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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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Enter Edison

Enter Edison

(p.283) 21 Enter Edison
Power Struggles

Michael Brian Schiffer

The MIT Press

This chapter explains the background to the rise of the charismatic inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Alva Edison. Edison was born to humble origins and, because of the dwindling finances of his father, was home-schooled by his mother and had to sell newspapers on a train. In 1879, Charles Brush set up his dynamo-powered lighting system in Cleveland’s Monument Park, at which time gas lights were the only means of public lighting. The regulated carbon arc, Jablochkoff candle, and incandescent lamps started to be accepted as public lighting because they were cheaper than gas lamps. William Sawyer, who had a reputation as a drunkard, created a carbon lamp, but Edison, embittered by Sawyer’s approach, declined to collaborate with him; however, the carbon lamp set off the impulse for the creation of the first electric lamp.

Keywords:   Thomas Alva Edison, Charles Brush, Monument Park, gas lights, public lighting, regulated carbon arc, Jablochkoff candle, incandescent lamp, William Sawyer, carbon lamp

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