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Happy Birthday, Edison’s Light Bulb!

Hey, is that a personified version of Thomas Edison’s commercialized incandescent lamp?  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Edison’s commercialized tungsten incandescent lamp!

Technically, Edison’s patent was filed the following January 27 of 1880, but today in 1879 Edison got 13 hours and 32 minutes out of his lamp’s tests and experiments.  Regardless of Edison’s politics and behavior, you have to give it to him that he put the drive into inventing something that has revolutionized our lives.  One of my favorite quotes ever is Edison’s quote about his development of the incandescent lamp.  When a reporter asked Edison about the failures in experimentation in the process of inventing the lamp, he said “No!  I didn’t fail.  I found 1000 ways to not invent an incandescent light bulb.

It’s rumored that Edison’s incandescent lamp cost about $852,000 in today’s market to develop – about $40,000 in the late 1870’s.

I also found this great list of important relevant dates (years) in the timeline of the incandescent lamp!

1850:  Joseph W. Swan began working on a light bulb using carbonized paper filaments
1860:  Swan obtained a UK patent covering a partial vacuum, carbon filament incandescent lamp
1877:  Edward Weston forms Weston Dynamo Machine Company, in Newark, New Jersey.
1878:  Thomas Edison founded the Edison Electric Light Company
1878:  Hiram Maxim founded the United States Electric Lighting Company
1878:  205,144 William Sawyer and Albon Man 6/18 for Improvements in Electric Lamps
1878:  Swan receives a UK patent for an improved incandescent lamp in a vacuum tube
1879:  Swan began installing light bulbs in homes and landmarks in England.
1880:  223,898 Thomas Edison 1/27 for Electric Lamp and Manufacturing Process
1880:  230,309 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Process of Manufacturing Carbon Conductors
1880:  230,310 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Electrical Lamp
1880:  230,953 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Electrical Lamp
1880:  233,445 Joseph Swan 10/19 for Electric Lamp
1880:  234,345 Joseph Swan 11/9 for Electric Lamp
1880:  Weston Dynamo Machine Company renamed Weston Electric Lighting Company
1880:  Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston form American Electric Company
1880:  Charles F. Brush forms the Brush Electric Company
1881:  Joseph W. Swan founded the Swan Electric Light Company
1881:  237,198 Hiram Maxim 2/1 for Electrical Lamp assigned to U.S. Electric Lighting Company
1881:  238,868 Thomas Edison 3/15 for Manufacture of Carbons for Incandescent Lamps
1881:  247,097 Joseph Nichols and Lewis Latimer 9/13 for Electric Lamp
1881:  251, 540 Thomas Edison 12/27 for Bamboo Carbons Filament for Incandescent Lamps
1882:  252,386 Lewis Latimer 1/17 for Process of Manufacturing Carbons assigned to U.S. E. L. Co.
1882:  Edison’s UK operation merged with Swan to form the Edison & Swan United Co. or “Edi-swan”
1882:  Joesph Swan sold his United States patent rights to the Brush Electric Company
1883:  American Electric Company renamed Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1884:  Sawyer & Man Electric Co formed by Albon Man a year after William Edward Sawyer death
1886:  George Westinghouse formed the Westinghouse Electric Company
1886:  The National Carbon Co. was founded by the then Brush Electric Co. executive W. H. Lawrence
1888:  United States Electric Lighting Co. was purchased by Westinghouse Electric Company
1886:  Sawyer & Man Electric Co. was purchased by Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1889:  Brush Electric Company merged into the Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1889:  Edison Electric Light Company consolidated and renamed Edison General Electric Company.
1890:  Edison, Thomson-Houston, and Westinghouse, the “Big 3″ of the American lighting industry.
1892:  Edison Electric Light Co. and Thomson-Houston Electric Co. created General Electric Co.

Ah, the lamp.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Edison’s commercialized incandescent lamp!  Isn’t it funny that I’m flying out to Las Vegas for LDI today of all days?

Thanks Wired, Distributed Energy, Idea Finder, and Wikipedia!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison!

Who’s that dude with Tommy Edison there?  Wait, is that Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison?  Hey, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison!

Miller Hutchison (born late August 6, 1876, died February 16, 1944) was an inventor for Edison at the Menlo Park lab, one of dozens of people that Edison called his “muckers.”  What a crappy name for associates, right?  So, as you would think from the name, the “muckers” were the people that cleaned the horse stalls, toilets, and other things that have to do with muck, right?

No. Edison’s muckers were the geniuses he hired to realize his ideas.  He paid them next to nothing, and took all the credit for their work.  We’re talking about people like William Kennedy Dickson, Francis Robbins Upton, Arthur E. Kennelly, and Nikola Tesla – real major players, kings of science and industrial processes.  Edison treated these people like Wal-Mart workers, but they were the ones who made our technology what it evolved into today.  But Edison played on the desire of these genius inventors to get them to work so cheap – they could invent in the Menlo Park lab, with nearly any supply imaginable and next to no limitations.  They made pitiful wages for their work, but they loved their jobs.  Kinda like us lighting folk!

Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison was quite the inventor and “mucker,” and quite the Edison company man, too.  Hutchison was responsible for several aspects of Edison’s business, including marketing Edison batteries to the Secretary of the Navy at that time.  In essence, were it not for Dr. Hutchison’s advertising prowess, submarine development might not be where it is today!  The story of Hutchison’s pre-Edison days is also kind of awesome:  Miller Hutchison was a member of the United States Light House Brigade (which is totally new to me but WHAT A COOL NAME), and helped lay submarine cables in the Gulf of Mexico during the Spanish-American War.

Regardless of where I put the rest of Miller Reese Hutchison’s accomplishments and inventions, one of the cooler ones (and not light-related) is the Klaxon horn – you know, the aaWOOOOOga sound, often found on ships and submarines, and typically in movies when the poo is about to intersect with the fan?  Yeah, Hutchison invented that.  Also, maybe in a tinge of irony, Hutchison also invented the hearing aid (which he called the Acousticon).  The St. Louis Dispatch published a memorial article many years after his death that semi-accused him of creating the Klaxon horn to increase the number of candidates that would need his hearing aid.

Cool.  Happy Birthday, Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison!  If you weren’t dead, I’d totally buy you a Shiner Bock and ask you about batteries.

Thanks Wikipedia, About (twice!), Wapedia, FloraBerlin, and BPI!

Happy Birthday, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!

What the fu-IS THAT WILLIAM KENNEDY LAURIE DICKSON?  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!

This guy William Kennedy Laurie Dickson (what a long name, dude!) is an important guy in our history – one of the many underappreciated peeps that I keep digging up and trying to give my little bit of credit on their birthdays.  Dickson was someone that got hired by Thomas Edison when he realized how talented the man was, and Billy-Boy here was set to working for Edison’s many business ventures.

It’s funny – the more I read into the detailed history of Thomas Alva Edison, the more I am starting not to like him very much.  It’s okay though, I can appreciate the man’s work and brain without liking him very much!

What William’s part in the Edison legacy was has to do with the development of something called a Kinetoscope.  Ever heard of the Kinetoscope?

It’s the first motion picture equipment!  Thomas Edison made the Kinetophone, which we’ve all seen or heard at one point in our lives, but a bit later he filed a patent for an idea he had about a device that would be “for the eye as the phonograph does for the ear.”  So after Edison got his Caveat, he hired William Kennedy Dickson to make the dream a reality – a moving film machine that was powered by an Edison electric light.

Dickson has several credits to his name, including 35mm celluloid film (for the Kinetoscope), the Kinetograph (the first motion picture camera, which Edison took the patent on), the first movie studio (called the “Black Maria”) as well as being an avid photographer on his own.  My research suggests that, in the development of the Kinetoscope, Dickson tried and tried to coat the drum type design from Edison’s Kinetophone (assumed to be at the behest of Tommy Boy Edison himself), with much epic fail.  It was only when Dickson discovered a roll of celluloid film did the process of inventing the Kinetoscope become a reality.  That goes to show you that Edison wasn’t always right, which is why he hired people all over the place to fix his errors and take their credit.

The Kinetograph – a machine known for not being very portable:

I obviously wasn’t there for this, but the word on the street is that after a while, Dickson got tired of Edison’s BS and left Edisonville for his own pastures, creating the American Mutoscope Company with three other guys.  The Mutoscope was another single-person viewer kind of deal – but people were getting sick of the novelty of the one-person peep show.  They wanted something that more than one person could see at a time – I mean, how lame is it to take a date to a one-at-a-time movie?

The Mutoscope – the most famous Mutoscope film was called “What the Butler Saw,” and it was a view through a keyhole of a woman getting partially undressed:

BUT OH HO HO, I found out – Dickson had been secretly collaborating with two guys, Otway and Gray Latham, who were part of the American Kinetoscope Company, a competitor of Edison Co.  Dickson was working on a projecting Kinetoscope, and what was developed was called the Eidoloscope.

So many scopes!  HOW on EARTH did they keep track of them all?!

Check out a few of Dickson’s movies – these are among the first movies, ever.

Record of a Sneeze:

This one below is called “Dickson’s Experimental Sound Film,” because it was a Dickson/Edison collaboration to make a movie with sound:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!

Thanks IMDb, Victorian Cinema, The Edison Film, Essential Films, and Wikipedia!

Happy Birthday, Francis Robbins Upton!

Francis Robbins Upton!  Happy Birthday, dude!

That guy is straight out of Deadwood!

Yes, I like to also recognize obscure yet related industry people on JimOnLight.com – they are the people behind the people.  The people that were doing the thing that we all strive to do now – carve the path.

Francis Robbins Upton was a mathematician, physicist, and an employee of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory facility back in the 1870’s.  Francis was the general manager and partner of an Edison project called Edison Lamp Works.  The guy was an intelligent scientist, and worked on the watt-hour meter, the electric light, engineering dynamos, and apparently lots of interesting arguments/spats with Edison himself.  From an article about Francis Upton at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at St. Andrews University:

Edison liked and respected Upton, for the latter had acquired a brilliantly profound store of knowledge. And under Edison’s guidance he soon gained the necessary experience to make theory and practice meet. It was always edifying to listen to their arguments, and often a group of us would gather round and drink in every word that was spoken. Reasoning and sparrings between Edison and Upton often led to new experiments …

A totally random bit of information on Francis Robbins Upton is that he was the guy who invented the electric fire alarm/detector.  That’s a big deal, right?  Well sure!  However, this fact often goes overlooked because of some dumb ass at the US Patent Office in the late 1800’s who misspelled the title of Upton’s fire alarm.  Officially, the patent for his device was called the “Portable Electric Tire Alarm.”  Lame.  Sorry that people suck, Francis!

Francis also developed something called “Nature’s Farter.”  Yeah, you read that right.  Upton invented a device that had something to vibrating a circular tube and producing a constant fart sound.  I think this is hilarious – a guy with Upton’s mathematics prowess having a sense of humor!  The United States Government, however, had no sense of humor.  Francis Upton actually got arrested for his invention, because the government found it “rude.”  Lame again.

Happy Birthday, Francis!

Thanks, Wikipedia and GAP!

Happy Birthday, THOMAS ALVA EDISON!

Honey, where’s my car ke-OMG, IS THAT THOMAS ALVA EDISON?  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Thomas Alva Edison!  DUDE!  It’s the “Wizard of Menlo Park!!!”

(actually Tommy’s birthday was yesterday, but I had a gig and I was gone all day so don’t say anything) TOMMAAAAAY!

So, those of you who know Tommy A. Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) probably know him for, um, INVENTING THE LIGHT BULB and all.  Tommy Boy and Joseph Swan actually battled it out death-match style on the invention of the light bulb (we all know who it really was), but it turned out that Mr. Edison here was the better businessman and capitalist.  I mean, look at that face – doesn’t it just scream “you can make all the rules you want, I will make money in spite of them” on his face?

Tommy Edison was actually quite the inventor.  He started out as a telegraph operator (apparently termed “brass pounder”) and persevered through some tough times financially to become the holder of almost 1100 patents.  The motion picture camera, the “quadruplex” telegraph, the carbon microphone (in the first telephones) and, among many others, a patent for the “carbonized bamboo” filament.  Joseph Swan was the first actual inventor of the electric lamp, but Edison’s design and research actually turned out a better, more efficient version.  Edison’s bamboo filament was said to burn for over 1,200 hours.  That’s more than some lamps I’ve bought at the store this year!

Big Tom Edison’s also accredited for the invention and design of the phonograph – the “record” player, for any of you crazy kids who don’t actually know what this is.  (I wanted to cry when a young student in Arlington, TX asked me “what this thing is” while holding a turntable in her arms)

Check out a video of Edison reciting his first recording, a voicing of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” in 1927:

Also, another very, very hip video is Edison talking about his invention, the “electric light bulb” and its development:

One thing that Thomas Edison did that is essential to our development as a technically adept species was to implement and develop a mass-production system for industrial operations.  That bit of knowledge he imparted to the industrial trades is revolutionary.  He is also credited with creating the first industrial research laboratory, in Menlo Park, New Jersey.  This place had a little bit of everything – Edison wanted to store some of “almost every conceivable material” in this place so that he and his people could invent freely with no inhibitions.  The Menlo Park facility took two city blocks to house.  Holy geekfest – that must have been almost as awesome as the Mythbusters Studios!

Edison’s Menlo Park lab:

To be fair, there are a couple of pretty un-awesome things that Edison did that are noteworthy, one of which led to the development of the electric chair.  George Westinghouse was one of Edison’s competitors, and probably most well known for alternating current.  Edison and Westinghouse had a pretty fierce and nasty battle over whose invention was better – direct current (Edison) or alternating current (Westinghouse).  In the “War of Currents” that ensued, Tom Edison was so persistent on proving that Westinghouse’s AC was unsafe (regardless of the fact that it was actually better than his DC for long-distance distribution).  Edison and his people publicly electrocuted animals to show that AC essentially killed them quickly.  Yeah, Tommy, that wasn’t very cool of you, dude.  One notable execution was Topsy the Elephant – a Coney Island attraction that killed three abusive handlers over the course of three years.  Edison filmed this event – I didn’t feel good about embedding it in this post, so here’s a link to it, via a post about Topsy the Elephant.  That video on the site is not terribly graphic or anything, but it’s freaky in its own right.  I’d kill somebody that was abusing me like they did you, Topsy.

Topsy was electrocuted with a 6,600VAC source.  Maybe AC triumphed over DC in the long run because of some bad karma Thomas brought on with his war on alternating current.

Thomas Edison was attributed with the following quote, which kinda cracks me up after reading the above research:

The dove is my emblem…. I want to save and advance human life, not destroy it…. I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill…

So, enough pointing out a man’s flaws on his birthday – thanks for all of the good things you did, Thomas Alva Edison!  Just a few more things we can thank Tommy Boy here for (a non-exhaustive list):

  • the fluoroscope (an x-ray that takes radioscopic images)
  • the stock ticker (well, okay, but really who needs that?)
  • the Lackawanna Railroad’s electric trains (Hoboken to Gladstone, Montclair, and Dover, NJ)
  • Edison General Electric
  • the printing telegraph
  • Typewriting machines (and all kinds of associated parts and pieces)
  • the magnetic ore separator
  • brakes for electromagnetic motors
  • a patent for preserving fruit
  • governors for electric motors
  • the telephone (and other related stuff)
  • the arc lamp
  • a gold extracting process from sulphide ores (random…)
  • wireless telegraphy

Thanks Tommy!  If you ever come back to life, I’m buying the first beer.  If you come back to life as a zombie, I ain’t promising nothing.

Just as something to watch that explains a little more about Edison’s involvement with the Electric Chair, here’s a copy of The Pinky Show – “Thomas Edison Hates Cats.”  There is a tiny clip of Topsy’s execution in there, so just be warned.  The video is, however, presented by a talking cat:

Thanks, Wikipedia, Worldwide School, and Thomas Edison!