of Donald Murray's printing telegraph machines and models are in the South Kensington Science Museum in London.


In spite of two years at the Agricultural College, farming proved unsuitable. In 1886 went to Europe, round Cape Horn, wintered in Dresden, Germany, about 200 miles from the ancestral home of the Morrayes in Moravia, returning to Auckland, where he joined the staff of the New Zealand Herald, graduated B.A. in the New Zealand University, went to Sydney in 1891, joining the staff of the Sydney Morning Herald, and taking his M.A. degree in the Sydney University.


(This section of the appendix is too long for me to quote in full. RLM). In 1899 Donald Murray went to New York with a telegraph invention, which was designed for setting type by telegraph by connecting the linotype to telegraph machinery, his motto being "this tape sets type". When it had reached practical form as the Murray Automatic Printing Telegraphy System, Donald Murray brought it to London in 1901. He left the Post Office in 1909 having established a Telegraph Engineering factory in London in conjunction with S.G. Brown, F.R.S., and he sold a number of his installations to Germany, Austria, Russia and Sweden, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. It would be difficult to apportion the credit to each of the inventors concerned, but Donald Murray, F.G. Creed, (and 7 others. RLM) were leaders of the remarkable group of engineers, capitalists and inventors who revolutionised telegraphy. Donald Murray was the leader of the inventors on the theoretical side. The first newspaper in Europe to use the tele-typesetter was the Scotsman, under the guidance of W.P. Morris, transmitting about 40 columns a day from London and automatically setting it in type in the Scotsman office in Edinburgh. The Glasgow Herald has also adopted this remarkable machinery.

"I may take this opportunity to point out that my success as a telegraph engineer and inventor was based on THEORY, GENERAL PRINCIPLES and PATH-FINDING. In that respect I claim to stand high also in the Philosophy of Power. Long before the sixth volume is finished, readers will appreciate the new ideas and valuable general principles that distinguish The Philosophy of Power. There has been nothing like the flow of new ideas in The Philosophy of Power before or since Herbert Spencer wrote his wonderful Synthetic Philosophy". D.M.

There is a copy of his book in the British Museum, shelved at 8471.f.14. Also a copy in the Wellington City Library, 90% of it. I do not recollect the occurrence of the words love, marriage, wife or sex.

Short notes from various sources.

"I had gone through the New Zealand and afterwards Sydney Universities, and for my degree I took logic among other subjects. That set the ball rolling and it has been rolling ever since, a matter of 22 years."

"I spent 12 years and some thousands of pounds in developing the Murray Automatic, my high-speed typewriter, which worked at nearly 200 words (1200 letters) a minute."

An advertisement in 1923 in the Telephone Journal says: "The Murray Multiplex is the Rolls Royce of Printing Telegraphs in performance, but not in price."

In the Telegraph and Telephone Journal of November 1914 Murray states the basis of his complaint against the Western Electric Company.

There is a letter in "Nature" from him on 12th June, 1888 on the subject of the Periodic Law, with reference to some curves he drew and the position of Beryllium. Another in "Nature" of 24th February 1934 on "The Infinite and Eternal Energy".

From the Auckland Library: "We have rolls for the Auckland College and Grammar School for the years 1875, 1876 and 1877 and I have found from these that Donald Murray attended the school in those years and won several prizes."

The Sydney Morning Herald had no obituary notice about him, "perhaps because of the newsprint shortage and skeleton size of the paper during the war."

The National Reference library in London has given me a list of his patents from 1893 to 1925, and of the addresses during that time. The last was his factory at 55, Goswell Road, London.

The Headmaster of Auckland Grammar School wrote: "Donald Murray entered Auckland Grammar School in February 1880, and, according to our records, left in June 1881. Academic records do not appear to have been kept in permanent form until 1882."

The 14th Edition of the Britannica (mainly American) mentions Donald Murray twice in Volume 21, page 886.

The archivist of the University of Sydney wrote: "Murray applied to sit for the Master of Arts Examination in logic in 1892. A copy of a letter (now almost illegible) of Feb 1892 from the University to Murray appears to refer to an illness suffered by Murray, but apparently he completed the examination requirements, and he was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts in the School of Logic, Mental and Moral Philosophy, and Political Philosophy on 23rd April 1892.

I wrote to Territet, Switzerland, and the Registrar replied: "Donald Murray. E'poux de Patricia, nee Cosgrave, sans domicile fixe, en sejour a Veytaux... l'etat civil n'enregistre pas la cause du décès, nous l'ignorons donc; nous ignorons egalement quel docteur soignait Monsieur Murray. Nous nous sommes renseignes a la police de Veytaux, malheuresement elle n'a que les pieces depuis 1947 dans les archives."

Finally, Kinsfolk! There is his photograph! Study it well!

I have passed on to you everything I have learned about Donald. There has been a postal strike here for nigh on seven weeks, and at least one letter is due to me from New Zealand, from Ethel Elizabeth Robertson. If there is anything of great importance, and new, I will append it to this page.

The Rutherglen Murrays

How little we know about them! How little their descendents know about them! How difficult it now is to obtain answers to the questions we would like to ask! Famous enough in their times, locally, and even in a national and indeed international scene, one has to seek widely for a record of their work. We can piece together a little about Donald The Provost and his private life, but of the interesting private lives of his son and grandson there remains little, almost nothing. But we can speculate, and we can ask questions!

From John Murray I of Inchure we trace four men in successive generations, each possessed of energy and capacity for work and increasing responsibility. John Murray II did not make a success of his journey to Glasgow, and returned to end his days near the village of Bonar Bridge. His son, Donald, after being in the Vale of Leven and doing well there, turned his eyes to the larger town of Rutherglen, achieving a fine local reputation, which only endures in these badly typed pages. But ambition increases with the next generation, and John becomes a national figure in New Zealand.

With this drive to make good, and better education, the size of the families decreases, we learn less about the private lives of the individual. About Donald The Inventor we can only record from the available evidence that he lived in the best hotels all over the wide world, never settling for long anywhere, pushing his inventions wherever there appeared to be a market for them. He became rich. Apparently he did not marry until the age of 47. There is no record of him having a family, or of him visiting relations. Ambition is still driving him on and at the age of 74 he published the first of a projected series of six books on Philosophy - at an age when men should not be writing books! (I'm 74! RLM).

The character of the Inventor seems a complicated one compared with the straight-forward one of his father. I read Donald's book with a biased and clinical eye, for I knew beforehand from the Journal of the Institute of Electrical Engineers from which I have quoted that he showed signs of brain trouble within a year of its publication. What was the diagnosis of those French surgeons who operated upon him thrice? And he thereafter survived four years to die at age 80, in Switzerland, and "of no fixed address", a wanderer still, with his wife of 1912, Patricia Cosgrave (an Irish name?). I think it could not have been a cerebral tumour. But he certainly had some grandiose ideas. His self-confidence was immense. He did not like criticism. I am not much of a psychiatrist, but if your are one, get the book from the library and make your own assessment.

And a career of 12 years in Journalism! Did Donald believe all that stuff about his remote ancestry which he quoted at such length in the appendix?

What do you think of the photos of father and son which accompanies this sketch?

The Inventor would appear to be the last of his line. Nobody knows whether he ever had a family or not.

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