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Power StrugglesScientific Authority and the Creation of Practical Electricity Before Edison$
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Michael Brian Schiffer

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262195829

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262195829.001.0001

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(p.175) 14 Humbug!
Power Struggles

Michael Brian Schiffer

The MIT Press

This chapter demonstrates how the discovery of electricity, electromagnetism, the telegraph, and the electric motor led to the development of agencies that specialized in putting forward patents for new inventions. The Scientific American, an association formed in 1845, had to sort through all the inventions to prove whether they were economically viable. Henry Paine, an inventor, claimed to have created the Hydro Electric light, insisting that the Hydro Electric light was a bright light made up of only pure hydrogen extracted from water. Joseph Henry dismissed Paine’s claims, stating that they were against the law of physics. Many scientists proved Paine wrong because pure hydrogen gives off only a faint bluish light and to emit a strong white light, hydrogen had to be mixed with a carbon compound; thus Paine’s discovery was written off as humbug.

Keywords:   patents, Scientific American, hydrogen, Henry Paine, Hydro Electric light, Joseph Henry

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