Frank Fuller Fowle


Frank Fuller Fowle
San Francisco, CA, USA
Associated organizations
Fields of study


Frank Fuller Fowle was a pioneer in the long-distance transmission of telephone and electricity. In 1901, he made a special study of the behavior of telephone and electric lines when sharing the same utility poles, and he devised a general system of transposition to overcome inductive disturbance. Transposition is the periodic exchanging of the conductor positions in a transmission line according to a calculated pattern. In wired telephone transmission lines, transposition reduced crosstalk. Transposition of three-phase alternating current power lines is extremely important for balancing the capacitance of the transmission system. Transposition also equalizes the impedance of the conductors relative to ground, thus avoiding one-sided loads in three-phase electric power systems.

Capacitance can trigger a voltage rise known as the Ferranti effect which causes an unbalance; likewise inductive effects load the lines. The "charging current" experienced from the capacitance between lines was one factor that constrained the use of alternating current distribution in dense load areas. Transposition of lines also finds applications in single phase work, particularly in ac railroad electrification.[1] The principle of the transposition of circuits to eliminate crosstalk in harmonic telegraph lines had been used as early as 1881 by John Carty, and it became vitally important for the transcontinental telephone line of 1914.

Fowle was born on 29 November 1877 in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. He attended Boston public schools and graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering (SB in EE in the terminology of the time) from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1899. In the summer of 1898, he was in charge of an "isolated" power station (location?). In 1899, he began working for AT&T under the pioneer in telephone transmission John A. Barrett. In 1901, Fowle made a special study of "the joint occupancy of pole lines by telephone and electric light systems" [2] and "he devised a general system of transpositions to overcome inductive disturbance." [2]

The following year, 1902, Fowle worked for several months on matters related to the application of Michael Pupin's method of inductance loading of long aerial telephone lines. Fowle presented a paper "The Transposition of Electrical Conductors" at the October 1904 meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE). From 1903-1906, Fowle worked in New York for AT&T, moving to the Chicago, Illinois office in 1906 to manage the territory. On 17 October 1905, he married Alice Edna Cowper in Buffalo, New York. They had two children: Frank Fuller Fowle, jr. and William Cowper Fowle. In Chicago, Fowle became the construction engineer for the Chicago territory, and was involved in telephony, telegraphy, power generation transmission and distribution, inductive interference, electrolysis investigation, reporting on electric utilities, and research on the electrical conductive properties of iron, steel and copper.[3]

In 1908-12 Fowle was an associate editor of Electrical World. 1912 found him back in New York as a construction engineer. From 1913-14, he was at Central Union Tel., a subsidiary of the Bell System operating in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In 1914, he was a partner of the construction engineering firm of Fowle & Cravath in Chicago, which became Frank F. Fowle & Co., in 1920. As of 1925, the offices were in the Monadnock Building in Chicago, and Fowle's home was in Kenilworth, Illinois. During World War I, Fowle served in the Illinois Reserve Militia 1st Infantry Company A as a private, corporal, and sergeant.

Fowle published many articles on electrical engineering, and was the Editor in Chief of the Standard Handbook for Electrical Engineers. He was a member of AIEE, the Western Society of Engineers, and the Illuminating Engineering Society.

His engineering interests extended to other areas of engineering, such as turbines, conductors, and insultators, and he held six patents.


  1. (Correspondence with Joseph Cunningham)
  2. 2.0 2.1 (Electrical Review, 1 July 1905, vol 46, pg 13)
  3. (Who's Who in Engineering, 1925)