Thales in the UK celebrates its 130th anniversary

Prof. Archibald Barr
Dr. William Stroud
Barr & Stroud's original optical rangefinder patent


On 30 June, Thales in the UK celebrated its 130th birthday, one of the longest and most illustrious “innings” in the history of British engineering companies.

The beginnings of Thales’s business in the UK goes back to the equivalent date in 1888 when Professor Archibald Barr and Dr William Stroud in Glasgow were granted a patent for a design of optical rangefinder for the British Army. That initiated the formation of what would become Barr & Stroud Ltd in Glasgow, the oldest part of Thales in the UK and one of the oldest members, if not the oldest, of the Thales Group worldwide.

Since then, some of the most famous names associated with the defence of our nation have become part of the modern Thales family. Short Brothers in Belfast, Vinten Ltd in Bury St Edmunds, Plessey in Templecombe, Ferranti in Manchester, Thorn-EMI and Racal in Reading and Crawley, have all made a unique contribution to the defence of the UK through the innovation and dedication of their people. In the civil sector, our roots in transportation, especially in rail signalling and train communications, can be traced back some 70 years to the creation of British Rail on 1 January 1948.

Looking ahead, the challenge is to ensure the next generation of engineers, scientists and technologists are inspired to represent Thales in the future for the UK and, in support of this, across the country this summer we’re supporting the Royal Air Force’s centenary celebrations through active participation in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activities at major cities across the UK.