Edison's assertions were treated with scepticism by the scientific world, which was not then ready for the discovery and not sufficiently furnished with corroborative data. It is singular, to say the least, to note how Edison's experiments paralleled and proved in advance those that came later; and even his apparatus such as the "dark box" for making the tiny sparks visible (as the waves impinged on the receiver) bears close analogy with similar apparatus employed by Hertz. Indeed, as Edison sent the dark-box apparatus to the Paris Exposition in 1881, and let Batchelor repeat there the puzzling experiments, it seems by no means unlikely that, either directly or on the report of some friend, Hertz may thus have received from Edison a most valuable suggestion, the inventor aiding the physicist in opening up a wonderful new realm. In this connection, indeed, it is very interesting to quote two great authorities. In May, 1889, at a meeting of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in London, Dr. (now Sir) Oliver Lodge remarked in a discussion on a paper of his own on lightning conductors, embracing the Hertzian waves in its treatment: "Many of the effects I have shown--sparks in unsuspected places and other things--have been observed before. Henry observed things of the kind and Edison noticed some curious phenomena, and said it was not electricity but `etheric force' that caused these sparks; and the matter was rather pooh-poohed. It was a small part of THIS VERY THING; only the time was not ripe; theoretical knowledge was not ready for it." Again in his "Signalling without Wires," in giving the history of the coherer principle, Lodge remarks: "Sparks identical in all respects with those discovered by Hertz had been seen in recent times both by Edison and by Sylvanus Thompson, being styled `etheric force' by the former; but their theoretic significance had not been perceived, and they were somewhat sceptically regarded." During the same discussion in London, in 1889, Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), after citing some experiments by Faraday with his insulated cage at the Royal Institution, said: "His (Faraday's) attention was not directed to look for Hertz sparks, or probably he might have found them in the interior. Edison seems to have noticed something of the kind in what he called `etheric force.' His name `etheric' may thirteen years ago have seemed to many people absurd. But now we are all beginning to call these inductive phenomena `etheric.' "With which testimony from the great Kelvin as to his priority in determining the vital fact, and with the evidence that as early as 1875 he built apparatus that demonstrated the fact, Edison is probably quite content.
It should perhaps be noted at this point that a curious effect observed at the laboratory was shown in connection with Edison lamps at the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1884. It became known in scientific parlance as the "Edison effect," showing a curious current condition or discharge in the vacuum of the bulb. It has since been employed by Fleming in England and De Forest in this country, and others, as the basis for wireless-telegraph apparatus. It is in reality a minute rectifier of alternating current, and analogous to those which have since been made on a large scale.
When Roentgen came forward with his discovery of the new "X"-ray in 1895, Edison was ready for it, and took up experimentation with it on a large scale; some of his work being recorded in an article in the Century Magazine of May, 1896, where a great deal of data may be found. Edison says with regard to this work: "When the X-ray came up, I made the first fluoroscope, using tungstate of calcium. I also found that this tungstate could be put into a vacuum chamber of glass and fused to the inner walls of the chamber; and if the X-ray electrodes were let into the glass chamber and a proper vacuum was attained, you could get a fluorescent lamp of several candle-power. I started in to make a number of these lamps, but I soon found that the X-ray had affected poisonously my assistant, Mr. Dally, so that his hair came out and his flesh commenced to ulcerate. I then concluded it would not do, and that it would not be a very popular kind of light; so I dropped it.
"At the time I selected tungstate of calcium because it was so fluorescent, I set four men to making all kinds of chemical combinations, and thus collected upward of 8000 different crystals of various chemical combinations, discovering several hundred different sub- stances which would fluoresce to the X-ray. So far little had come of X-ray work, but it added another letter to the scientific alphabet. I don't know any thing about radium, and I have lots of company." The Electrical Engineer of June 3, 1896, contains a photograph of Mr. Edison taken by the light of one of his fluorescent lamps. The same journal in its issue of April 1, 1896, shows an Edison fluoroscope in use by an observer, in the now familiar and universal form somewhat like a stereoscope. This apparatus as invented by Edison consists of a flaring box, curved at one end to fit closely over the forehead and eyes, while the other end of the box is closed by a paste- board cover. On the inside of this is spread a layer of tungstate of calcium. By placing the object to be observed, such as the hand, between the vacuum-tube and the fluorescent screen, the "shadow" is formed on the screen and can be observed at leisure. The apparatus has proved invaluable in surgery and has become an accepted part of the equipment of modern surgery. In 1896, at the Electrical Exhibition in the Grand Central Palace, New York City, given under the auspices of the National Electric Light Association, thousands and thousands of persons with the use of this apparatus in Edison's personal exhibit were enabled to see their own bones; and the resultant public sensation was great. Mr. Mallory tells a characteristic story of Edison's own share in the memorable exhibit: "The exhibit was announced for opening on Monday. On the preceding Friday all the apparatus, which included a large induction-coil, was shipped from Orange to New York, and on Saturday afternoon Edison, accompanied by Fred Ott, one of his assistants, and myself, went over to install it so as to have it ready for Monday morning. Had everything been normal, a few hours would have sufficed for completion of the work, but on coming to test the big coil, it was found to be absolutely out of commission, having been so seriously injured as to necessitate its entire rewinding. It being summer-time, all the machine shops were closed until Monday morning, and there were several miles of wire to be wound on the coil. Edison would not consider a postponement of the exhibition, so there was nothing to do but go to work and wind it by hand. We managed to find a lathe, but there was no power; so each of us, including Edison, took turns revolving the lathe by pulling on the belt, while the other two attended to the winding of the wire. We worked continuously all through that Saturday night and all day Sunday until evening, when we finished the job. I don't remember ever being conscious of more muscles in my life. I guess Edison was tired also, but he took it very philosophically." This was apparently the first public demonstration of the X-ray to the American public.
Edison's ore-separation work has been already fully described, but the story would hardly be complete without a reference to similar work in gold extraction, dating back to the Menlo Park days: "I got up a method," says Edison, "of separating placer gold by a dry process, in which I could work economically ore as lean as five cents of gold to the cubic yard. I had several car-loads of different placer sands sent to me and proved I could do it. Some parties hearing I had succeeded in doing such a thing went to work and got hold of what was known as the Ortiz mine grant, twelve miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico. This mine, according to the reports of several mining engineers made in the last forty years, was considered one of the richest placer deposits in the United States, and various schemes had been put forward to bring water from the mountains forty miles away to work those immense beds. The reports stated that the Mexicans had been panning gold for a hundred years out of these deposits.
"These parties now made arrangements with the stockholders or owners of the grant, and with me, to work the deposits by my process. As I had had some previous experience with the statements of mining men, I concluded I would just send down a small plant and prospect the field before putting up a large one. This I did, and I sent two of my assistants, whom I could trust, down to this place to erect the plant; and started to sink shafts fifty feet deep all over the area. We soon learned that the rich gravel, instead of being spread over an area of three by seven miles, and rich from the grass roots down, was spread over a space of about twenty-five acres, and that even this did not average more than ten cents to the cubic yard. The whole placer would not give more than one and one- quarter cents per cubic yard. As my business arrangements had not been very perfectly made, I lost the usual amount."
Going to another extreme, we find Edison grappling with one of the biggest problems known to the authorities of New York--the disposal of its heavy snows. It is needless to say that witnessing the ordinary slow and costly procedure would put Edison on his mettle. "One time when they had a snow blockade in New York I started to build a machine with Batchelor--a big truck with a steam-engine and compressor on it. We would run along the street, gather all the snow up in front of us, pass it into the compressor, and deliver little blocks of ice behind us in the gutter, taking one- tenth the room of the snow, and not inconveniencing anybody. We could thus take care of a snow-storm by diminishing the bulk of material to be handled. The preliminary experiment we made was dropped because we went into other things. The machine would go as fast as a horse could walk."
Edison has always taken a keen interest in aerial flight, and has also experimented with aeroplanes, his preference inclining to the helicopter type, as noted in the newspapers and periodicals from time to time. The following statement from him refers to a type of aeroplane of great novelty and ingenuity: "James Gordon Bennett came to me and asked that I try some primary experiments to see if aerial navigation was feasible with `heavier-than-air' machines. I got up a motor and put it on the scales and tried a large number of different things and contrivances connected to the motor, to see how it would lighten itself on the scales. I got some data and made up my mind that what was needed was a very powerful engine for its weight, in small compass. So I conceived of an engine employing guncotton. I took a lot of ticker paper tape, turned it into guncotton and got up an engine with an arrangement whereby I could feed this gun- cotton strip into the cylinder and explode it inside electrically. The feed took place between two copper rolls. The copper kept the temperature down, so that it could only explode up to the point where it was in contact with the feed rolls. It worked pretty well; but once the feed roll didn't save it, and the flame went through and exploded the whole roll and kicked up such a bad explosion I abandoned it. But the idea might be made to work."
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