" Destructively distil the following substances down to a point just short of carbonization, so that the residuum can be taken out of the retort, powdered, and acted on by all the solvents just as the asphalt in previous page. The distillation should be carried to, say, 600 degrees or 700 degrees Fahr., but not continued long enough to wholly reduce mass to charcoal, but always run to blackness. Separate the residuum in as many definite parts as possible, bottle and label, and keep accurate records as to process, weights, etc., so a reproduction of the experiment can at any time be made: Gelatine, 4 lbs.; asphalt, hard Cuban, 10 lbs.; coal-tar or pitch, 10 lbs.; wood-pitch, 10 lbs.; Syrian asphalt, 10 lbs.; bituminous coal, 10 lbs.; cane-sugar, 10 lbs.; glucose, 10 lbs.; dextrine, 10 lbs.; glycerine, 10 lbs.; tartaric acid, 5 lbs.; gum guiac, 5 lbs.; gum amber, 3 lbs.; gum tragacanth, 3 Lbs.; aniline red, 1 lb.; aniline oil, 1 lb.; crude anthracene, 5 lbs.; petroleum pitch, 10 lbs.; albumen from eggs, 2 lbs.; tar from passing chlorine through aniline oil, 2 lbs.; citric acid, 5 lbs.; sawdust of boxwood, 3 lbs.; starch, 5 lbs.; shellac, 3 lbs.; gum Arabic, 5 lbs.; castor oil, 5 lbs."
The empirical nature of his method will be apparent from an examination of the above items; but in pur- suing it he leaves all uncertainty behind and, trusting nothing to theory, he acquires absolute knowledge. Whatever may be the mental processes by which he arrives at the starting-point of any specific line of research, the final results almost invariably prove that he does not plunge in at random; indeed, as an old associate remarked: "When Edison takes up any proposition in natural science, his perceptions seem to be elementally broad and analytical, that is to say, in addition to the knowledge he has acquired from books and observation, he appears to have an intuitive apprehension of the general order of things, as they might be supposed to exist in natural relation to each other. It has always seemed to me that he goes to the core of things at once."
Although nothing less than results from actual experiments are acceptable to him as established facts, this view of Edison may also account for his peculiar and somewhat weird ability to "guess" correctly, a faculty which has frequently enabled him to take short cuts to lines of investigation whose outcome has verified in a most remarkable degree statements apparently made offhand and without calculation. Mr. Upton says: "One of the main impressions left upon me, after knowing Mr. Edison for many years, is the marvellous accuracy of his guesses. He will see the general nature of a result long before it can be reached by mathematical calculation." This was supplemented by one of his engineering staff, who remarked: "Mr. Edison can guess better than a good many men can figure, and so far as my experience goes, I have found that he is almost invariably correct. His guess is more than a mere starting- point, and often turns out to be the final solution of a problem. I can only account for it by his remarkable insight and wonderful natural sense of the proportion of things, in addition to which he seems to carry in his head determining factors of all kinds, and has the ability to apply them instantly in considering any mechanical problem."
While this mysterious intuitive power has been of the greatest advantage in connection with the vast number of technical problems that have entered into his life-work, there have been many remarkable instances in which it has seemed little less than prophecy, and it is deemed worth while to digress to the extent of relating two of them. One day in the summer of 1881, when the incandescent lamp-industry was still in swaddling clothes, Edison was seated in the room of Major Eaton, vice-president of the Edison Electric Light Company, talking over business matters, when Mr. Upton came in from the lamp factory at Menlo Park, and said: "Well, Mr. Edison, we completed a thousand lamps to-day." Edison looked up and said "Good," then relapsed into a thoughtful mood. In about two minutes he raised his head, and said: "Upton, in fifteen years you will be making forty thousand lamps a day." None of those present ventured to make any remark on this assertion, although all felt that it was merely a random guess, based on the sanguine dream of an inventor. The business had not then really made a start, and being entirely new was without precedent upon which to base any such statement, but, as a matter of fact, the records of the lamp factory show that in 1896 its daily output of lamps was actually about forty thousand.
The other instance referred to occurred shortly after the Edison Machine Works was moved up to Schenectady, in 1886. One day, when he was at the works, Edison sat down and wrote on a sheet of paper fifteen separate predictions of the growth and future of the electrical business. Notwithstanding the fact that the industry was then in an immature state, and that the great boom did not set in until a few years afterward, twelve of these predictions have been fully verified by the enormous growth and development in all branches of the art.
What the explanation of this gift, power, or intuition may be, is perhaps better left to the psychologist to speculate upon. If one were to ask Edison, he would probably say, "Hard work, not too much sleep, and free use of the imagination." Whether or not it would be possible for the average mortal to arrive at such perfection of "guessing" by faithfully following this formula, even reinforced by the Edison recipe for stimulating a slow imagination with pastry, is open for demonstration.
Somewhat allied to this curious faculty is another no less remarkable, and that is, the ability to point out instantly an error in a mass of reported experimental results. While many instances could be definitely named, a typical one, related by Mr. J. D. Flack, formerly master mechanic at the lamp factory, may be quoted: "During the many years of lamp experimentation, batches of lamps were sent to the photometer department for test, and Edison would examine the tabulated test sheets. He ran over every item of the tabulations rapidly, and, apparently without any calculation whatever, would check off errors as fast as he came to them, saying: `You have made a mistake; try this one over.' In every case the second test proved that he was right. This wonderful aptitude for infallibly locating an error without an instant's hesitation for mental calculation, has always appealed to me very forcibly."
The ability to detect errors quickly in a series of experiments is one of the things that has enabled Edison to accomplish such a vast amount of work as the records show. Examples of the minuteness of detail into which his researches extend have already been mentioned, and as there are always a number of such investigations in progress at the laboratory, this ability stands Edison in good stead, for he is thus enabled to follow, and, if necessary, correct each one step by step. In this he is aided by the great powers of a mind that is able to free itself from absorbed concentration on the details of one problem, and instantly to shift over and become deeply and intelligently concentrated in another and entirely different one. For instance, he may have been busy for hours on chemical experiments, and be called upon suddenly to determine some mechanical questions. The complete and easy transition is the constant wonder of his associates, for there is no confusion of ideas resulting from these quick changes, no hesitation or apparent effort, but a plunge into the midst of the new subject, and an instant acquaint- ance with all its details, as if he had been studying it for hours.
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