In Memoriam: Fredrick Bentham, 1911 – 2001

Fred Bentham died peacefully in London on May 10. To many people in the industry, Bentham was the father of modern entertainment lighting and became a well-known personality during his forty-two years with Strand.

Born in Harlesden in northwest London on October 23, 1911 Bentham joined The Strand Electric and Engineering Company in 1932 and quickly made his mark by overhauling the product range, publishing a new case-bound catalogue in 1936 which included a host of products, including the Light Console. This revolutionary lighting board, along with the ubiquitous Pattern 23 spotlight, became synonymous with Fred Bentham and Strand. The Light Console’s lasting legacy was to progress the technology of lighting control from a complex on-stage mechanical device to a remote control which could be located where the operator could actually see what was being lit.

Bentham’s reputation grew after World War II, when he took over the editorship of the Strand in-house journal Tabs, and this, combined with regular lectures and Colour Music demonstrations gained him a wide following as the focus of the industry’s progressive developments. Strand’s development team, under Fred’s direction, was at the forefront of thyristor dimmer design, profile spotlight developments and ultimately, memory lighting systems.

The later part of Bentham’s career was dominated with technology for lighting controls; culminating in the first memory system (the IDM –Instant Dimmer Memory) followed by the DDM in 1971 – the first memory system to operate with a software program.

In addition to being a founding member of the ABTT and ALD, a prominent member of the IES (later CIBSE), and editor of Sightline, Fred was especially proud of his election as a member of the Art Workers’ Guild after his 1936 lecture on “Stage Lighting as an Art” to members of the Guild. Bentham continued his connections with the industry into his 80s, publishing his autobiography “Sixty Years of Light Work” in 1992. He was awarded the Wally Russell Award in 1997.

He leaves his wife Ilse, and their two sons, Freddy and Jeremy.

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