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Universal Time - Biography of Bernard Newsam

[This is a brief descriptive biography concentrating mainly on background details which may have had particular relevance to the development of the ideas behind "Universal Time". Most of the earlier facts come from his own written description of his qualifications and experience compiled during his time at TRE, Malvern, Worcestershire, soon after the Second World War, and in the early 1950s. JCN May 2002]

Bernard Newsam was born on 7 July 1913 in Brighton, Sussex, England, where he also went to school and college, obtaining an external Engineering degree B.Sc. (Eng.) Hons. from London University in June 1932. Before starting work he did some postgraduate studying in Electronics (then called Light Current Engineering), and some private research on television which terminated through lack of funds. From February 1935 he worked for a year at EMI, servicing domestic (radio?) receivers before joining Standard Telephones and Cables (STC) to work in cathode ray oscillography and specialised low-frequency amplifiers, including early EEG and ECG machines.[1] While at STC he invented the time-base circuit later widely known by its American name of "Bootstrap Circuit".[2] In 1938 he joined the Air Ministry and War Department at Bawdsey Research Station in Suffolk, and later at Cristchurch in Sussex, working until 1942 on the development of radar, implementing some of his own inventions for which he later received a cash award from the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors in lieu of royalties. This work was secret at the time, and could not be published, but, seven years later, though it had lost much of its technical interest, a broad summary was released.[3] From 1942 till the end of the War he was in charge of the group responsible for microwave test gear for the Air Ministry. During the War the scientists were evacuated to Malvern, Worcestershire, eventually becoming the Telecommunications Research Establishment, TRE (later the RRE). In early 1946 he met Barbara Turner, a Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) officer who was also posted to Malvern, and they married in July 1946.

After the War he worked on Patents and the fundamental Theory of Information, leading to his first letter to 'Nature', and during this time he also studied privately for the Bar, with the view at that time of becoming a Barrister specialising in Patent Law. He remained with the Civil Service until the mid 1950s when, after a period as an independent consultant for the American Airforce, he moved in 1955 to Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England to join a former colleague in an electronics business. By this time he and Barbara had four children, the youngest only six months old. He continued working in the Great Yarmouth company for more than 30 years, latterly reducing his technical contribution, until his eventual retirement in the mid to late 1980s.

Throughout his working life he continued thinking about his ideas on information, light, time and space. but felt he lacked the necessary level of modem mathematical language used by the academic world, to whom he still hoped to present his contribution. In about 1969 or 1970 he signed on at Essex University in Colchester for a PhD in Mathematics, aiming thereby to concentrate on publishing some of his ideas in the form of a thesis. Unfortunately, during this time he suffered a devastating blow in the loss of his youngest son, James, who died suddenly aged 16 in early 1971. Bernard continued attending the University, as a weekly resident, for another year, and continued working intermittently on his thesis, between business, charity and family commitments, until his own death on 29th December 1994.


Bernard and Barbara Newsam shared a rich and varied home life in Norfolk with family and friends, while living in Gorleston, Ormesby and North Walsham. They welcomed a succession of guests from near and far, including many Girl Guide camps over the years in Ormesby, and travelled widely themselves.

Bernard's voluntary interests at various times included : Great Yarmouth Rotary Club, with a special interest in careers advice; he and Barabara had a close involvement with Great Yarmouth's Twinning with Rambouillet in France; he was an enthusiastic helper of Grapevine, Yarmouth's talking newspaper for the blind; maintenance of the North Walsham Quaker burial ground; he was a voluntary driver for the St Raphael organisation, helping to provide transport for wheelchair bound people.

[1] He told us at various times that while working at STC he had developed the first EEG (Electro Encephalography) for Dr. Grey Walker, whom he met, and the first ECG (Electro Cardiography) machine. JCN

[2] Bernard Newsam's time-base circuit (Bootstrap Circuit) was patented by STC, and acoording to him, this caused the early development of television to take a different path to get round the patents; British Patent No. 10613/37, and/or 493843, according to his records. [These numbers should now be known as British Patent Application number GB19370010613 19370414, and British Patent number GB493843. B.E.N, July 2012]

[3] "Precision Radar" by Butement, Newsam and Oxford. 1946

Julia Newsam, May 2002