Who is THAT?!  Wait, is that — is that Nikola Tesla?!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Nikola Tesla!



Well, it’s birthday time for one of the most prolific inventory of humanity — Nikola Tesla’s 207th birthday is today (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943)!  If he was still alive, I would definitely suggest we have a Tweet-up and buy that man a round!  A man who thought all human beings should have free energy, believed in the power of peace, and created more useful inventions than most people alive today — Nikola Tesla is one historical badass.  He also got legally fornicated by Thomas Edison, which is another post altogether, but still managed to do unbelievable work on alternating current electricity.



We here at JimOnLight want to share your amazingness with the world:

The History of Nikola Tesla – a Short Story from Jeremiah Warren on Vimeo.

Also — from The OatmealMAD PROPS to our man Nikola Tesla!  I cross-post this with every positive intention possible:

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We celebrate your life here at — and here’s a toast to hoping someone makes your dreams of free energy generating devices and perpetual motion systems a reality!



Passing Through from Olafur Haraldsson on Vimeo.

Tesla’s obituary:



Thanks to The Oatmeal, Wikipedia, The Daily Kos, EEP, and Brad DeLong!

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 – 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!


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!

Happy Birthday, Joesph Swan!

Hey, who’s that?  That’s Joseph Swan!  Happy Birthday, Joesph Swan!
(It was actually on Halloween, but he’s dead and I wanted everyone to know about him!)


Joseph Swan (Halloween 1828 – May 27, 1914) was one of Edison’s competitors for who really invented the light bulb first.  Joseph Swan is an English inventor and worked in the UK – Ol’ Joe here worked a lot in the chemistry of manufacturing in his life, but also had an idea for an electric lamp at the same time as Tommy Edison.  Lots of legal brew-ha-ha took place between the two men until a joint company was formed – the Edison and Swan United Electric Light Company, LTD – affectionately referred to as “EdiSwan.”  There are many indications that Swan actually invented and developed the light bulb like two decades before Edison, and got a patent for his device a full year before Edison.

Joseph’s original device design had flaws, and didn’t stay lit for very long.  His filament had a very low resistance (carbonized paper), and it got set aside for fifteen years or so.  Joe came back to it later in life and solved it.

From his beard, you’d think that he did some gold prospecting in Deadwood between the time when he started the lamp and when he came back to it.  OH BURN!  Yeah!  Anyone?  Anyone?  [high five]


Here’s a picture of the Swan lamp (left) next to the Edison lamp:


One of the coolest things that Joey Swan invented was a process for pushing nitro-cellulose through a really tiny hole, creating conducting fibers.  When Edison got wind of this, he wanted to keep his carbonized bamboo filaments, and he did keep his own process until Edison Light was bought by General Electric.  GE started using Swan’s cellulose filaments at that point.

So, Joe’s achievments include, but are not limited to:

  • the cellulose filament
  • inventing a method for drying wet photographic plates
  • bromide paper for photography
  • apparently beating Edison to the light bulb
  • having a huge beard
  • developing a vacuum tube with Edison

Happy Belated Birthday, Joseph Swan!


Thanks, Wikipedia!

Thomas Edison on Failure

I was just reading a great quote by Thomas Edison about failure.  There are several variations of this quote, but it’s just fantastic.  The backstory is that a reporter asked Thomas Edison about the thousands of experiments he went through to invent the carbon filament – something along the lines of “how does it feel to have failed two thousand times to create the electric filament?”

Thomas Edison replied:

I have not failed, not once.  I’ve discovered ten thousand ways that don’t work.