Wairakei, New Zealand. Discharge of natural steam from borehole, April 1952

Thomas Graeme Nelson Haldane

1897 – 1981

Thomas Graeme Nelson Haldane

In 1927, the first engineer in Britain (and, possibly, internationally) to construct, monitor and document the performance of a heat pump system for space heating.

Engineering Achievements

Graeme Haldane was the pioneering developer of the concept of the heat pump.

He built his experimental heat pump system at the Foswell Estate, Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland. The environmental heat source that he used was the estate’s water supply. Haldane’s heat pump can be described as Britain’s earliest ground-source heat pump.

Heat Pump development is a key part of society’s response to climate change. They provide a way to make the grid more resilient in future use of wind and solar power as it provides a way to shift electrical demand by storing heat.

He supervised the design of hydro-electric and geothermal power plants, worldwide. He was a visionary proponent of a national, rational electricity strategy and a pioneer of the National Grid.

His Life

  1. 1897 Born on 14th December in Edinburgh to Sir William Haldane and Edith Nelson
  2. 1905-10 Age: 8-13 Educated at Edinburgh Academy
  3. 1910-14 Age: 13-17 Royal Naval Colleges, Osborne and Dartmouth
  4. 1916 Age: 19 Midshipman on HMS Vanguard, 5th Battle Squadron, fought at Battle of Jutland
  5. 1917-18 Age: 20-21 When Sub Lieutenant on HMS Tiger, devised an electrical rangefinder on the Wheatstone Bridge principle, using the ship's length as the base. Commended by Admiral Beatty. Not developed, and superseded by radar.
  6. 1919-22 Age: 22-25 Trinity College Cambridge, in contact there with JJ Thomson, Rutherford, Eddington, AN Whitehead and Asquith
  7. 1922-23 Age: 25-26 Cavendish Laboratory, researching under Sir Edward Appleton and studying economics; met John Maynard Keynes
  8. 1924 Age: 27 Apprenticeship with C A Parsons and Co, Newcastle
  9. 1925 Age: 28 Joined Merz and McLellan, consulting engieners
  10. 1925-26 Age: 28-29 Helped in planning the organisation of electricity supply in Great Britain – prior to the 1926 Act – eventually leading to the construction of the National Grid
  11. 1927 Age: 29 promoted on 15th March to Lieutenant-Commander on the Royal Navy Emergency List
  12. 1927 Age: 30 Installed a heat pump at Foswell, Auchterarder, the family's home in Perthshire
  13. 1930 Age: 34 'The Heat Pump' - paper published in Journal of IEE
  14. 1939-45 Age: 42-48 Special war work with Sir Frank Whittle concerning his gas turbine (which ultimately revolutionised aviation) and later as a member of the Executive Committee of the NPL
  15. 1941 Age: 44 Became partner of Merz and McLellan
  16. 1948 Age: 51 President of Institution of Electrical Engineers
  17. 1952 Age: 55 In New Zealand for site investigations at Wairakei Geothermal Power Station, opened in 1958
  18. 1956 Age: 59 Paper with P L Blackstone on "Problems of Hydro-Electric Design in Mixed Thermal-Hydro-Electric Systems" awarded the Institution of Civil Engineers James Watt Medal
  19. 1981 Age: 84 Died on 24 June at Cloan, Auchterarder, Perthshire

More Information

Beard, J R and Haldane, T G N (1927) The Design of City Distribution Systems, and the Problems of Standardisation. Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, 65.361 (1927)

Haldane, T G N (1930) The Heat Pump — An Economic Method of Producing Low-Grade Heat from Electricity’, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, 68.402 (1930), 666–75, doi: 10.1049/jiee-1.1930.0066.

Haldane, T G N (1949) Means and Ends - Presidential Address Proc Instn Elec Engrs, vol 96, Part 1, p1

Haldane, T G N (1951) Development of High-Voltage Transmission with Particular Reference to Hydro-Electric Projects (British Association, August 1951) Engineering, vol 172, p249

Haldane, T G N and Blackstone, P L (1955) Problems of Hydro-Electric Design in Mixed Thermal-Hydro-Electric Systems. Proc Inst Civ Engrs vol 4, Part 1 pp472-524. Presented at Joint meeting held at Institution of Electrical Engineers, 6 January 1955.

Haldane, T G N and Armstead, H C H (1962) The Geothermal Power Development at Wairakei, New Zealand Proc Inst Mech Eng. V 176, No 23.

The Papers of Thomas Graeme Nelson Haldane. Churchill College, Cambridge. GBR/0014/TGNH  https://archivesearch.lib.cam....

Banks, David (2015). Dr T. G. N. 'Graeme' Haldane – Scottish Heat Pump Pioneer. The International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology. 85 (2): 250–259. doi:10.1179/1758120615Z.00000000061. ISSN 1758-1206. S2CID 111010694

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