His life's work heavily influenced everything from electric power, batteries and lighting to cement, telegraphy and mining. While Edison's inventions are important, what he represented was also critical to the nation as a whole. Edison represented the American Dream, specifically the notion that hard work can accomplish anything, and he always understood that himself, once exhorting the nation, "Be courageous! Whatever setbacks America has encountered, it has always emerged as a stronger and more prosperous nation. Westinghouse saw a way to build a truly competitive system instead of simply building another barely competitive DC lighting system using patents just different enough to get around the Edison patents.
Westinghouse purchased the US patents rights to the Gaulard-Gibbs transformer and imported several of those as well as Siemens AC generators to begin experimenting with an AC-based lighting system in Pittsburgh. The Westinghouse Electric Company was formed at the beginning of In March Stanley, with Westinghouse's backing, installed the first multiple-voltage AC power system, a demonstration incandescent lighting system, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. By the end of Westinghouse had 68 alternating current power stations to Edison's DC-based stations.
All of the companies had their own electric power systems, arc lighting systems, and even incandescent lamp designs for domestic lighting, leading to constant lawsuits and patent battles between themselves and with Edison. Elihu Thomson of Thomson-Houston was concerned about AC safety and put a great deal of effort into developing a lightning arrestor for high-tension power lines as well as a magnetic blowout switch that could shut the system down in a power surge, a safety feature the Westinghouse system did not have.
He also thought the idea of using AC lighting in residential homes was too dangerous and had the company hold back on that type of installation until a safer transformer could be developed.
Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison: The war of currents and the search for truth - Education Today News
Due to the hazards presented by high voltage electrical lines most European cities and the city of Chicago in the US required them to be buried underground. Besides being an eyesore , New Yorkers were annoyed when a large March snowstorm the Great Blizzard of tore down a large number of the lines, cutting off utilities in the city. This spurred on the idea of having these lines moved underground but it was stopped by a court injunction obtained by Western Union. Legislation to give all the utilities 90 days to move their lines into underground conduits supplied by the city was slowly making its way through the government but that was also being fought in court by the United States Illuminating Company, who claimed their AC lines were perfectly safe.
As AC systems continued to spread into territories covered by DC systems, with the companies seeming to impinge on Edison patents including incandescent lighting, things got worse for the company. The price of copper was rising, adding to the expense of Edison's low voltage DC system, which required much heavier copper wires than higher voltage AC systems. Thomas Edison's own colleagues and engineers were trying to get him to consider AC. Edison's sales force was continually losing bids in municipalities that opted for cheaper AC systems  and Edison Electric Illuminating Company president Edward Hibberd Johnson pointed out that if the company stuck with an all DC system it would not be able to do business in small towns and even mid-sized cities.
After Westinghouse installed his first large scale system Edison wrote in a November private letter to Edward Johnson, " Just as certain as death Westinghouse will kill a customer within six months after he puts in a system of any size, He has got a new thing and it will require a great deal of experimenting to get it working practically. He noted what he saw as inefficiencies and that, combined with the capital costs in trying to finance very large generating plants, led him to believe there would be very little cost savings in an AC venture.
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In February Edison Electric president Edward Johnson published an page pamphlet titled " A Warning from the Edison Electric Light Company " and sent it to newspapers and to companies that had purchased or were planning to purchase electrical equipment from Edison competitors, including Westinghouse and Thomson Houston, stating that the competitors were infringing on Edison's incandescent light and other electrical patents. The pamphlet also emphasized the safety and efficiency of direct current, with the claim DC had not caused a single death, and included newspaper stories of accidental electrocutions caused by alternating current.
As arc lighting systems spread so did stories of how the high voltages involved were killing people, usually unwary linemen, a strange new phenomenon that seemed to instantaneously strike a victim dead. Southwick to seek some application for the curious phenomenon. Fell and the Buffalo ASPCA, electrocuting hundreds of stray dogs, to come up with a method to euthanize animals via electricity.
An commission appointed by New York governor David B. Hill , which including Southwick, recommended in that executions be carried out by electricity using the electric chair. There were early indications that this new form of execution would become mixed up with the war of currents. As part of their fact-finding , the commission sent out surveys to hundreds of experts on law and medicine, seeking their opinions, as well as contacting electrical experts, including Elihu Thomson and Thomas Edison. After further prompting, Edison hit out at his chief electric power competitor, George Westinghouse, in what may have been the opening salvo in the war of currents, stating in a December letter to Southwick that it would be best to use current generated by "'alternating machines,' manufactured principally in this country by Geo.
As the number of deaths attributed to high voltage lighting around the country continued to mount, a cluster of deaths in New York City in the spring of related to AC arc lighting set off a media frenzy against the "deadly arc-lighting current"  and the seemingly callous lighting companies that used it. The press in New York seemed to switch overnight from stories about electric lights vs gas lighting to "death by wire" incidents, with each new report seeming to fan public resentment against high voltage AC and the dangerously tangled overhead electrical wires in the city.
At this point an electrical engineer named Harold P. Brown , who at that time seemed to have no connection to the Edison company,  sent a June 5, letter to the editor of the New York Post claiming the root of the problem was the alternating current AC system being used. Brown argued that the AC system was inherently dangerous and "damnable" and asked why the "public must submit to constant danger from sudden death" just so utilities could use a cheaper AC system. At the beginning of attacks on AC, Westinghouse, in a June 7, letter, tried to defuse the situation. He invited Edison to visit him in Pittsburgh and said "I believe there has been a systemic attempt on the part of some people to do a great deal of mischief and create as great a difference as possible between the Edison Company and The Westinghouse Electric Co.
Edison thanked him but said "My laboratory work consumes the whole of my time". On June 8 Brown was lobbying in person before the New York Board of Electrical Control, asking that his letter to the paper be read into the meeting's record and demanding severe regulations on AC including limiting power to volts, a level that would make AC next to useless for transmission.
There were many rebuttals to Browns claims in the newspapers and letters to the board, with people pointing out he was showing no scientific evidence that AC was more dangerous than DC. Westinghouse pointed out in letters to various newspapers the number of fires caused by DC equipment and suggested that Brown was obviously being controlled by Edison, something Brown continually denied.
At a July meeting Board of Electrical Control, Brown's criticisms of AC and even his knowledge of electricity was challenged by other electrical engineers, some of whom worked for Westinghouse. At this meeting, supporters of AC provided anecdotal stories from electricians on how they had survived shocks from AC at voltages up to volts and argued that DC was the more dangerous of the two. Brown, determined to prove alternating current was more dangerous than direct current, at some point contacted Thomas Edison to see if he could make use of equipment to conduct experiments.
Brown paid local children to collect stray dogs off the street for his experiments with direct and alternating current. Brown then applied volts of alternating current which killed the dog. Four days later he held a second demonstration to answer critics' claims that the DC probably weakened the dog before it died. In this second demonstration, three dogs were killed in quick succession with volts of AC. Brown's campaign to restrict AC to volts went nowhere but legislation did come close to passing in Ohio and Virginia. What brought Brown to the forefront of the debate over AC and his motives remain unclear,  but historians note there grew to be some form of collusion between the Edison company and Brown.
Hastings who came up with the idea of using Brown and several New York physicians to attack Westinghouse and the other AC companies in retaliation for what Hastings thought were unscrupulous bids by Westinghouse for lighting contracts in Denver and Minneapolis.
War of the currents
In addition, Thomas Edison himself sent a letter to the city government of Scranton, Pennsylvania recommending Brown as an expert on the dangers of AC. During this period Westinghouse continued to pour money and engineering resources into the goal of building a completely integrated AC system. He bought the Waterhouse Electric Light Company in and the United States Illuminating Company in , giving Westinghouse their own arc lighting systems as well as control over all the major incandescent lamp patents not controlled by Edison.
Shallenberger developed an induction meter that used a rotating magnetic field for measuring alternating current giving the company a way to calculate how much electricity a customer used. Morgan to take over Westinghouse Electric. Thomson-Houston was continuing to expand, buying seven smaller electric companies including a purchase of the Brush Electric Company in Several of the business deals between Thomson-Houston and Westinghouse fell apart and in April a judge rolled back part of Westinghouse's original Gaulard Gibbs patent, stating it only covered transformers linked in series.
Morgan and the Vanderbilt family for Edison's lighting experiments, merged. Through the fall of a battle of words with Brown specifically attacking Westinghouse continued to escalate. The magazine investigated the claim and found at most only two of the deaths could be attributed to Westinghouse installations. Although New York had a criminal procedure code that specified electrocution via an electric chair, it did not spell out the type of electricity, the amount of current, or its method of supply, since these were still relative unknowns.
During this time they sought the advice of Harold Brown as a consultant. This ended up expanding the war of currents into the development of the chair and the general debate over capital punishment in the US. After the Medico-Legal Society formed their committee in September chairman Frederick Peterson , who had been an assistant at Brown's July public electrocution of dogs with AC at Columbia College,  had the results of those experiments submitted to the committee. The claims that AC was more deadly than DC and was the best current to use was questioned with some committee members, pointing out that Brown's experiments were not scientifically carried out and were on animals smaller than a human being.
At their November meeting the committee recommended volts although the type of electricity, direct current or alternating current , was not determined. Hastings to arrange the use of the West Orange laboratory. Brown used alternating current for all of his tests on animals larger than a human, including 4 calves and a lame horse, all dispatched with volts of AC. Westinghouse criticized these tests as a skewed self-serving demonstration designed to be a direct attack on alternating current.
Brown's December 18 letter refuted the claims and Brown even challenged Westinghouse to an electrical duel, with Brown agreeing to be shocked by ever-increasing amounts of DC power if Westinghouse submitted himself to the same amount of increasing AC power, first to quit loses. In March when members of the Medico-Legal Society embarked on another series of tests to work out the details of electrode composition and placement they turned to Brown for technical assistance.
Also in March, Superintendent of Prisons Austin Lathrop asked Brown if he could supply the equipment needed for the executions as well as design the electric chair. Brown turned down the job of designing the chair but did agree to fulfill the contract to supply the necessary electrical equipment. This became another behind-the-scenes maneuver to acquire Westinghouse AC generators to supply the current, apparently with the help of the Edison company and Westinghouse's chief AC rival, Thomson-Houston.
In May when New York had its first criminal sentenced to be executed in the electric chair, a street merchant named William Kemmler , there was a great deal of discussion in the editorial column of the New York Times as to what to call the then-new form of execution. The term " Westinghouse d" was put forward as well as " Gerry cide" after death penalty commission head Elbridge Gerry , and " Brown ed". William Kemmler was sentenced to die in the electric chair around June 24, , but before the sentence could be carried out an appeal was filed on the grounds that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the US Constitution.
It became obvious to the press and everyone involved that the politically connected and expensive lawyer who filed the appeal, William Bourke Cockran , had no connection to the case but did have connection to the Westinghouse company, obviously paying for his services. During fact-finding hearings held around the state beginning on July 9 in New York City, Cockran used his considerable skills as a cross-examiner and orator to attack Brown, Edison, and their supporters.
His strategy was to show that Brown had falsified his test on the killing power of AC and to prove that electricity would not cause certain death and simply lead to torturing the condemned. In cross examination he questioned Brown's lack of credentials in the electrical field and brought up possible collusion between Brown and Edison, which Brown again denied. Many witnesses were called by both sides to give firsthand anecdotal accounts about encounters with electricity and evidence was given by medical professionals on the human body's nervous system and the electrical conductivity of skin.
Brown was accused of fudging his tests on animals, hiding the fact that he was using lower current DC and high-current AC. After the gathered testimony was submitted and the two sides presented their case, Judge Edwin Day ruled against Kemmler's appeal on October 9 and US Supreme Court denied Kemmler's appeal on May 23, When the chair was first used, on August 6, , the technicians on hand misjudged the voltage needed to kill William Kemmler.
After the first jolt of electricity Kemmler was found to be still breathing. The procedure had to be repeated and a reporter on hand described it as "an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging. On August 25, the New York Sun ran a story headlined:. The story was based on 45 letters stolen from Brown's office that spelled out Brown's collusion with Thomson-Houston and Edison Electric. The majority of the letters were correspondence between Brown and Thomson-Houston on the topic of acquiring the three Westinghouse generators for the state of New York as well as using one of them in an efficiency test.
Further Edison involvement was contained in letters from Edison treasurer Hastings asking Brown to send anti-AC pamphlets to all the legislators in the state of Missouri at the company's expense , Brown requesting that a letter of recommendation from Thomas Edison be sent to Scranton, PA, as well as Edison and Arthur Kennelly coaching Brown in his upcoming testimony in the Kemmler appeal trial.
Brown was not slowed down by this revelation and characterized his efforts to expose Westinghouse as the same as going after a grocer who sells poison and calls it sugar. Grant , in a meeting with the Board of Electrical Control and the AC electric companies, rejected the claims that the AC lines were perfectly safe saying " we get news of all who touch them through the coroners office ".
As the lunchtime crowd below looked on he grabbed a nearby line that, unknown to him, had been shorted many blocks away with a high-voltage AC line. The jolt entered through his bare right hand and exited his left steel studded climbing boot. Feeks was killed almost instantly, his body falling into the tangle of wire, sparking, burning, and smoldering for the better part of an hour while a horrified crowd of thousands gathered below. The source of the power that killed Feeks was not determined although United States Illuminating Company lines ran nearby. Feeks' public death sparked a new round of people fearing the electric lines over their heads in what has been called the "Electric Wire Panic".
At the peak of the war of currents, Edison himself joined the public debate for the first time, denounced AC current in a November article in the North American Review titled "The Dangers of Electric Lighting". Edison put forward the view that burying the high-voltage lines was not a solution, and would simply move the deaths underground and be a "constant menace" that could short with other lines threatening people's homes and lives.
George Westinghouse was suddenly put in the role of a "villain" trying to defend pole-mounted AC installations that he knew were unsafe and fumbled at reporters' questions trying to point out all the other things in a large city that were more dangerous. He also pointed out 87 deaths in one year caused by street cars and gas lighting versus only 5 accidental electrocutions and no in-home deaths attributed to AC current.
The crowd that watched Feeks contained many New York aldermen due to the site of the accident being near the New York government offices and the horrifying affair galvanized them into the action of passing the law on moving utilities underground. The AC lines were cut down keeping many New York City streets in darkness for the rest of the winter since little had been done by the overpaid Tammany Hall city supervisors who were supposed to see to building the underground "subways" to house them.
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Even with the Westinghouse propaganda losses, the war of currents itself was winding down with direct current on the losing side. In the process, it reveals for the first time the complete, thrilling, and often dangerous story of electricity's historic discovery, development, and worldwide application.
In the 19th century, scientists working with chemistry and magnetism began discovering a rich variety of electrical phenomena. These were to be applied later in inventions including motors, alternating current, radio, batteries, the telephone, and much more. This is the story of a new branch of science that changed the way the world does physical work and the way it controls information, spurring the Industrial Revolution, followed by the Information Age. For more than 30 years, Richard P. Feynman's three-volume Lectures on Physics has been known worldwide as the classic resource for students and professionals alike.
Ranging from the most basic principles of Newtonian physics through such formidable theories as Einstein's general relativity, superconductivity, and quantum mechanics, Feynman's lectures stand as a monument of clear exposition and deep insight. Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist, who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current AC electricity supply system.
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This landmark book is for those of us who prefer words to equations; this is the story of the ultimate quest for knowledge, the ongoing search for the secrets at the heart of time and space. Its author, Stephen W.
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