Born in New York City on September 5, 1880, Mr. Bryce was of Scottish descent. His father was from Edinburgh, his mother from Wick. In large measure he possessed many typical Scottish traits: he was taciturn, humble, humane, dry-humored, straight-thinking, modest in his requirements, devoted to his family and intensely proud of his ancestry.

He attended the city's public schools and early evidenced an inquisitive turn of mind. From boyhood he was intent upon becoming an engineer. In his early teens he and his brother Clarence performed many small experiments in physics and chemistry at home. Later they set up a well-equipped basement laboratory in a nearby building. He was especially interested in gas engines, telephony, metallurgy, photography and all phases of electricity. At 18 he "subcontracted" to do the bell wiring in a new apartment house, also installing a novel speaking tube system. Although Mr. Bryce went on to study mechanical engineering at the College of the City of New York, he finished only three years, foregoing a degree to take a position in 1900 with D. H. Haywood as a draftsman and designer.

His limited academic training never deterred him, for by intense self-education he acquired a rich technical background. He had left college because he believed he could learn more by doing. He was insatiably curious about new developments in all fields of physics, and his subtle mind was quick to grasp changing scientific concepts. He became a highly skilled draftsman, coupling his knowledge of mechanics with an uncanny power to visualize and project.

After three years, he associated himself with Walter Christie, an inventor whose fortes were heavy machinery and mobile equipment. Together they designed what is believed to be the first automobile ever constructed with front-wheel drive. It was a racing car which exceeded 60 mph in tests at Brighton Beach. They also applied the idea to fire engines, which in those days were all horse-drawn. A gasoline engine drive was rigged up to the front wheels -- a pioneer step eventually dooming the faithful old fire horse.


2-3 of 3 pages | Previous | Next