Chapter

. Visionary Inventors

Michael Brian Schiffer

in Draw the Lightning Down

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780520238022
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520939851 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520238022.003.0011
. Visionary Inventors

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This chapter addresses a number of electrical products devised by the Enlightenment community of visionary inventors. The electric orrery was simply a clever device for showing that electricity could produce rotary motion. The Franklin motor demonstrated that electrostatic forces could produce nontrivial mechanical effects. It is suggested that the electric ignition of internal combustion engines, and perhaps the engines themselves, had their beginnings in eighteenth-century electrostatic technology. Since the 1740s, lecturers had used the mechanical effects of electricity to produce sound. The case of telegraphy brings into sharp relief the obstacles faced by inventors working on electrical systems at the dawn of the nineteenth century. Franklin and his friends bequeathed to Thomas Edison and other nineteenth-century workers fundamental scientific principles and terminology, a plethora of technological effects, many fascinating devices and product ideas, and the fervent and infectious belief that electrical science and technology could create a better world.

Keywords: visionary inventors; Enlightenment community; Franklin motor; electric orrery; telegraphy; electrical science; electric ignition; electrical systems

Chapter.  12150 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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