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The Incandescent Lamp


After patenting the phonograph, Edison set out to develop an incandescent lamp, which would produce light by heating a wire until it glowed brightly. People already used electric arc lights, which produced light by creating an arc of electricity between two wires. However, the blinding glare these arc lights gave off 3 made them unsuitable for home use. Edison, like others before him, conceived the idea of a light with a glowing wire, or filament, made of a substance that could endure very high temperatures without fusing, melting, or burning out. After hundreds of trials and more than a year of steady work, Edison developed a high-resistance carbon-thread filament 4 that burned steadily for more than 40 hours. Although not the first incandescent electric light, it was the first practical one because it used a small current and, in addition, lasted a long time without burning out.


Electric Power Distribution Systems


Edison realized that widespread use of electric light bulbs would require an efficient system of delivering electricity to homes and businesses. He developed detailed plans for an entire distribution system for electric power. This system included generating the current by means of a central dynamo (device that turns mechanical energy into electricity) and then distributing it in small quantities to thousands of homes and commercial buildings. Edison even developed a greatly improved dynamo to reduce the cost of generating electricity. The system Edison suggested in 1879 included the parallel circuits, safety fuses, insulating materials, and copper-wire networks used in modern electrical systems.

By 1881 Edison had set up a complete electric lighting system at his Menlo Park home. That same year his system took top honors at the Paris Electrical Exhibition in France. In 1882 at Holborn Viaduct in London, the Edison Electric Lighting Company completed and began operating the first commercial generating station for incandescent lighting in the world. This installation used an underground main and feeder circuit to supply power for 2,000 lamps. Later in 1882 Edison established the first permanent incandescent light and power station for private consumers, called the Pearl Street generating station, in New York City.


The Edison Effect


While Edison was working on the electric light, he made a scientific discovery that would become important to future generations. Edison noticed that particles of carbon from the filament blackened the insides of his light bulbs. This effect was caused by the emission of electrons from the filament, although Edison made the discovery before he and other scientists knew the electron existed. Not until 1897 did British physicist J. J. Thomson prove that the blackening observed by Edison was caused by the emission of electrons. This so-called Edison effect became the foundation of all modern electronics. Radio, television, radar, and computers all depend on it.

In 1884 Edison received a patent for a device based on the Edison effect. The device was designed to indicate variations in the output from electrical generators. The indicator proved ineffective because obtaining a good vacuum in devices at that time was difficult, but this was the first patent for a device that made use of the emission of electrons. It marked the beginning of the field of electronics.



In 1884 Edison's first wife died of typhoid fever, and thereafter the inventor rarely returned to his laboratories at Menlo Park. After his second marriage in 1886, Edison bought Glenmont, a large country estate in West Orange, New Jersey, where he established a new laboratory. He remained there for 45 years. Glenmont and the laboratory are preserved as part of the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange and are open to the public.


Motion Pictures


In 1888 Edward Muybridge, an English pioneer in stop-motion photography, showed Edison his photographs of horses in full gallop. Muybridge had taken the photographs using a series of cameras, equipped with fast-action shutters5, which he arranged along the side of a racetrack.. The shutter of each camera was released when a horse broke through a string stretched across the track. By this method, Muybridge obtained a series of pictures showing a short cycle of motion. The pictures could be passed in rapid succession in front of a peephole, giving the viewer the illusion that the horses were moving.

Muybridge's visit inspired Edison, who had already recorded sound, to think of recording movement photographically. He began work almost immediately on what was to become the first motion-picture camera. His first crude apparatus consisted of a photographically sensitive cylinder that revolved in synchrony with the camera shutter to take about 40 pictures per second. In 1889 the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company produced and patented a celluloid roll film 6 and Edison promptly replaced his bulky cylinder with 15-m strips of the Eastman film. The new machine, completed in 1890, was the prototype of all modern motion-picture cameras.

For the showing of his motion pictures, Edison built a mechanism, called the Kinetoscope, which used positive film moving past a peephole. (Positive film shows the correct areas of light and darkness in a photograph, while the negative shows the opposite.) Although only one viewer at a time could see the film, it gave much clearer and steadier pictures than did available screen and projector devices.


Edison's Studio


In 1893 Edison constructed the first motion-picture studio. The building was 15.2 m long and had a hinged roof 7 that could be raised to admit sunlight. The whole building was mounted on a pivot and could swing around to follow the sun. Edison had the walls on the inside painted black because this background helped the cameras produce sharper pictures. In 1893 and 1894, Edison produced numerous one-minute films. His moving pictures included figures such as French ballet girls; Japanese dancers; American showman "Buffalo Bill" Cody with accompanying Indians in the first Western movie; and American prizefighter "Gentleman Jim" Corbett sparring with other boxers.


Date: 2015-12-24; view: 893

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