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The earlier experiments with wireless telegraphy at Menlo Park were made at a time when Edison was greatly occupied with his electric-light interests, and it was not until the beginning of 1886 that he was able to spare the time to make a public demonstration of the system as applied to moving trains. Ezra T. Gilliland, of Boston, had become associated with him in his experiments, and they took out several joint patents subsequently. The first practical use of the system took place on a thirteen-mile stretch of the Staten Island Railroad with the results mentioned by Edison above.

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A little later, Edison and Gilliland joined forces with Lucius J. Phelps, another investigator, who had been experimenting along the same lines and had taken out several patents. The various interests were combined in a corporation under whose auspices the system was installed on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, where it was used for several years. The official demonstration trip on this road took place on October 6, 1887, on a six-car train running to Easton, Pennsylvania, a distance of fifty-four miles. A great many telegrams were sent and received while the train was at full speed, including a despatch to the "cable king," John Pender. London, England, and a reply from him.[17]

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[17] Broadly described in outline, the system consisted of an induction circuit obtained by laying strips of tin along the top or roof of a railway car, and the installation of a special telegraph line running parallel with the track and strung on poles of only medium height. The train and also each signalling station were equipped with regulation telegraphic apparatus, such as battery, key, relay, and sounder, together with induction-coil and condenser. In addition, there was a transmitting device in the shape of a musical reed, or buzzer. In practice, this buzzer was continuously operated at high speed by a battery. Its vibrations were broken by means of a key into long and short periods, representing Morse characters, which were transmitted inductively from the train circuit to the pole line, or vice versa, and received by the operator at the other end through a high-resistance telephone receiver inserted in the secondary circuit of the induction-coil.

to plunge, trying whether barking would not answer the

Although the space between the cars and the pole line was probably not more than about fifty feet, it is interesting to note that in Edison's early experiments at Menlo Park he succeeded in transmitting messages through the air at a distance of 580 feet. Speaking of this and of his other experiments with induction telegraphy by means of kites, communicating from one to the other and thus from the kites to instruments on the earth, Edison said recently: "We only transmitted about two and one-half miles through the kites. What has always puzzled me since is that I did not think of using the results of my experiments on `etheric force' that I made in 1875. I have never been able to understand how I came to overlook them. If I had made use of my own work I should have had long-distance wireless telegraphy."

In one of the appendices to this book is given a brief technical account of Edison's investigations of the phenomena which lie at the root of modern wireless or "space" telegraphy, and the attention of the reader is directed particularly to the description and quotations there from the famous note-books of Edison's experiments in regard to what he called "etheric force." It will be seen that as early as 1875 Edison detected and studied certain phenomena--i.e., the production of electrical effects in non-closed circuits, which for a time made him think he was on the trail of a new force, as there was no plausible explanation for them by the then known laws of electricity and magnetism. Later came the magnificent work of Hertz identifying the phenomena as "electromagnetic waves" in the ether, and developing a new world of theory and science based upon them and their production by disruptive discharges.

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.

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