The “Holy Grail” of Electron Control

In the small town of Sandwich, NH, a man received a phone call from someone who thought he should take a look at a box long hidden away. In this box lay the lost evidence from the “trial of the century” itself over a century past. A trial which lasted the better part of a decade and laid the groundwork for a new age.

While this sounds like the beginning of some novel of political and scientific intrigue, it just so happens to be true. A century later, as part of an estate sale, a box was discovered in which lay the evidence from the 1880 “trial of the century” – the trial which pitted Thomas Edison’s Electric Light Company against the United States Electric Light Company.

The most intriguing part of this collection is lamp #20. Take a peek at the following quote from the Christie’s site:

Perhaps the most moving specimen is No. 20, as examples are known of this design after 1890, however this one which Edison made at Menlo Park to test his theory of electron activity, puts his mind way ahead of Fleming’s achievement of the diode in 1904. Edison became very interested after observing the way deposits of carbon formed on theBulb #20 - glass in-line with the filament of his early light bulbs so he devised the construction of a hairpin filament (Cathode) but with the addition of a separately connectable filament (Anode), to see if he could ‘catch’ the accelerated electrons before the carbon identified it’s path. Note on specimen No.7, (one of Edison’s lamp designs made by J. W. Howell), how the soot has shown radial electron activity when this lamp was subjected to illumination tests in the courtroom

Specimen No. 20 is no doubt the first controlled electron-travel device, making it the Holy Grail of the wireless story which can now be told with more accuracy. (Emphasis mine)

According to Lot 120, will be going up for auction on 13 December, the estimated value of this find is 200,000-300,00 British pounds or according to Yahoo’s Currency Converter, $392,000-$589,000 US. But to those historians who trace the genealogy of our modern digital roots, this collection is priceless.

There is even a video available on YouTube – “The Edison Trial Evidence

What a rich find for a classroom discussion on the birth of the age of electronics!

[tags]auction, christies, edison, edisonian.com, electronic, lamp, light, menlo, trial, trial [/tags]

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