Blue plaque for scientist whose work led to the mobile phone

The Camden Street blue plaque to Oliver Heaviside

The Camden Street blue plaque to Oliver Heaviside - Credit: English Heritage

A new blue plaque in Camden commemorates the life of a telecoms pioneer whose work would eventually help lead to the smart phones in our pockets.

The plaque at 123 Camden Street marks the former home of Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925), whose theories advanced electronic communications.

Heaviside's most notable work includes the ground-breaking interpretation of James Clerk Maxwell’s Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, bridging the gap between the theory of telecommunications and its practice.

Howard Spencer, senior historian at English Heritage, said: “Oliver Heaviside was a physicist whose theories framed one of the biggest recent technological leaps of humankind – the development and advancement of electrical communications.

“Both the mobile phone in your pocket and the old-school landline at home owe plenty to Heaviside’s work.”

The Camden Street blue plaque to Oliver Heaviside

The Camden Street blue plaque to Oliver Heaviside - Credit: English Heritage

English Heritage described his accomplishments as remarkable given they were attained without the benefit of a higher education or social privilege, and the fact he had been left almost entirely deaf by scarlet fever in childhood.

Heaviside was name-checked in the musical Cats. "Up up up to the Heaviside layer" is a reference to his discovery of a reflective layer in the upper atmosphere which allowed radio waves to be "bent" around the earth.

Oliver Heaviside

Oliver Heaviside - Credit: Archant