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Edison, His Life and Inventions by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin

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[6] Briefly stated, the essential difference between Bell's
telephone and Edison's is this: With the former the sound vibrations
impinge upon a steel diaphragm arranged adjacent to the pole of
a bar electromagnet, whereby the diaphragm acts as an armature,
and by its vibrations induces very weak electric impulses
in the magnetic coil. These impulses, according to Bell's theory,
correspond in form to the sound-waves, and passing over the line
energize the magnet coil at the receiving end, and by varying the
magnetism cause the receiving diaphragm to be similarly vibrated
to reproduce the sounds. A single apparatus is therefore used at
each end, performing the double function of transmitter and receiver.
With Edison's telephone a closed circuit is used on which
is constantly flowing a battery current, and included in that circuit
is a pair of electrodes, one or both of which is of carbon.
These electrodes are always in contact with a certain initial
pressure, so that current will be always flowing over the circuit.
One of the electrodes is connected with the diaphragm on which
the sound-waves impinge, and the vibration of this diaphragm
causes the pressure between the electrodes to be correspondingly
varied, and thereby effects a variation in the current, resulting in
the production of impulses which actuate the receiving magnet.
In other words, with Bell's telephone the sound-waves themselves
generate the electric impulses, which are hence extremely
faint. With the Edison telephone, the sound-waves actuate an
electric valve, so to speak, and permit variations in a current of
any desired strength.

A second distinction between the two telephones is this: With
the Bell apparatus the very weak electric impulses generated by
the vibration of the transmitting diaphragm pass over the entire
line to the receiving end, and in consequence the permissible
length of line is limited to a few miles under ideal conditions.
With Edison's telephone the battery current does not flow on
the main line, but passes through the primary circuit of an
induction coil, by which corresponding impulses of enormously
higher potential are sent out on the main line to the receiving
end. In consequence, the line may be hundreds of miles in
length. No modern telephone system in use to-day lacks these
characteristic features--the varying resistance and the induction

The principle of the electromotograph was utilized
by Edison in more ways than one, first of all in telegraphy
at this juncture. The well-known Page patent,
which had lingered in the Patent Office for years, had
just been issued, and was considered a formidable
weapon. It related to the use of a retractile spring
to withdraw the armature lever from the magnet of
a telegraph or other relay or sounder, and thus controlled
the art of telegraphy, except in simple circuits.
"There was no known way," remarks Edison,
"whereby this patent could be evaded, and its
possessor would eventually control the use of what
is known as the relay and sounder, and this was vital
to telegraphy. Gould was pounding the Western
Union on the Stock Exchange, disturbing its railroad
contracts, and, being advised by his lawyers that
this patent was of great value, bought it. The moment
Mr. Orton heard this he sent for me and explained
the situation, and wanted me to go to work
immediately and see if I couldn't evade it or discover
some other means that could be used in case Gould
sustained the patent. It seemed a pretty hard job,
because there was no known means of moving a
lever at the other end of a telegraph wire except by
the use of a magnet. I said I would go at it that
night. In experimenting some years previously, I
had discovered a very peculiar phenomenon, and that
was that if a piece of metal connected to a battery
was rubbed over a moistened piece of chalk resting
on a metal connected to the other pole, when the
current passed the friction was greatly diminished.
When the current was reversed the friction was greatly
increased over what it was when no current was
passing. Remembering this, I substituted a piece of
chalk rotated by a small electric motor for the magnet,
and connecting a sounder to a metallic finger
resting on the chalk, the combination claim of Page
was made worthless. A hitherto unknown means was
introduced in the electric art. Two or three of the
devices were made and tested by the company's expert.
Mr. Orton, after he had me sign the patent
application and got it in the Patent Office, wanted
to settle for it at once. He asked my price. Again
I said: `Make me an offer.' Again he named $100,000.
I accepted, providing he would pay it at the
rate of $6000 a year for seventeen years. This was
done, and thus, with the telephone money, I received
$12,000 yearly for that period from the Western
Union Telegraph Company."

A year or two later the motograph cropped up again
in Edison's work in a curious manner. The telephone
was being developed in England, and Edison had
made arrangements with Colonel Gouraud, his old
associate in the automatic telegraph, to represent his
interests. A company was formed, a large number
of instruments were made and sent to Gouraud in
London, and prospects were bright. Then there came
a threat of litigation from the owners of the Bell
patent, and Gouraud found he could not push the
enterprise unless he could avoid using what was asserted
to be an infringement of the Bell receiver.
He cabled for help to Edison, who sent back word
telling him to hold the fort. "I had recourse again,"
says Edison, "to the phenomenon discovered by me
years previous, that the friction of a rubbing electrode
passing over a moist chalk surface was varied by
electricity. I devised a telephone receiver which
was afterward known as the `loud-speaking telephone,'
or `chalk receiver.' There was no magnet,
simply a diaphragm and a cylinder of compressed
chalk about the size of a thimble. A thin spring
connected to the centre of the diaphragm extended
outwardly and rested on the chalk cylinder, and was
pressed against it with a pressure equal to that which
would be due to a weight of about six pounds. The
chalk was rotated by hand. The volume of sound
was very great. A person talking into the carbon
transmitter in New York had his voice so amplified
that he could be heard one thousand feet away in
an open field at Menlo Park. This great excess of
power was due to the fact that the latter came from
the person turning the handle. The voice, instead
of furnishing all the power as with the present receiver,
merely controlled the power, just as an engineer
working a valve would control a powerful

"I made six of these receivers and sent them in
charge of an expert on the first steamer. They were
welcomed and tested, and shortly afterward I shipped
a hundred more. At the same time I was ordered to
send twenty young men, after teaching them to become
expert. I set up an exchange, around the
laboratory, of ten instruments. I would then go out
and get each one out of order in every conceivable
way, cutting the wires of one, short-circuiting another,
destroying the adjustment of a third, putting
dirt between the electrodes of a fourth, and so on.
A man would be sent to each to find out the trouble.
When he could find the trouble ten consecutive
times, using five minutes each, he was sent to London.
About sixty men were sifted to get twenty.
Before all had arrived, the Bell company there, seeing
we could not be stopped, entered into negotiations
for consolidation. One day I received a cable from
Gouraud offering `30,000' for my interest. I cabled
back I would accept. When the draft came I was
astonished to find it was for L30,000. I had thought
it was dollars."

In regard to this singular and happy conclusion,
Edison makes some interesting comments as to the
attitude of the courts toward inventors, and the
difference between American and English courts. "The
men I sent over were used to establish telephone
exchanges all over the Continent, and some of them
became wealthy. It was among this crowd in London
that Bernard Shaw was employed before he became
famous. The chalk telephone was finally discarded
in favor of the Bell receiver--the latter being
more simple and cheaper. Extensive litigation with
new-comers followed. My carbon-transmitter patent
was sustained, and preserved the monopoly of the
telephone in England for many years. Bell's patent
was not sustained by the courts. Sir Richard Webster,
now Chief-Justice of England, was my counsel,
and sustained all of my patents in England for many
years. Webster has a marvellous capacity for understanding
things scientific; and his address before the
courts was lucidity itself. His brain is highly organized.
My experience with the legal fraternity is
that scientific subjects are distasteful to them, and
it is rare in this country, on account of the system of
trying patent suits, for a judge really to reach the
meat of the controversy, and inventors scarcely ever
get a decision squarely and entirely in their favor.
The fault rests, in my judgment, almost wholly with
the system under which testimony to the extent of
thousands of pages bearing on all conceivable subjects,
many of them having no possible connection
with the invention in dispute, is presented to an over-
worked judge in an hour or two of argument supported
by several hundred pages of briefs; and the
judge is supposed to extract some essence of justice
from this mass of conflicting, blind, and misleading
statements. It is a human impossibility, no matter
how able and fair-minded the judge may be. In
England the case is different. There the judges are
face to face with the experts and other witnesses.
They get the testimony first-hand and only so much as
they need, and there are no long-winded briefs and
arguments, and the case is decided then and there,
a few months perhaps after suit is brought, instead of
many years afterward, as in this country. And in
England, when a case is once finally decided it is
settled for the whole country, while here it is not so.
Here a patent having once been sustained, say, in
Boston, may have to be litigated all over again in
New York, and again in Philadelphia, and so on for
all the Federal circuits. Furthermore, it seems to
me that scientific disputes should be decided by some
court containing at least one or two scientific men--
men capable of comprehending the significance of
an invention and the difficulties of its accomplishment
--if justice is ever to be given to an inventor.
And I think, also, that this court should have the
power to summon before it and examine any recognized
expert in the special art, who might be able to
testify to FACTS for or against the patent, instead of
trying to gather the truth from the tedious essays
of hired experts, whose depositions are really nothing
but sworn arguments. The real gist of patent suits
is generally very simple, and I have no doubt that
any judge of fair intelligence, assisted by one or more
scientific advisers, could in a couple of days at the
most examine all the necessary witnesses; hear all
the necessary arguments, and actually decide an ordinary
patent suit in a way that would more nearly
be just, than can now be done at an expenditure of
a hundred times as much money and months and
years of preparation. And I have no doubt that
the time taken by the court would be enormously
less, because if a judge attempts to read the bulky
records and briefs, that work alone would require
several days.

"Acting as judges, inventors would not be very apt
to correctly decide a complicated law point; and on
the other hand, it is hard to see how a lawyer can
decide a complicated scientific point rightly. Some
inventors complain of our Patent Office, but my own
experience with the Patent Office is that the examiners
are fair-minded and intelligent, and when they
refuse a patent they are generally right; but I think
the whole trouble lies with the system in vogue in the
Federal courts for trying patent suits, and in the fact,
which cannot be disputed, that the Federal judges,
with but few exceptions, do not comprehend complicated
scientific questions. To secure uniformity
in the several Federal circuits and correct errors, it
has been proposed to establish a central court of
patent appeals in Washington. This I believe in;
but this court should also contain at least two scientific
men, who would not be blind to the sophistry of
paid experts.[7] Men whose inventions would have
created wealth of millions have been ruined and
prevented from making any money whereby they could
continue their careers as creators of wealth for the
general good, just because the experts befuddled the
judge by their misleading statements."

[7] As an illustration of the perplexing nature of expert evidence in
patent cases, the reader will probably be interested in perusing
the following extracts from the opinion of Judge Dayton, in the
suit of Bryce Bros. Co. vs. Seneca Glass Co., tried in the United
States Circuit Court, Northern District of West Virginia, reported
in The Federal Reporter, 140, page 161:

"On this subject of the validity of this patent, a vast amount
of conflicting, technical, perplexing, and almost hypercritical
discussion and opinion has been indulged, both in the testimony and
in the able and exhaustive arguments and briefs of counsel.
Expert Osborn for defendant, after setting forth minutely his
superior qualifications mechanical education, and great experience,
takes up in detail the patent claims, and shows to his own
entire satisfaction that none of them are new; that all of them
have been applied, under one form or another, in some twenty-
two previous patents, and in two other machines, not patented,
to-wit, the Central Glass and Kuny Kahbel ones; that the whole
machine is only `an aggregation of well-known mechanical elements
that any skilled designer would bring to his use in the
construction of such a machine.' This certainly, under ordinary
conditions, would settle the matter beyond peradventure; for
this witness is a very wise and learned man in these things, and
very positive. But expert Clarke appears for the plaintiff, and
after setting forth just as minutely his superior qualifications,
mechanical education, and great experience, which appear fully
equal in all respects to those of expert Osborn, proceeds to take
up in detail the patent claims, and shows to his entire satisfaction
that all, with possibly one exception, are new, show inventive
genius, and distinct advances upon the prior art. In the most
lucid, and even fascinating, way he discusses all the parts of this
machine, compares it with the others, draws distinctions, points
out the merits of the one in controversy and the defects of all
the others, considers the twenty-odd patents referred to by
Osborn, and in the politest, but neatest, manner imaginable shows
that expert Osborn did not know what he was talking about, and
sums the whole matter up by declaring this `invention of Mr.
Schrader's, as embodied in the patent in suit, a radical and wide
departure, from the Kahbel machine' (admitted on all sides to be
nearest prior approach to it), `a distinct and important advance
in the art of engraving glassware, and generally a machine for
this purpose which has involved the exercise of the inventive
faculty in the highest degree.'

"Thus a more radical and irreconcilable disagreement between
experts touching the same thing could hardly be found. So it is
with the testimony. If we take that for the defendant, the Central
Glass Company machine, and especially the Kuny Kahbel
machine, built and operated years before this patent issued, and
not patented, are just as good, just as effective and practical, as
this one, and capable of turning out just as perfect work and as
great a variety of it. On the other hand, if we take that produced
by the plaintiff, we are driven to the conclusion that these
prior machines, the product of the same mind, were only progressive
steps forward from utter darkness, so to speak, into full
inventive sunlight, which made clear to him the solution of the
problem in this patented machine. The shortcomings of the
earlier machines are minutely set forth, and the witnesses for the
plaintiff are clear that they are neither practical nor profitable.

"But this is not all of the trouble that confronts us in this
case. Counsel of both sides, with an indomitable courage that
must command admiration, a courage that has led them to a vast
amount of study, investigation, and thought, that in fact has
made them all experts, have dissected this record of 356 closely
printed pages, applied all mechanical principles and laws to the
facts as they see them, and, besides, have ransacked the law-
books and cited an enormous number of cases, more or less in
point, as illustration of their respective contentions. The courts
find nothing more difficult than to apply an abstract principle to
all classes of cases that may arise. The facts in each case so
frequently create an exception to the general rule that such rule
must be honored rather in its breach than in its observance.
Therefore, after a careful examination of these cases, it is no
criticism of the courts to say that both sides have found abundant
and about an equal amount of authority to sustain their
respective contentions, and, as a result, counsel have submitted,
in briefs, a sum total of 225 closely printed pages, in which they
have clearly, yet, almost to a mathematical certainty, demonstrated
on the one side that this Schrader machine is new and
patentable, and on the other that it is old and not so. Under
these circumstances, it would be unnecessary labor and a fruitless
task for me to enter into any further technical discussion of the
mechanical problems involved, for the purpose of seeking to convince
either side of its error. In cases of such perplexity as this
generally some incidents appear that speak more unerringly than
do the tongues of the witnesses, and to some of these I purpose
to now refer."

Mr. Bernard Shaw, the distinguished English author,
has given a most vivid and amusing picture of this
introduction of Edison's telephone into England, describing
the apparatus as "a much too ingenious invention,
being nothing less than a telephone of such
stentorian efficiency that it bellowed your most private
communications all over the house, instead of
whispering them with some sort of discretion." Shaw,
as a young man, was employed by the Edison Telephone
Company, and was very much alive to his
surroundings, often assisting in public demonstra-
tions of the apparatus "in a manner which I am
persuaded laid the foundation of Mr. Edison's
reputation." The sketch of the men sent over from
America is graphic: "Whilst the Edison Telephone
Company lasted it crowded the basement of a high
pile of offices in Queen Victoria Street with American
artificers. These deluded and romantic men gave
me a glimpse of the skilled proletariat of the United
States. They sang obsolete sentimental songs with
genuine emotion; and their language was frightful
even to an Irishman. They worked with a ferocious
energy which was out of all proportion to the actual
result achieved. Indomitably resolved to assert their
republican manhood by taking no orders from a tall-
hatted Englishman whose stiff politeness covered
his conviction that they were relatively to himself
inferior and common persons, they insisted on being
slave-driven with genuine American oaths by a
genuine free and equal American foreman. They
utterly despised the artfully slow British workman,
who did as little for his wages as he possibly could;
never hurried himself; and had a deep reverence for
one whose pocket could be tapped by respectful
behavior. Need I add that they were contemptuously
wondered at by this same British workman as
a parcel of outlandish adult boys who sweated themselves
for their employer's benefit instead of looking
after their own interest? They adored Mr. Edison as
the greatest man of all time in every possible department
of science, art, and philosophy, and execrated
Mr. Graham Bell, the inventor of the rival telephone,
as his Satanic adversary; but each of them had (or
intended to have) on the brink of completion an improvement
on the telephone, usually a new transmitter.
They were free-souled creatures, excellent
company, sensitive, cheerful, and profane; liars,
braggarts, and hustlers, with an air of making slow
old England hum, which never left them even when,
as often happened, they were wrestling with difficulties
of their own making, or struggling in no-
thoroughfares, from which they had to be retrieved
like stray sheep by Englishmen without imagination
enough to go wrong."

Mr. Samuel Insull, who afterward became private
secretary to Mr. Edison, and a leader in the development
of American electrical manufacturing and the
central-station art, was also in close touch with the
London situation thus depicted, being at the time
private secretary to Colonel Gouraud, and acting for
the first half hour as the amateur telephone operator
in the first experimental exchange erected in Europe.
He took notes of an early meeting where the affairs of
the company were discussed by leading men like Sir
John Lubbock (Lord Avebury) and the Right Hon.
E. P. Bouverie (then a cabinet minister), none of
whom could see in the telephone much more than an
auxiliary for getting out promptly in the next morning's
papers the midnight debates in Parliament. "I
remember another incident," says Mr. Insull. "It
was at some celebration of one of the Royal Societies
at the Burlington House, Piccadilly. We had a telephone
line running across the roofs to the basement
of the building. I think it was to Tyndall's laboratory
in Burlington Street. As the ladies and gentle-
men came through, they naturally wanted to look
at the great curiosity, the loud-speaking telephone: in
fact, any telephone was a curiosity then. Mr. and
Mrs. Gladstone came through. I was handling the
telephone at the Burlington House end. Mrs. Gladstone
asked the man over the telephone whether he
knew if a man or woman was speaking; and the
reply came in quite loud tones that it was a

With Mr. E. H. Johnson, who represented Edison,
there went to England for the furtherance of this
telephone enterprise, Mr. Charles Edison, a nephew of
the inventor. He died in Paris, October, 1879, not
twenty years of age. Stimulated by the example of
his uncle, this brilliant youth had already made a
mark for himself as a student and inventor, and when
only eighteen he secured in open competition the contract
to install a complete fire-alarm telegraph system
for Port Huron. A few months later he was eagerly
welcomed by his uncle at Menlo Park, and after working
on the telephone was sent to London to aid in its
introduction. There he made the acquaintance of
Professor Tyndall, exhibited the telephone to the
late King of England; and also won the friendship
of the late King of the Belgians, with whom he took
up the project of establishing telephonic communication
between Belgium and England. At the time
of his premature death he was engaged in installing
the Edison quadruplex between Brussels and Paris,
being one of the very few persons then in Europe
familiar with the working of that invention.

Meantime, the telephonic art in America was
undergoing very rapid development. In March,
1878, addressing "the capitalists of the Electric
Telephone Company" on the future of his invention,
Bell outlined with prophetic foresight and remarkable
clearness the coming of the modern telephone
exchange. Comparing with gas and water distribution,
he said: "In a similar manner, it is conceivable
that cables of telephone wires could be laid underground
or suspended overhead communicating by
branch wires with private dwellings, country houses,
shops, manufactories, etc., uniting them through the
main cable with a central office, where the wire could
be connected as desired, establishing direct
communication between any two places in the city....
Not only so, but I believe, in the future, wires will
unite the head offices of telephone companies in different
cities; and a man in one part of the country
may communicate by word of mouth with another
in a distant place."

All of which has come to pass. Professor Bell also
suggested how this could be done by "the employ of
a man in each central office for the purpose of connecting
the wires as directed." He also indicated the
two methods of telephonic tariff--a fixed rental and
a toll; and mentioned the practice, now in use on
long-distance lines, of a time charge. As a matter
of fact, this "centralizing" was attempted in May,
1877, in Boston, with the circuits of the Holmes
burglar-alarm system, four banking-houses being thus
interconnected; while in January of 1878 the Bell
telephone central-office system at New Haven, Connecticut,
was opened for business, "the first fully
equipped commercial telephone exchange ever established
for public or general service."

All through this formative period Bell had adhered
to and introduced the magneto form of telephone,
now used only as a receiver, and very poorly adapted
for the vital function of a speech-transmitter. From
August, 1877, the Western Union Telegraph Company
worked along the other line, and in 1878,
with its allied Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, it
brought into existence the American Speaking Telephone
Company to introduce the Edison apparatus,
and to create telephone exchanges all over the country.
In this warfare, the possession of a good battery
transmitter counted very heavily in favor of the
Western Union, for upon that the real expansion of
the whole industry depended; but in a few months
the Bell system had its battery transmitter, too,
tending to equalize matters. Late in the same year
patent litigation was begun which brought out clearly
the merits of Bell, through his patent, as the original
and first inventor of the electric speaking telephone;
and the Western Union Telegraph Company made
terms with its rival. A famous contract bearing
date of November 10, 1879, showed that under the
Edison and other controlling patents the Western
Union Company had already set going some eighty-
five exchanges, and was making large quantities of
telephonic apparatus. In return for its voluntary
retirement from the telephonic field, the Western
Union Telegraph Company, under this contract, received
a royalty of 20 per cent. of all the telephone
earnings of the Bell system while the Bell patents
ran; and thus came to enjoy an annual income of
several hundred thousand dollars for some years, based
chiefly on its modest investment in Edison's work.
It was also paid several thousand dollars in cash for
the Edison, Phelps, Gray, and other apparatus on
hand. It secured further 40 per cent. of the stock
of the local telephone systems of New York and
Chicago; and last, but by no means least, it exacted
from the Bell interests an agreement to stay out of
the telegraph field.

By March, 1881, there were in the United States
only nine cities of more than ten thousand inhabitants,
and only one of more than fifteen thousand,
without a telephone exchange. The industry thrived
under competition, and the absence of it now had a
decided effect in checking growth; for when the
Bell patent expired in 1893, the total of telephone sets
in operation in the United States was only 291,253.
To quote from an official Bell statement:

"The brief but vigorous Western Union competition
was a kind of blessing in disguise. The very fact that
two distinct interests were actively engaged in the work
of organizing and establishing competing telephone
exchanges all over the country, greatly facilitated the
spread of the idea and the growth of the business, and
familiarized the people with the use of the telephone as a
business agency; while the keenness of the competition,
extending to the agents and employees of both companies,
brought about a swift but quite unforeseen and unlooked-
for expansion in the individual exchanges of the larger
cities, and a corresponding advance in their importance,
value, and usefulness."

The truth of this was immediately shown in 1894,
after the Bell patents had expired, by the tremendous
outburst of new competitive activity, in "independent"
country systems and toll lines through
sparsely settled districts--work for which the Edison
apparatus and methods were peculiarly adapted, yet
against which the influence of the Edison patent
was invoked. The data secured by the United States
Census Office in 1902 showed that the whole industry
had made gigantic leaps in eight years, and had
2,371,044 telephone stations in service, of which
1,053,866 were wholly or nominally independent of
the Bell. By 1907 an even more notable increase
was shown, and the Census figures for that year
included no fewer than 6,118,578 stations, of which
1,986,575 were "independent." These six million
instruments every single set employing the principle
of the carbon transmitter--were grouped into 15,527
public exchanges, in the very manner predicted by
Bell thirty years before, and they gave service in the
shape of over eleven billions of talks. The outstanding
capitalized value of the plant was $814,616,004,
the income for the year was nearly $185,000,000, and
the people employed were 140,000. If Edison had
done nothing else, his share in the creation of such
an industry would have entitled him to a high place
among inventors.

This chapter is of necessity brief in its reference to
many extremely interesting points and details; and
to some readers it may seem incomplete in its references
to the work of other men than Edison, whose
influence on telephony as an art has also been con-
siderable. In reply to this pertinent criticism, it
may be pointed out that this is a life of Edison, and
not of any one else; and that even the discussion of
his achievements alone in these various fields
requires more space than the authors have at their
disposal. The attempt has been made, however, to
indicate the course of events and deal fairly with the
facts. The controversy that once waged with great
excitement over the invention of the microphone,
but has long since died away, is suggestive of the
difficulties involved in trying to do justice to everybody.
A standard history describes the microphone

"A form of apparatus produced during the early days
of the telephone by Professor Hughes, of England, for
the purpose of rendering faint, indistinct sounds distinctly
audible, depended for its operation on the changes that
result in the resistance of loose contacts. This apparatus
was called the microphone, and was in reality but one of
the many forms that it is possible to give to the telephone
transmitter. For example, the Edison granular transmitter
was a variety of microphone, as was also Edison's
transmitter, in which the solid button of carbon was employed.
Indeed, even the platinum point, which in the
early form of the Reis transmitter pressed against the
platinum contact cemented to the centre of the diaphragm,
was a microphone."

At a time when most people were amazed at the idea
of hearing, with the aid of a "microphone," a fly walk
at a distance of many miles, the priority of invention
of such a device was hotly disputed. Yet without
desiring to take anything from the credit of the
brilliant American, Hughes, whose telegraphic apparatus
is still in use all over Europe, it may be
pointed out that this passage gives Edison the attribution
of at least two original forms of which those
suggested by Hughes were mere variations and modifications.
With regard to this matter, Mr. Edison
himself remarks: "After I sent one of my men over
to London especially, to show Preece the carbon
transmitter, and where Hughes first saw it, and
heard it--then within a month he came out with the
microphone, without any acknowledgment whatever.
Published dates will show that Hughes came along
after me."

There have been other ways also in which Edison
has utilized the peculiar property that carbon possesses
of altering its resistance to the passage of current,
according to the pressure to which it is subjected,
whether at the surface, or through closer union
of the mass. A loose road with a few inches of dust
or pebbles on it offers appreciable resistance to the
wheels of vehicles travelling over it; but if the surface
is kept hard and smooth the effect is quite different.
In the same way carbon, whether solid or
in the shape of finely divided powder, offers a high
resistance to the passage of electricity; but if the
carbon is squeezed together the conditions change,
with less resistance to electricity in the circuit.
For his quadruplex system, Mr. Edison utilized this
fact in the construction of a rheostat or resistance
box. It consists of a series of silk disks saturated
with a sizing of plumbago and well dried. The disks
are compressed by means of an adjustable screw; and
in this manner the resistance of a circuit can be varied
over a wide range.

In like manner Edison developed a "pressure" or
carbon relay, adapted to the transference of signals
of variable strength from one circuit to another. An
ordinary relay consists of an electromagnet inserted
in the main line for telegraphing, which brings a local
battery and sounder circuit into play, reproducing
in the local circuit the signals sent over the main line.
The relay is adjusted to the weaker currents likely to
be received, but the signals reproduced on the sounder
by the agency of the relay are, of course, all of equal
strength, as they depend upon the local battery,
which has only this steady work to perform. In
cases where it is desirable to reproduce the signals in
the local circuit with the same variations in strength
as they are received by the relay, the Edison carbon
pressure relay does the work. The poles of the
electromagnet in the local circuit are hollowed out
and filled up with carbon disks or powdered plumbago.
The armature and the carbon-tipped poles of
the electromagnet form part of the local circuit; and
if the relay is actuated by a weak current the armature
will be attracted but feebly. The carbon being only
slightly compressed will offer considerable resistance
to the flow of current from the local battery, and
therefore the signal on the local sounder will be weak.
If, on the contrary, the incoming current on the main
line be strong, the armature will be strongly attracted,
the carbon will be sharply compressed, the resistance
in the local circuit will be proportionately lowered,
and the signal heard on the local sounder will be a
loud one. Thus it will be seen, by another clever
juggle with the willing agent, carbon, for which he
has found so many duties, Edison is able to transfer
or transmit exactly, to the local circuit, the main-line
current in all its minutest variations.

In his researches to determine the nature of the
motograph phenomena, and to open up other sources
of electrical current generation, Edison has worked
out a very ingenious and somewhat perplexing piece
of apparatus known as the "chalk battery." It consists
of a series of chalk cylinders mounted on a shaft
revolved by hand. Resting against each of these
cylinders is a palladium-faced spring, and similar
springs make contact with the shaft between each
cylinder. By connecting all these springs in circuit
with a galvanometer and revolving the shaft rapidly,
a notable deflection is obtained of the galvanometer
needle, indicating the production of electrical energy.
The reason for this does not appear to have been

Last but not least, in this beautiful and ingenious
series, comes the "tasimeter," an instrument of most
delicate sensibility in the presence of heat. The
name is derived from the Greek, the use of the apparatus
being primarily to measure extremely minute
differences of pressure. A strip of hard rubber with
pointed ends rests perpendicularly on a platinum
plate, beneath which is a carbon button, under which
again lies another platinum plate. The two plates
and the carbon button form part of an electric circuit
containing a battery and a galvanometer. The
hard-rubber strip is exceedingly sensitive to heat.
The slightest degree of heat imparted to it causes it
to expand invisibly, thus increasing the pressure contact
on the carbon button and producing a variation
in the resistance of the circuit, registered immediately
by the little swinging needle of the galvanometer.
The instrument is so sensitive that with a delicate
galvanometer it will show the impingement of the
heat from a person's hand thirty feet away. The
suggestion to employ such an apparatus in astronomical
observations occurs at once, and it may be
noted that in one instance the heat of rays of light
from the remote star Arcturus gave results.



AT the opening of the Electrical Show in New
York City in October, 1908, to celebrate the
jubilee of the Atlantic Cable and the first quarter
century of lighting with the Edison service on
Manhattan Island, the exercises were all conducted by
means of the Edison phonograph. This included the
dedicatory speech of Governor Hughes, of New York;
the modest remarks of Mr. Edison, as president; the
congratulations of the presidents of several national
electric bodies, and a number of vocal and instrumental
selections of operatic nature. All this was
heard clearly by a very large audience, and was
repeated on other evenings. The same speeches were
used again phonographically at the Electrical Show
in Chicago in 1909--and now the records are
preserved for reproduction a hundred or a thousand
years hence. This tour de force, never attempted
before, was merely an exemplification of the value of
the phonograph not only in establishing at first hand
the facts of history, but in preserving the human
voice. What would we not give to listen to the very
accents and tones of the Sermon on the Mount, the
orations of Demosthenes, the first Pitt's appeal for
American liberty, the Farewell of Washington, or the
Address at Gettysburg? Until Edison made his wonderful
invention in 1877, the human race was entirely
without means for preserving or passing on to posterity
its own linguistic utterances or any other vocal
sound. We have some idea how the ancients looked
and felt and wrote; the abundant evidence takes us
back to the cave-dwellers. But all the old languages
are dead, and the literary form is their embalmment.
We do not even know definitely how Shakespeare's
and Goldsmith's plays were pronounced on the stage
in the theatres of the time; while it is only a guess
that perhaps Chaucer would sound much more modern
than he scans.

The analysis of sound, which owes so much to
Helmholtz, was one step toward recording; and the
various means of illustrating the phenomena of sound
to the eye and ear, prior to the phonograph, were all
ingenious. One can watch the dancing little flames
of Koenig, and see a voice expressed in tongues of
fire; but the record can only be photographic. In
like manner, the simple phonautograph of Leon Scott,
invented about 1858, records on a revolving cylinder
of blackened paper the sound vibrations transmitted
through a membrane to which a tiny stylus is attached;
so that a human mouth uses a pen and inscribes
its sign vocal. Yet after all we are just as
far away as ever from enabling the young actors at
Harvard to give Aristophanes with all the true, subtle
intonation and inflection of the Athens of 400 B.C.
The instrument is dumb. Ingenuity has been shown
also in the invention of "talking-machines," like
Faber's, based on the reed organ pipe. These autom-
ata can be made by dexterous manipulation to jabber
a little, like a doll with its monotonous "ma-ma," or
a cuckoo clock; but they lack even the sterile utility
of the imitative art of ventriloquism. The real great
invention lies in creating devices that shall be able
to evoke from tinfoil, wax, or composition at any
time to-day or in the future the sound that once was
as evanescent as the vibrations it made on the air.

Contrary to the general notion, very few of the
great modern inventions have been the result of a
sudden inspiration by which, Minerva-like, they have
sprung full-fledged from their creators' brain; but,
on the contrary, they have been evolved by slow and
gradual steps, so that frequently the final advance
has been often almost imperceptible. The Edison
phonograph is an important exception to the general
rule; not, of course, the phonograph of the present
day with all of its mechanical perfection, but as an
instrument capable of recording and reproducing
sound. Its invention has been frequently attributed
to the discovery that a point attached to a telephone
diaphragm would, under the effect of sound-waves,
vibrate with sufficient force to prick the finger. The
story, though interesting, is not founded on fact;
but, if true, it is difficult to see how the discovery in
question could have contributed materially to the
ultimate accomplishment. To a man of Edison's perception
it is absurd to suppose that the effect of the
so-called discovery would not have been made as a
matter of deduction long before the physical sensation
was experienced. As a matter of fact, the invention
of the phonograph was the result of pure reason.
Some time prior to 1877, Edison had been experimenting
on an automatic telegraph in which the
letters were formed by embossing strips of paper
with the proper arrangement of dots and dashes.
By drawing this strip beneath a contact lever, the
latter was actuated so as to control the circuits and
send the desired signals over the line. It was observed
that when the strip was moved very rapidly
the vibration of the lever resulted in the production
of an audible note. With these facts before him,
Edison reasoned that if the paper strip could be imprinted
with elevations and depressions representative
of sound-waves, they might be caused to actuate a
diaphragm so as to reproduce the corresponding
sounds. The next step in the line of development
was to form the necessary undulations on the strip,
and it was then reasoned that original sounds themselves
might be utilized to form a graphic record by
actuating a diaphragm and causing a cutting or indenting
point carried thereby to vibrate in contact
with a moving surface, so as to cut or indent the
record therein. Strange as it may seem, therefore,
and contrary to the general belief, the phonograph
was developed backward, the production of the sounds
being of prior development to the idea of actually
recording them.

Mr. Edison's own account of the invention of the
phonograph is intensely interesting. "I was
experimenting," he says, "on an automatic method of
recording telegraph messages on a disk of paper laid
on a revolving platen, exactly the same as the disk
talking-machine of to-day. The platen had a spiral
groove on its surface, like the disk. Over this was
placed a circular disk of paper; an electromagnet
with the embossing point connected to an arm
travelled over the disk; and any signals given
through the magnets were embossed on the disk of
paper. If this disk was removed from the machine
and put on a similar machine provided with a contact
point, the embossed record would cause the
signals to be repeated into another wire. The ordinary
speed of telegraphic signals is thirty-five to
forty words a minute; but with this machine several
hundred words were possible.

"From my experiments on the telephone I knew
of the power of a diaphragm to take up sound vibrations,
as I had made a little toy which, when you
recited loudly in the funnel, would work a pawl connected
to the diaphragm; and this engaging a ratchet-
wheel served to give continuous rotation to a pulley.
This pulley was connected by a cord to a little paper
toy representing a man sawing wood. Hence, if one
shouted: `Mary had a little lamb,' etc., the paper
man would start sawing wood. I reached the conclusion
that if I could record the movements of the
diaphragm properly, I could cause such record to
reproduce the original movements imparted to the
diaphragm by the voice, and thus succeed in recording
and reproducing the human voice.

"Instead of using a disk I designed a little machine
using a cylinder provided with grooves around the
surface. Over this was to be placed tinfoil, which
easily received and recorded the movements of the
diaphragm. A sketch was made, and the piece-work
price, $18, was marked on the sketch. I was in the
habit of marking the price I would pay on each
sketch. If the workman lost, I would pay his regular
wages; if he made more than the wages, he kept it.
The workman who got the sketch was John Kruesi.
I didn't have much faith that it would work, expecting
that I might possibly hear a word or so that
would give hope of a future for the idea. Kruesi,
when he had nearly finished it, asked what it was for.
I told him I was going to record talking, and then
have the machine talk back. He thought it absurd.
However, it was finished, the foil was put on; I then
shouted `Mary had a little lamb,' etc. I adjusted the
reproducer, and the machine reproduced it perfectly.
I was never so taken aback in my life. Everybody
was astonished. I was always afraid of things that
worked the first time. Long experience proved that
there were great drawbacks found generally before
they could be got commercial; but here was something
there was no doubt of."

No wonder that honest John Kruesi, as he stood
and listened to the marvellous performance of the
simple little machine he had himself just finished,
ejaculated in an awe-stricken tone: "Mein Gott im
Himmel!" And yet he had already seen Edison do
a few clever things. No wonder they sat up all night
fixing and adjusting it so as to get better and better
results--reciting and singing, trying each other's
voices, and then listening with involuntary awe as
the words came back again and again, just as long
as they were willing to revolve the little cylinder
with its dotted spiral indentations in the tinfoil under
the vibrating stylus of the reproducing diaphragm.
It took a little time to acquire the knack of turning
the crank steadily while leaning over the recorder to
talk into the machine; and there was some deftness
required also in fastening down the tinfoil on the
cylinder where it was held by a pin running in a
longitudinal slot. Paraffined paper appears also to
have been experimented with as an impressible
material. It is said that Carman, the foreman of the
machine shop, had gone the length of wagering Edison
a box of cigars that the device would not work. All
the world knows that he lost.

The original Edison phonograph thus built by
Kruesi is preserved in the South Kensington Museum,
London. That repository can certainly have no
greater treasure of its kind. But as to its immediate
use, the inventor says: "That morning I took it over
to New York and walked into the office of the Scientific
American, went up to Mr. Beach's desk, and said I
had something to show him. He asked what it was.
I told him I had a machine that would record and
reproduce the human voice. I opened the package,
set up the machine and recited, `Mary had a little
lamb,' etc. Then I reproduced it so that it could
be heard all over the room. They kept me at it until
the crowd got so great Mr. Beach was afraid the
floor would collapse; and we were compelled to stop.
The papers next morning contained columns. None
of the writers seemed to understand how it was done.
I tried to explain, it was so very simple, but the results
were so surprising they made up their minds probably
that they never would understand it--and they didn't.

"I started immediately making several larger and
better machines, which I exhibited at Menlo Park to
crowds. The Pennsylvania Railroad ran special
trains. Washington people telegraphed me to come
on. I took a phonograph to Washington and exhibited
it in the room of James G. Blaine's niece
(Gail Hamilton); and members of Congress and
notable people of that city came all day long until
late in the evening. I made one break. I recited
`Mary,' etc., and another ditty:

`There was a little girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead;
And when she was good she was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.'

It will be remembered that Senator Roscoe Conkling,
then very prominent, had a curl of hair on his forehead;
and all the caricaturists developed it abnormally.
He was very sensitive about the subject.
When he came in he was introduced; but being rather
deaf, I didn't catch his name, but sat down and
started the curl ditty. Everybody tittered, and I
was told that Mr. Conkling was displeased. About
11 o'clock at night word was received from President
Hayes that he would be very much pleased if I would
come up to the White House. I was taken there,
and found Mr. Hayes and several others waiting.
Among them I remember Carl Schurz, who was playing
the piano when I entered the room. The exhibition
continued till about 12.30 A.M., when Mrs. Hayes
and several other ladies, who had been induced to
get up and dress, appeared. I left at 3.30 A,M,

"For a long time some people thought there was
trickery. One morning at Menlo Park a gentleman
came to the laboratory and asked to see the phonograph.
It was Bishop Vincent, who helped Lewis
Miller found the Chautauqua I exhibited it, and
then he asked if he could speak a few words. I put
on a fresh foil and told him to go ahead. He
commenced to recite Biblical names with immense
rapidity. On reproducing it he said: `I am satisfied,
now. There isn't a man in the United States who
could recite those names with the same rapidity.' "

The phonograph was now fairly launched as a
world sensation, and a reference to the newspapers
of 1878 will show the extent to which it and Edison
were themes of universal discussion. Some of the
press notices of the period were most amazing--and
amusing. As though the real achievements of
this young man, barely thirty, were not tangible
and solid enough to justify admiration of his genius,
the "yellow journalists" of the period began busily
to create an "Edison myth," with gross absurdities of
assertion and attribution from which the modest
subject of it all has not yet ceased to suffer with
unthinking people. A brilliantly vicious example of
this method of treatment is to be found in the Paris
Figaro of that year, which under the appropriate
title of "This Astounding Eddison" lay bare before
the French public the most startling revelations as
to the inventor's life and character. "It should be
understood," said this journal, "that Mr. Eddison
does not belong to himself. He is the property of
the telegraph company which lodges him in New
York at a superb hotel; keeps him on a luxurious
footing, and pays him a formidable salary so as to
be the one to know of and profit by his discoveries.
The company has, in the dwelling of Eddison,
men in its employ who do not quit him for a
moment, at the table, on the street, in the laboratory.
So that this wretched man, watched more
closely than ever was any malefactor, cannot even
give a moment's thought to his own private affairs
without one of his guards asking him what he is
thinking about." This foolish "blague" was accompanied
by a description of Edison's new "aerophone,"
a steam machine which carried the voice a distance
of one and a half miles. "You speak to a jet of
vapor. A friend previously advised can answer you
by the same method." Nor were American journals
backward in this wild exaggeration.

The furor had its effect in stimulating a desire
everywhere on the part of everybody to see and hear
the phonograph. A small commercial organization
was formed to build and exploit the apparatus, and
the shops at Menlo Park laboratory were assisted by
the little Bergmann shop in New York. Offices were
taken for the new enterprise at 203 Broadway, where
the Mail and Express building now stands, and
where, in a general way, under the auspices of a
talented dwarf, C. A. Cheever, the embryonic phonograph
and the crude telephone shared rooms and expenses.
Gardiner G. Hubbard, father-in-law of Alex.
Graham Bell, was one of the stockholders in the
Phonograph Company, which paid Edison $10,000
cash and a 20 per cent. royalty. This curious part-
nership was maintained for some time, even when
the Bell Telephone offices were removed to Reade
Street, New York, whither the phonograph went also;
and was perhaps explained by the fact that just then
the ability of the phonograph as a money-maker
was much more easily demonstrated than was that
of the telephone, still in its short range magneto
stage and awaiting development with the aid of the
carbon transmitter.

The earning capacity of the phonograph then, as
largely now, lay in its exhibition qualities. The
royalties from Boston, ever intellectually awake and
ready for something new, ran as high as $1800 a
week. In New York there was a ceaseless demand
for it, and with the aid of Hilbourne L. Roosevelt, a
famous organ builder, and uncle of ex-President
Roosevelt, concerts were given at which the phonograph
was "featured." To manage this novel show
business the services of James Redpath were called
into requisition with great success. Redpath, famous
as a friend and biographer of John Brown, as a
Civil War correspondent, and as founder of the
celebrated Redpath Lyceum Bureau in Boston, divided
the country into territories, each section being leased
for exhibition purposes on a basis of a percentage of
the "gate money." To 203 Broadway from all over
the Union flocked a swarm of showmen, cranks, and
particularly of old operators, who, the seedier they
were in appearance, the more insistent they were that
"Tom" should give them, for the sake of "Auld lang
syne," this chance to make a fortune for him and for
themselves. At the top of the building was a floor
on which these novices were graduated in the use and
care of the machine, and then, with an equipment of
tinfoil and other supplies, they were sent out on the
road. It was a diverting experience while it lasted.
The excitement over the phonograph was maintained
for many months, until a large proportion of the
inhabitants of the country had seen it; and then the
show receipts declined and dwindled away. Many of
the old operators, taken on out of good-nature, were
poor exhibitors and worse accountants, and at last
they and the machines with which they had been
intrusted faded from sight. But in the mean time
Edison had learned many lessons as to this practical
side of development that were not forgotten when
the renascence of the phonograph began a few years
later, leading up to the present enormous and steady
demand for both machines and records.

It deserves to be pointed out that the phonograph
has changed little in the intervening years from the
first crude instruments of 1877-78. It has simply
been refined and made more perfect in a mechanical
sense. Edison was immensely impressed with its
possibilities, and greatly inclined to work upon it,
but the coming of the electric light compelled him to
throw all his energies for a time into the vast new
field awaiting conquest. The original phonograph,
as briefly noted above, was rotated by hand, and the
cylinder was fed slowly longitudinally by means of
a nut engaging a screw thread on the cylinder shaft.
Wrapped around the cylinder was a sheet of tinfoil,
with which engaged a small chisel-like recording
needle, connected adhesively with the centre of an
iron diaphragm. Obviously, as the cylinder was
turned, the needle followed a spiral path whose pitch
depended upon that of the feed screw. Along this
path a thread was cut in the cylinder so as to permit
the needle to indent the foil readily as the diaphragm
vibrated. By rotating the cylinder and by causing
the diaphragm to vibrate under the effect of vocal
or musical sounds, the needle-like point would form
a series of indentations in the foil corresponding to
and characteristic of the sound-waves. By now
engaging the point with the beginning of the grooved
record so formed, and by again rotating the cylinder,
the undulations of the record would cause the needle
and its attached diaphragm to vibrate so as to effect
the reproduction. Such an apparatus was necessarily
undeveloped, and was interesting only from a scientific
point of view. It had many mechanical defects
which prevented its use as a practical apparatus.
Since the cylinder was rotated by hand, the speed
at which the record was formed would vary
considerably, even with the same manipulator, so that
it would have been impossible to record and reproduce
music satisfactorily; in doing which exact uniformity
of speed is essential. The formation of the
record in tinfoil was also objectionable from a practical
standpoint, since such a record was faint and
would be substantially obliterated after two or three
reproductions. Furthermore, the foil could not be
easily removed from and replaced upon the instrument,
and consequently the reproduction had to follow
the recording immediately, and the successive
tinfoils were thrown away. The instrument was also
heavy and bulky. Notwithstanding these objections
the original phonograph created, as already remarked,
an enormous popular excitement, and the exhibitions
were considered by many sceptical persons as nothing
more than clever ventriloquism. The possibilities
of the instrument as a commercial apparatus
were recognized from the very first, and some of the
fields in which it was predicted that the phonograph
would be used are now fully occupied. Some have
not yet been realized. Writing in 1878 in the North
American-Review, Mr. Edison thus summed up his
own ideas as to the future applications of the new

"Among the many uses to which the phonograph will
be applied are the following:

1. Letter writing and all kinds of dictation without the
aid of a stenographer.

2. Phonographic books, which will speak to blind people
without effort on their part.

3. The teaching of elocution.

4. Reproduction of music.

5. The `Family Record'--a registry of sayings,
reminiscences, etc., by members of a family in their own
voices, and of the last words of dying persons.

6. Music-boxes and toys.

7. Clocks that should announce in articulate speech
the time for going home, going to meals, etc.

8. The preservation of languages by exact reproduction
of the manner of pronouncing.

9. Educational purposes; such as preserving the
explanations made by a teacher, so that the pupil can refer
to them at any moment, and spelling or other lessons
placed upon the phonograph for convenience in committing
to memory.

10. Connection with the telephone, so as to make that
instrument an auxiliary in the transmission of permanent
and invaluable records, instead of being the recipient of
momentary and fleeting communication."

Of the above fields of usefulness in which it was
expected that the phonograph might be applied, only
three have been commercially realized--namely, the
reproduction of musical, including vaudeville or talking
selections, for which purpose a very large proportion
of the phonographs now made is used; the employment
of the machine as a mechanical stenographer,
which field has been taken up actively only
within the past few years; and the utilization of the
device for the teaching of languages, for which purpose
it has been successfully employed, for example,
by the International Correspondence Schools of
Scranton, Pennsylvania, for several years. The other
uses, however, which were early predicted for the
phonograph have not as yet been worked out practically,
although the time seems not far distant when
its general utility will be widely enlarged. Both dolls
and clocks have been made, but thus far the world
has not taken them seriously.

The original phonograph, as invented by Edison,
remained in its crude and immature state for almost
ten years--still the object of philosophical interest,
and as a convenient text-book illustration of the
effect of sound vibration. It continued to be a theme
of curious interest to the imaginative, and the subject
of much fiction, while its neglected commercial
possibilities were still more or less vaguely referred to.
During this period of arrested development, Edison
was continuously working on the invention and commercial
exploitation of the incandescent lamp. In
1887 his time was comparatively free, and the phonograph
was then taken up with renewed energy, and
the effort made to overcome its mechanical defects
and to furnish a commercial instrument, so that its
early promise might be realized. The important
changes made from that time up to 1890 converted
the phonograph from a scientific toy into a successful
industrial apparatus. The idea of forming the record
on tinfoil had been early abandoned, and in its stead
was substituted a cylinder of wax-like material, in
which the record was cut by a minute chisel-like gouging
tool. Such a record or phonogram, as it was then
called, could be removed from the machine or replaced
at any time, many reproductions could be
obtained without wearing out the record, and whenever
desired the record could be shaved off by a
turning-tool so as to present a fresh surface on which
a new record could be formed, something like an
ancient palimpsest. A wax cylinder having walls
less than one-quarter of an inch in thickness could
be used for receiving a large number of records, since
the maximum depth of the record groove is hardly
ever greater than one one-thousandth of an inch.
Later on, and as the crowning achievement in the
phonograph field, from a commercial point of view,
came the duplication of records to the extent of many
thousands from a single "master." This work was
actively developed between the years 1890 and 1898,
and its difficulties may be appreciated when the
problem is stated; the copying from a single master
of many millions of excessively minute sound-waves
having a maximum width of one hundredth of an
inch, and a maximum depth of one thousandth of
an inch, or less than the thickness of a sheet of
tissue-paper. Among the interesting developments of
this process was the coating of the original or master
record with a homogeneous film of gold so thin that
three hundred thousand of these piled one on top of
the other would present a thickness of only one inch!

Another important change was in the nature of a
reversal of the original arrangement, the cylinder or
mandrel carrying the record being mounted in fixed
bearings, and the recording or reproducing device
being fed lengthwise, like the cutting-tool of a lathe,
as the blank or record was rotated. It was early
recognized that a single needle for forming the record
and the reproduction therefrom was an undesirable
arrangement, since the formation of the record required
a very sharp cutting-tool, while satisfactory
and repeated reproduction suggested the use of a
stylus which would result in the minimum wear.
After many experiments and the production of a
number of types of machines, the present recorders
and reproducers were evolved, the former consisting
of a very small cylindrical gouging tool having a diameter
of about forty thousandths of an inch, and the
latter a ball or button-shaped stylus with a diameter
of about thirty-five thousandths of an inch. By
using an incisor of this sort, the record is formed of
a series of connected gouges with rounded sides,
varying in depth and width, and with which the
reproducer automatically engages and maintains its
engagement. Another difficulty encountered in the
commercial development of the phonograph was the
adjustment of the recording stylus so as to enter the
wax-like surface to a very slight depth, and of the
reproducer so as to engage exactly the record when
formed. The earlier types of machines were provided
with separate screws for effecting these adjustments;
but considerable skill was required to
obtain good results, and great difficulty was
experienced in meeting the variations in the wax-like
cylinders, due to the warping under atmospheric
changes. Consequently, with the early types of commercial
phonographs, it was first necessary to shave
off the blank accurately before a record was formed
thereon, in order that an absolutely true surface
might be presented. To overcome these troubles,
the very ingenious suggestion was then made and
adopted, of connecting the recording and reproducing
styluses to their respective diaphragms through the
instrumentality of a compensating weight, which acted
practically as a fixed support under the very rapid
sound vibrations, but which yielded readily to distortions
or variations in the wax-like cylinders. By
reason of this improvement, it became possible to do
away with all adjustments, the mass of the compensating
weight causing the recorder to engage the
blank automatically to the required depth, and to
maintain the reproducing stylus always with the desired
pressure on the record when formed. These
automatic adjustments were maintained even though
the blank or record might be so much out of true
as an eighth of an inch, equal to more than two
hundred times the maximum depth of the record

Another improvement that followed along the lines
adopted by Edison for the commercial development
of the phonograph was making the recording and reproducing
styluses of sapphire, an extremely hard,
non-oxidizable jewel, so that those tiny instruments
would always retain their true form and effectively
resist wear. Of course, in this work many other things
were done that may still be found on the perfected
phonograph as it stands to-day, and many other suggestions
were made which were contemporaneously
adopted, but which were later abandoned. For the
curious-minded, reference is made to the records in
the Patent Office, which will show that up to 1893
Edison had obtained upward of sixty-five patents in
this art, from which his line of thought can be very
closely traced. The phonograph of to-day, except
for the perfection of its mechanical features, in its
beauty of manufacture and design, and in small details,
may be considered identical with the machine
of 1889, with the exception that with the latter the
rotation of the record cylinder was effected by an
electric motor.

Its essential use as then contemplated was as a
substitute for stenographers, and the most extravagant
fancies were indulged in as to utility in that
field. To exploit the device commercially, the patents
were sold to Philadelphia capitalists, who organized
the North American Phonograph Company, through
which leases for limited periods were granted to local
companies doing business in special territories, gen-
erally within the confines of a single State. Under
that plan, resembling the methods of 1878, the machines
and blank cylinders were manufactured by the
Edison Phonograph Works, which still retains its
factories at Orange, New Jersey. The marketing
enterprise was early doomed to failure, principally
because the instruments were not well understood,
and did not possess the necessary refinements that
would fit them for the special field in which they were
to be used. At first the instruments were leased;
but it was found that the leases were seldom renewed.
Efforts were then made to sell them, but the prices
were high--from $100 to $150. In the midst of these
difficulties, the chief promoter of the enterprise, Mr.
Lippincott, died; and it was soon found that the
roseate dreams of success entertained by the sanguine
promoters were not to be realized. The North American
Phonograph Company failed, its principal creditor
being Mr. Edison, who, having acquired the
assets of the defunct concern, organized the National
Phonograph Company, to which he turned over the
patents; and with characteristic energy he attempted
again to build up a business with which his favorite
and, to him, most interesting invention might be
successfully identified. The National Phonograph
Company from the very start determined to retire at
least temporarily from the field of stenographic use,
and to exploit the phonograph for musical purposes as
a competitor of the music-box. Hence it was necessary
that for such work the relatively heavy and expensive
electric motor should be discarded, and a simple
spring motor constructed with a sufficiently sensitive
governor to permit accurate musical reproduction.
Such a motor was designed, and is now used on all
phonographs except on such special instruments as
may be made with electric motors, as well as on the
successful apparatus that has more recently been
designed and introduced for stenographic use. Improved
factory facilities were introduced; new tools
were made, and various types of machines were designed
so that phonographs can now be bought at
prices ranging from $10 to $200. Even with the
changes which were thus made in the two machines,
the work of developing the business was slow, as a
demand had to be created; and the early prejudice
of the public against the phonograph, due to its failure
as a stenographic apparatus, had to be overcome.
The story of the phonograph as an industrial enterprise,
from this point of departure, is itself full of
interest, but embraces so many details that it is
necessarily given in a separate later chapter. We must
return to the days of 1878, when Edison, with at
least three first-class inventions to his credit--the
quadruplex, the carbon telephone, and the phonograph
--had become a man of mark and a "world

The invention of the phonograph was immediately
followed, as usual, by the appearance of several other
incidental and auxiliary devices, some patented, and
others remaining simply the application of the principles
of apparatus that had been worked out. One
of these was the telephonograph, a combination of a
telephone at a distant station with a phonograph.
The diaphragm of the phonograph mouthpiece is
actuated by an electromagnet in the same way as
that of an ordinary telephone receiver, and in this
manner a record of the message spoken from a distance
can be obtained and turned into sound at will.
Evidently such a process is reversible, and the
phonograph can send a message to the distant receiver.

This idea was brilliantly demonstrated in practice
in February, 1889, by Mr. W. J. Hammer, one of
Edison's earliest and most capable associates, who
carried on telephonographic communication between
New York and an audience in Philadelphia. The
record made in New York on the Edison phonograph
was repeated into an Edison carbon transmitter, sent
over one hundred and three miles of circuit, including
six miles of underground cable; received by an Edison
motograph; repeated by that on to a phonograph;
transferred from the phonograph to an Edison carbon
transmitter, and by that delivered to the Edison
motograph receiver in the enthusiastic lecture-hall,
where every one could hear each sound and syllable
distinctly. In real practice this spectacular playing
with sound vibrations, as if they were lacrosse balls
to toss around between the goals, could be materially

The modern megaphone, now used universally in
making announcements to large crowds, particularly
at sporting events, is also due to this period as a
perfection by Edison of many antecedent devices going
back, perhaps, much further than the legendary
funnels through which Alexander the Great is said
to have sent commands to his outlying forces. The
improved Edison megaphone for long-distance work
comprised two horns of wood or metal about six feet
long, tapering from a diameter of two feet six inches
at the mouth to a small aperture provided with ear-
tubes. These converging horns or funnels, with a
large speaking-trumpet in between them, are mounted
on a tripod, and the megaphone is complete.
Conversation can be carried on with this megaphone
at a distance of over two miles, as with a ship or
the balloon. The modern megaphone now employs
the receiver form thus introduced as its very effective
transmitter, with which the old-fashioned speaking-
trumpet cannot possibly compete; and the word
"megaphone" is universally applied to the single,
side-flaring horn.

A further step in this line brought Edison to the
"aerophone," around which the Figaro weaved its
fanciful description. In the construction of the aerophone
the same kind of tympanum is used as in the
phonograph, but the imitation of the human voice,
or the transmission of sound, is effected by the quick
opening and closing of valves placed within a steam-
whistle or an organ-pipe. The vibrations of the
diaphragm communicated to the valves cause them
to operate in synchronism, so that the vibrations are
thrown upon the escaping air or steam; and the result
is an instrument with a capacity of magnifying
the sounds two hundred times, and of hurling them
to great distances intelligibly, like a huge fog-siren,
but with immense clearness and penetration. All
this study of sound transmission over long distances
without wires led up to the consideration and inven-
tion of pioneer apparatus for wireless telegraphy--
but that also is another chapter.

Yet one more ingenious device of this period must
be noted--Edison's vocal engine, the patent application
for which was executed in August, 1878, the
patent being granted the following December. Reference
to this by Edison himself has already been
quoted. The "voice-engine," or "phonomotor," converts
the vibrations of the voice or of music, acting
on the diaphragm, into motion which is utilized to
drive some secondary appliance, whether as a toy
or for some useful purpose. Thus a man can actually
talk a hole through a board.

Somewhat weary of all this work and excitement,
and not having enjoyed any cessation from toil, or
period of rest, for ten years, Edison jumped eagerly
at the opportunity afforded him in the summer of
1878 of making a westward trip. Just thirty years
later, on a similar trip over the same ground, he
jotted down for this volume some of his reminiscences.
The lure of 1878 was the opportunity to try
the ability of his delicate tasimeter during the total
eclipse of the sun, July 29. His admiring friend, Prof.
George F. Barker, of the University of Pennsylvania,
with whom he had now been on terms of intimacy
for some years, suggested the holiday, and was himself
a member of the excursion party that made its
rendezvous at Rawlins, Wyoming Territory. Edison
had tested his tasimeter, and was satisfied that it
would measure down to the millionth part of a
degree Fahrenheit. It was just ten years since he
had left the West in poverty and obscurity, a penni-
less operator in search of a job; but now he was a
great inventor and famous, a welcome addition to
the band of astronomers and physicists assembled
to observe the eclipse and the corona.

"There were astronomers from nearly every nation,"
says Mr. Edison. "We had a special car.
The country at that time was rather new; game was
in great abundance, and could be seen all day long
from the car window, especially antelope. We arrived
at Rawlins about 4 P.M. It had a small machine
shop, and was the point where locomotives
were changed for the next section. The hotel was a
very small one, and by doubling up we were barely
accommodated. My room-mate was Fox, the correspondent
of the New York Herald. After we retired
and were asleep a thundering knock on the door
awakened us. Upon opening the door a tall, handsome
man with flowing hair dressed in western style
entered the room. His eyes were bloodshot, and he
was somewhat inebriated. He introduced himself as
`Texas Jack'--Joe Chromondo--and said he wanted
to see Edison, as he had read about me in the newspapers.
Both Fox and I were rather scared, and
didn't know what was to be the result of the interview.
The landlord requested him not to make so
much noise, and was thrown out into the hall. Jack
explained that he had just come in with a party
which had been hunting, and that he felt fine. He
explained, also, that he was the boss pistol-shot of
the West; that it was he who taught the celebrated
Doctor Carver how to shoot. Then suddenly pointing
to a weather-vane on the freight depot, he pulled
out a Colt revolver and fired through the window,
hitting the vane. The shot awakened all the people,
and they rushed in to see who was killed. It was
only after I told him I was tired and would see him
in the morning that he left. Both Fox and I were so
nervous we didn't sleep any that night.

"We were told in the morning that Jack was a
pretty good fellow, and was not one of the `bad
men,' of whom they had a good supply. They had
one in the jail, and Fox and I went over to see him. A
few days before he had held up a Union Pacific train
and robbed all the passengers. In the jail also was a
half-breed horse-thief. We interviewed the bad man
through bars as big as railroad rails. He looked like
a `bad man.' The rim of his ear all around came
to a sharp edge and was serrated. His eyes were nearly
white, and appeared as if made of glass and set in
wrong, like the life-size figures of Indians in the
Smithsonian Institution. His face was also extremely
irregular. He wouldn't answer a single question.
I learned afterward that he got seven years in prison,
while the horse-thief was hanged. As horses ran
wild, and there was no protection, it meant death
to steal one."

This was one interlude among others. "The first
thing the astronomers did was to determine with
precision their exact locality upon the earth. A number
of observations were made, and Watson, of Michigan
University, with two others, worked all night
computing, until they agreed. They said they were
not in error more than one hundred feet, and that
the station was twelve miles out of the position given
on the maps. It seemed to take an immense amount
of mathematics. I preserved one of the sheets, which
looked like the time-table of a Chinese railroad. The
instruments of the various parties were then set up
in different parts of the little town, and got ready
for the eclipse which was to occur in three or four days.
Two days before the event we all got together, and
obtaining an engine and car, went twelve miles
farther west to visit the United States Government
astronomers at a place called Separation, the apex
of the Great Divide, where the waters run east to the
Mississippi and west to the Pacific. Fox and I took
our Winchester rifles with an idea of doing a little
shooting. After calling on the Government people
we started to interview the telegraph operator at this
most lonely and desolate spot. After talking over old
acquaintances I asked him if there was any game
around. He said, `Plenty of jack-rabbits.' These
jack-rabbits are a very peculiar species. They have
ears about six inches long and very slender legs,
about three times as long as those of an ordinary
rabbit, and travel at a great speed by a series of
jumps, each about thirty feet long, as near as I could
judge. The local people called them `narrow-gauge
mules.' Asking the operator the best direction, he
pointed west, and noticing a rabbit in a clear space
in the sage bushes, I said, `There is one now.' I
advanced cautiously to within one hundred feet and
shot. The rabbit paid no attention. I then advanced
to within ten feet and shot again--the rabbit
was still immovable. On looking around, the whole
crowd at the station were watching--and then I
knew the rabbit was stuffed! However, we did shoot
a number of live ones until Fox ran out of cartridges.
On returning to the station I passed away the time
shooting at cans set on a pile of tins. Finally the
operator said to Fox: `I have a fine Springfield
musket, suppose you try it!' So Fox took the
musket and fired. It knocked him nearly over. It
seems that the musket had been run over by a handcar,
which slightly bent the long barrel, but not
sufficiently for an amateur like Fox to notice. After
Fox had his shoulder treated with arnica at the
Government hospital tent, we returned to Rawlins."

The eclipse was, however, the prime consideration,
and Edison followed the example of his colleagues in
making ready. The place which he secured for setting
up his tasimeter was an enclosure hardly suitable
for the purpose, and he describes the results as follows:

"I had my apparatus in a small yard enclosed by
a board fence six feet high, at one end there was a
house for hens. I noticed that they all went to roost
just before totality. At the same time a slight wind
arose, and at the moment of totality the atmosphere
was filled with thistle-down and other light articles.
I noticed one feather, whose weight was at least one
hundred and fifty milligrams, rise perpendicularly to
the top of the fence, where it floated away on the
wind. My apparatus was entirely too sensitive, and
I got no results." It was found that the heat from
the corona of the sun was ten times the index capacity
of the instrument; but this result did not leave the
value of the device in doubt. The Scientific American

"Seeing that the tasimeter is affected by a wider range
of etheric undulations than the eye can take cognizance
of, and is withal far more acutely sensitive, the probabilities
are that it will open up hitherto inaccessible
regions of space, and possibly extend the range of aerial
knowledge as far beyond the limit obtained by the telescope
as that is beyond the narrow reach of unaided

The eclipse over, Edison, with Professor Barker,
Major Thornberg, several soldiers, and a number of
railroad officials, went hunting about one hundred
miles south of the railroad in the Ute country. A
few months later the Major and thirty soldiers were
ambushed near the spot at which the hunting-party
had camped, and all were killed. Through an introduction
from Mr. Jay Gould, who then controlled the
Union Pacific, Edison was allowed to ride on the
cow-catchers of the locomotives. "The different
engineers gave me a small cushion, and every day I
rode in this manner, from Omaha to the Sacramento
Valley, except through the snow-shed on the summit
of the Sierras, without dust or anything else to
obstruct the view. Only once was I in danger when
the locomotive struck an animal about the size of
a small cub bear--which I think was a badger. This
animal struck the front of the locomotive just under
the headlight with great violence, and was then
thrown off by the rebound. I was sitting to one side
grasping the angle brace, so no harm was done."

This welcome vacation lasted nearly two months;
but Edison was back in his laboratory and hard at
work before the end of August, gathering up many
loose ends, and trying out many thoughts and ideas
that had accumulated on the trip. One hot afternoon
--August 30th, as shown by the document in
the case--Mr. Edison was found by one of the authors
of this biography employed most busily in making
a mysterious series of tests on paper, using for ink
acids that corrugated and blistered the paper where
written upon. When interrogated as to his object,
he stated that the plan was to afford blind people
the means of writing directly to each other, especially
if they were also deaf and could not hear a message
on the phonograph. The characters which he was
thus forming on the paper were high enough in relief
to be legible to the delicate touch of a blind man's
fingers, and with simple apparatus letters could be
thus written, sent, and read. There was certainly
no question as to the result obtained at the moment,
which was all that was asked; but the Edison autograph
thus and then written now shows the paper
eaten out by the acid used, although covered with
glass for many years. Mr. Edison does not remember
that he ever recurred to this very interesting test.

He was, however, ready for anything new or novel,
and no record can ever be made or presented that
would do justice to a tithe of the thoughts and fancies
daily and hourly put upon the rack. The famous
note-books, to which reference will be made later,
were not begun as a regular series, as it was only the
profusion of these ideas that suggested the vital value
of such systematic registration. Then as now, the
propositions brought to Edison ranged over every
conceivable subject, but the years have taught him
caution in grappling with them. He tells an amusing
story of one dilemma into which his good-nature led
him at this period: "At Menlo Park one day, a farmer
came in and asked if I knew any way to kill potato-
bugs. He had twenty acres of potatoes, and the
vines were being destroyed. I sent men out and
culled two quarts of bugs, and tried every chemical
I had to destroy them. Bisulphide of carbon was
found to do it instantly. I got a drum and went over
to the potato farm and sprinkled it on the vines with
a pot. Every bug dropped dead. The next morning
the farmer came in very excited and reported that
the stuff had killed the vines as well. I had to pay
$300 for not experimenting properly."

During this year, 1878, the phonograph made its
way also to Europe, and various sums of money were
paid there to secure the rights to its manufacture and
exploitation. In England, for example, the Microscopic
Company paid $7500 down and agreed to a
royalty, while arrangements were effected also in
France, Russia, and other countries. In every instance,
as in this country, the commercial development
had to wait several years, for in the mean time
another great art had been brought into existence,
demanding exclusive attention and exhaustive toil.
And when the work was done the reward was a new
heaven and a new earth--in the art of illumination.



IT is possible to imagine a time to come when the
hours of work and rest will once more be regulated
by the sun. But the course of civilization has been
marked by an artificial lengthening of the day, and by a
constant striving after more perfect means of illumination.
Why mankind should sleep through several hours
of sunlight in the morning, and stay awake through
a needless time in the evening, can probably only
be attributed to total depravity. It is certainly a
most stupid, expensive, and harmful habit. In no
one thing has man shown greater fertility of invention
than in lighting; to nothing does he cling more
tenaciously than to his devices for furnishing light.
Electricity to-day reigns supreme in the field of
illumination, but every other kind of artificial light
that has ever been known is still in use somewhere.
Toward its light-bringers the race has assumed an
attitude of veneration, though it has forgotten, if it
ever heard, the names of those who first brightened
its gloom and dissipated its darkness. If the tallow
candle, hitherto unknown, were now invented, its
creator would be hailed as one of the greatest
benefactors of the present age.

Up to the close of the eighteenth century, the means
of house and street illumination were of two generic
kinds--grease and oil; but then came a swift and
revolutionary change in the adoption of gas. The
ideas and methods of Murdoch and Lebon soon took
definite shape, and "coal smoke" was piped from its
place of origin to distant points of consumption. As
early as 1804, the first company ever organized for
gas lighting was formed in London, one side of Pall
Mall being lit up by the enthusiastic pioneer, Winsor,
in 1807. Equal activity was shown in America, and
Baltimore began the practice of gas lighting in 1816.
It is true that there were explosions, and distinguished
men like Davy and Watt opined that the illuminant
was too dangerous; but the "spirit of coal" had
demonstrated its usefulness convincingly, and a
commercial development began, which, for extent
and rapidity, was not inferior to that marking the
concurrent adoption of steam in industry and transportation.

Meantime the wax candle and the Argand oil lamp
held their own bravely. The whaling fleets, long after
gas came into use, were one of the greatest sources
of our national wealth. To New Bedford, Massachusetts,
alone, some three or four hundred ships
brought their whale and sperm oil, spermaceti, and
whalebone; and at one time that port was accounted
the richest city in the United States in proportion
to its population. The ship-owners and refiners of
that whaling metropolis were slow to believe that
their monopoly could ever be threatened by newer
sources of illumination; but gas had become available
in the cities, and coal-oil and petroleum were now
added to the list of illuminating materials. The
American whaling fleet, which at the time of Edison's
birth mustered over seven hundred sail, had dwindled
probably to a bare tenth when he took up the problem
of illumination; and the competition of oil from
the ground with oil from the sea, and with coal-gas,
had made the artificial production of light cheaper
than ever before, when up to the middle of the century
it had remained one of the heaviest items of
domestic expense. Moreover, just about the time
that Edison took up incandescent lighting, water-gas
was being introduced on a large scale as a commercial
illuminant that could be produced at a much lower
cost than coal-gas.

Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century
the search for a practical electric light was almost
wholly in the direction of employing methods analogous
to those already familiar; in other words, obtaining
the illumination from the actual consumption of
the light-giving material. In the third quarter of
the century these methods were brought to practicality,
but all may be referred back to the brilliant
demonstrations of Sir Humphry Davy at the Royal
Institution, circa 1809-10, when, with the current
from a battery of two thousand cells, he produced an
intense voltaic arc between the points of consuming
sticks of charcoal. For more than thirty years the
arc light remained an expensive laboratory experiment;
but the coming of the dynamo placed that
illuminant on a commercial basis. The mere fact
that electrical energy from the least expensive chemical
battery using up zinc and acids costs twenty
times as much as that from a dynamo--driven by
steam-engine--is in itself enough to explain why so
many of the electric arts lingered in embryo after
their fundamental principles had been discovered.
Here is seen also further proof of the great truth
that one invention often waits for another.

From 1850 onward the improvements in both the
arc lamp and the dynamo were rapid; and under the
superintendence of the great Faraday, in 1858, protecting
beams of intense electric light from the voltaic
arc were shed over the waters of the Straits of Dover
from the beacons of South Foreland and Dungeness.
By 1878 the arc-lighting industry had sprung into
existence in so promising a manner as to engender
an extraordinary fever and furor of speculation. At
the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876,
Wallace-Farmer dynamos built at Ansonia, Connecticut,
were shown, with the current from which arc
lamps were there put in actual service. A year or
two later the work of Charles F. Brush and Edward
Weston laid the deep foundation of modern arc lighting
in America, securing as well substantial recognition

Thus the new era had been ushered in, but it was
based altogether on the consumption of some material
--carbon--in a lamp open to the air. Every
lamp the world had ever known did this, in one way
or another. Edison himself began at that point,
and his note-books show that he made various experiments
with this type of lamp at a very early stage.
Indeed, his experiments had led him so far as to
anticipate in 1875 what are now known as "flaming
arcs," the exceedingly bright and generally orange
or rose-colored lights which have been introduced
within the last few years, and are now so frequently
seen in streets and public places. While the arcs
with plain carbons are bluish-white, those with carbons
containing calcium fluoride have a notable
golden glow.

He was convinced, however, that the greatest field
of lighting lay in the illumination of houses and other
comparatively enclosed areas, to replace the ordinary
gas light, rather than in the illumination of streets
and other outdoor places by lights of great volume
and brilliancy. Dismissing from his mind quickly
the commercial impossibility of using arc lights for
general indoor illumination, he arrived at the conclusion
that an electric lamp giving light by incandescence
was the solution of the problem.

Edison was familiar with the numerous but
impracticable and commercially unsuccessful efforts
that had been previously made by other inventors
and investigators to produce electric light by incandescence,
and at the time that he began his experiments,
in 1877, almost the whole scientific world
had pronounced such an idea as impossible of fulfilment.
The leading electricians, physicists, and experts
of the period had been studying the subject
for more than a quarter of a century, and with but
one known exception had proven mathematically and
by close reasoning that the "Subdivision of the
Electric Light," as it was then termed, was practically
beyond attainment. Opinions of this nature
have ever been but a stimulus to Edison when he
has given deep thought to a subject, and has become
impressed with strong convictions of possibility, and
in this particular case he was satisfied that the subdivision
of the electric light--or, more correctly, the
subdivision of the electric current--was not only
possible but entirely practicable.

It will have been perceived from the foregoing
chapters that from the time of boyhood, when he
first began to rub against the world, his commercial
instincts were alert and predominated in almost all
of the enterprises that he set in motion. This
characteristic trait had grown stronger as he matured,
having received, as it did, fresh impetus and strength
from his one lapse in the case of his first patented
invention, the vote-recorder. The lesson he then
learned was to devote his inventive faculties only to
things for which there was a real, genuine demand,
and that would subserve the actual necessities of
humanity; and it was probably a fortunate circumstance
that this lesson was learned at the outset of
his career as an inventor. He has never assumed to
be a philosopher or "pure scientist."

In order that the reader may grasp an adequate
idea of the magnitude and importance of Edison's
invention of the incandescent lamp, it will be necessary
to review briefly the "state of the art" at the
time he began his experiments on that line. After
the invention of the voltaic battery, early in the last
century, experiments were made which determined
that heat could be produced by the passage of the
electric current through wires of platinum and other
metals, and through pieces of carbon, as noted al-
ready, and it was, of course, also observed that if
sufficient current were passed through these conductors
they could be brought from the lower stage
of redness up to the brilliant white heat of incandescence.
As early as 1845 the results of these experiments
were taken advantage of when Starr, a
talented American who died at the early age of
twenty-five, suggested, in his English patent of that
year, two forms of small incandescent electric lamps,
one having a burner made from platinum foil placed
under a glass cover without excluding the air; and
the other composed of a thin plate or pencil of carbon
enclosed in a Torricellian vacuum. These suggestions
of young Starr were followed by many other experimenters,
whose improvements consisted principally
in devices to increase the compactness and portability
of the lamp, in the sealing of the lamp chamber
to prevent the admission of air, and in means
for renewing the carbon burner when it had been consumed.
Thus Roberts, in 1852, proposed to cement
the neck of the glass globe into a metallic cup, and
to provide it with a tube or stop-cock for exhaustion
by means of a hand-pump. Lodyguine, Konn, Kosloff,
and Khotinsky, between 1872 and 1877, proposed
various ingenious devices for perfecting the

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