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Henry Rottenburg … sprinting’s debt to a West Ender

By on January 9, 2014

The name of Henry Rottenburg, who died in 1955, is perhaps not  one that springs to mind when world-class sprinting is discussed but he is owed a huge debt by generations of the “fast men” Usain Bolt, Allan Wells et al, writes Glasgow Hawks’ Hugh Barrow.

Born on October 6, 1875, he was the son of Paul Rottenburg, a chemical merchant who lived at Holmhurst, Prince Albert Road, Dowanhill. He attended Kelvinside Academy and Loretto, then was admitted to King’s College, Cambridge in 1895. Rottenburg was awarded his blue for rugby and was a Scottish International player from 1899-1900, winning five caps.

He then joined the Westinghouse Co at Pittsburgh, USA before returning to Cambridge as a lecturer in engineering and remained there until his death in his 80th year.
For some 30 years he ran the London Instrument Co in Cambridge, which he started mainly to develop his own ingenious inventions. For 20 years he specialised in equipment  for athletics which were first used in London’s second Olympic Games at Wembley in 1948.

He is credited with inventing the modern starting blocks which now, of course, are electronically-linked to the timing system . When the best sprinters in the Commonwealth go their marks at Hampden in the  2014 Games, remember the legacy left by this West Ender …

* Hugh Barrow is the former secretary of Glasgow Hawks. He ran for Victoria Park AAC and in 1961 set an under-16s record for a 4min 10.9sec mile …



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