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Short Stories of Science and Invention
Men of Science and Invention

Men of Science and Invention

A Man Who Groped in the Dark


    As we listen to fine music, you probably wonder, just the same as many others, what kind of person the composer was and how he arrived at the combination of notes and intervals that resulted in this particular composition. We are sure that back of it there are long hours of cut and try, discouragement and hard work. We hear only the successes.

    I wish we could see the great amount of patient work that is required and the great amount of discarded material which is necessary to produce one of these successes.

    Composition, development and invention are not new things. The procedure used is as old as mankind itself. However, there is a certain amount of dramatic appeal to discovery inasmuch as it always includes the element of surprise. It is often the result of starting out to do one thing and ending up with something different. Columbus, of course, is the classical example of this. He started out to find a new route to India, and discovered America.

    Many years ago, I read a story which had a great effect on me and whenever I think of men groping blindly to find things, it always comes to my mind. The story is about a man by the name of Bernard Palissey who lived in the southwest of France about four hundred years ago. He was jack-of-all-trades - surveyor, painter, a worker in glass and, in addition, he was a nature lover.

     One day, a wealthy nobleman of the neighborhood showed Palissey a white enamel cup which came from the Orient. It fascinated him immediately. In fact, he admired the cup so much that, then and there, he resolved to make enamelware just like that cup, in spite of the fact that he knew nothing about pottery, and to the best of his knowledge, there was no man in France who could make enamels.

    He told his wife that evening, "I will have to grope in the dark, for I have no knowledge of clays and I don't know anything about the composition of enamels. "As we say today: he had to start from scratch, because there was no other way. There was nothing in literature, as all important information at that time was kept secret.

    Palissey said: "I will build a furnace in the old open shed back of the house and will work on this in the evenings. I can coat some of the broken pieces of flower pots with the chemical compounds which I will want to try. Some of these may turn out to be the white enamel I am looking for." For months, in all kinds of weather, he worked in the open shed without apparent results. However, he was getting first-hand experience.

     But, instead of continuing to work only.in the evenings, he began to neglect his regular work, so, as months became years, his family became destitute. After five years of this constant research, he was so poor that he could not buy fuel for his furnace.

    One day when his family was away, he tore down the fence around the garden for fuel. But this was not enough to raise the temperature, so he tore up a part of the floor in the house and then started to use the furniture! The neighbors were sure he had gone mad and notified the magistrate. When the officers arrived to take him into protective custody, they did not find a crazy man but one in ecstasy. "Look, look!" he said. "The enamel has melted!"

    Some of the pieces out of this hectic experiment caught the eyes of the Duke de Montmorency, who gave him the job of decorating a chateau. Now he could feed his starving family and he was able to replace the fence, the floor and furniture. He was able also to get a better furnace.

    Three years after his first experiment, he made another important step in the process. But still he was not satisfied. All of this work had been adding to his experience, but it took another seven years, that is, fifteen in all, until he had worked out a process for making this particular new type of enamelware for which he became famous.

     If he had discovered the white enamel, which he so painfully sought, he would never have been known. It was the new thing which he discovered, more or less accidentally, that makes him famous as a creative artist. I did not realize when I read of Palissey that, instead of this being a story of a specific incident, it was really the universal history of all development.

    The Palissey principle can often lead to new and valuable results. Not always the results sought for, but frequently things of far greater value.

    On many research problems, after all scientific methods have been tried, I prefer the cut-and-try method of groping in the dark, with the possibility of bumping into something, to just sitting still and philosophizing.




World-Wide Opera House


     This afternoon [November 14, 1943], with Maestro Toscanini's permission, I should like to recall an event which, I am sure, he remembers very vividly.

    The date was November 16, 1908, just 35 years ago; the place, the Metropolitan Opera House; the Opera, Aida; and the conductor, as you may have guessed, was Arturo Toscanini. It was his American debut.

    The Metropolitan was filled to capacity. Over 3,500 people, listening and observing the Maestro's masterly direction, just as you are doing in Radio City this afternoon. When we hear these concerts in this auditorium, we have the advantage of being in the presence of the orchestra and feeling the inspiration of the conductor.

    Today, in contrast to 35 years ago, there is an additional audience of nearly six million radio listeners. I like to think of each person in the studio audience as personally representing about 5,000 of these radio listeners.

    This modern opera house of the air has seats in every part of the world - from a snow-banked hut in Alaska to a military post in the Panama Canal Zone; from a cabin in Maine to a house in Hawaii! In South America, they are listening to this program at dinner; in Hawaii, they are getting ready for luncheon. At least 100,000 people are listening in automobiles; and ship at sea are part of the great concert hall.

     This International Opera House came about as the result of many men: scientists, inventors and engineers who worked with coils of wire, with batteries, and electrons - none remotely connected with symphony music. One of these men was a fellow country-man of Mr. Toscanini's - Guglielmo Marconi.

     Young Marconi, in 1886, at the age of 12, became interested in the work of Hertz. Hertz found that electrical waves could be sent through space, and Professor Branly invented a wave detector called a "coherer." Marconi was fascinated with these two things and experimented with them. He dreamed of the possibilities of these magic waves carrying messages to ships at sea and even to other continents.

     His father allowed him to use a room in their home as a laboratory. After putting together some home-made apparatus and using a broom handle to hold up his antenna, Marconi managed to send a signal from one end of the room to the other without using connecting wires!  

    As the years passed, Marconi tried many things. The distances between the transmitter and the receiver became greater and greater. He went to England. After many trials, with the help of Sir William Preece, he sent messages from Salisbury to Bath - a distance of 33 miles!

     But Marconi was not satisfied. He still dreamed of sending messages across the seas; so, in 1901, fifteen years after he began his experiments, he set up a receiving station in Newfoundland. The transmitter was located at Cornwall in southwest England. For weeks, on a cold, bleak hilltop, swept by gales, he tried to get an antenna into the air. His box kites and balloons broke loose and were swept out to sea.

    On December 12, he managed to get a kite, carrying his antenna, 400 feet into the air. Then began a period of waiting - waiting for the signal that was constantly being sent out from Cornwall. At last, he heard something - three faint clicks! He couldn't believe it but it came in again and again, a little stronger. It was the Cornwall signal! Those faint clicks signalled a most dramatic moment - signalled success! His dream had come true!

    In the years that followed, Marconi and hundreds of other scientists, worked to discover better means of sending and receiving telegraph messages. From this work and the invention of deForest came the radio transmission of voice and music.

    It is interesting to note that an experiment that started out as a means of telegraphic communication with ships at sea produced, as a by-product, our international concert hall.

     But the concert hall of the air is not finished. Many want to see as well as hear. Television engineers are working on this and, like Marconi, they have the problem of distance. Today, television broadcasts normally carry about 50 to 75 miles.

    Research men will, in time, solve the problem of distance. When that happens, our great radio audience is not only going to have the pleasure of hearing this fine music, as it does today, but it will also be able to enjoy the added inspiration of the conductor's presence.




The Man Who Kept His Eye on the Ball


   Today - according to the magazines and papers - we are standing on the threshold of a new world - a world of new furniture, new houses, new clothes, new cars with transparent tops, helicopters and airplanes - all to be made largely of plastics. The writers about the plastic industry may be too optimistic, yet no doubt many products will be changed by these new materials. But, since people in general seem to be much interested in this apparently new development, it might be worthwhile, this afternoon, to review the story and see how the whole thing started.

    To do this we must go back 80 years. At that time, billiards was the game of the day. But the one thing that kept it from being even more popular was a shortage of ivory which, as you know, comes from elephant tusks. In addition to making billiard balls, ivory was much used as the facing for piano keys. The shortage was so serious that one of the leading makers of billiard balls in the United States offered a prize of ten thousand dollars to the man who could make an acceptable substitute.

    In Albany, New York, a young printer and inventor, John Wesley Hyatt, saw in this prize a chance of a lifetime. For three years, principally at night and on Sundays, he made billiard balls out of wood, paper, glue, and hundreds of other things.

     One day, while setting type he cut his finger and went to get some collodion or liquid court plaster from the bottle usually kept on a nearby shelf - but he found someone had overturned the bottle and the contents had spilled over the shelf, forming a hard, tough sheet. And then Hyatt's outstanding quality came into play, his faculty of intelligent observation. He didn't see the spilled collodion as an irritating accident. He saw it as a new material to be used as a binder for his new billiard balls and maybe - the ten thousand dollars.

    As the result of a careful investigation, he traced back the materials that made up the collodion and found among them nitrocellulose - or guncotton.

    After still more experimentation, he found a way, under heat and pressure, to mold guncotton together with alcohol and camphor - something no educated chemist would have done at that time. But Hyatt tried this experiment, and out of the mold came a hard, clear substance which he called" Celluloid" - the first of the great family of plastics which, with the exception of vulcanized rubber, marked the beginning of the great new plastic industry.

    This new material was not good enough for a billiard ball so he sold his patents and another man started the new industry.

     But the most important thing that came out of Hyatt's celluloid was the chain of experiments it started, and the new uses that were found for this material.

     To the infant photographic industry celluloid opened up an entirely new field and the roll film was born. A little later, because of this same quality of flexibility, it made the motion picture industry possible and, as another outgrowth, symphonic music and the voices of the world's great artists could be recorded on flexible discs or records.

    Eventually, cellulose, that is the basis of celluloid, found its way into lacquers, solving the problem of automobile finishing, and cutting the time from days to hours.

    I don't believe Hyatt ever collected the ten thousand dollar prize. But he kept right on after the billiard ball and many, many years later, as the result of the joint efforts of Hyatt, Doctor Baekeland and the Bliss Company, a successful billiard ball was made. I have some of them in a case in my home in Dayton.

    In the wake of his search for the billiard balls, Hyatt left at least four new industries - employing thousands of people: the bearing industry, the celluloid industry, the photographic business and motion pictures.

    But each one of these industries is a story in itself. To me the work of Hyatt with celluloid is important because it is an example of a man who made an outstanding development with a minimum of laboratory equipment, but with a large amount of intelligent curiosity and acute powers of observation - two of the most important requirements in a search for any new thing.

     Today we are looking forward to the postwar era from which undoubtedly will come many new developments.

    But I do not believe we should let our thinking become influenced too much by over-optimism. Hyatt did not change his course into anyone of the side channels, the bearings, the celluloid, the photographic films or motion pictures. "He kept his eye on the ball" - in this case the billiard ball. And one thing that the experiences of Hyatt can teach us is that opportunities are almost completely controlled by the determination of the man - and not by his surroundings or the things with which he has to work. 




Christmas Lecturer


     There is a scene in the story, "A Christmas Carol," in which Ebenezer Scrooge leans out of his window on Christmas Day and calls to a small boy in the street to get him a turkey. If Scrooge had looked a little further down the street, he probably would have seen another small boy, a newsboy.

     When a boy delivered a paper in those days, he gave the paper to his customer and waited patiently outside while the customer read it. You see, the boy had only one paper.

     In the early 19th Century following the upheaval in Europe times were very turbulent. Technical progress had almost been stopped. Scientists were often exiled and sometimes beheaded because they did some original thinking.

     That is why we want to tell the story of a newsboy of this period, Michael Faraday, who, despite the handicaps of the period, developed the principles of modern research.

     Faraday's father was a blacksmith and, when the boy was five, the Faradays moved to rooms over a coach-house in London. The family was quite poor, and at an early age Michael had to help earn his living.

     He started out as a newsboy and later, at the age of seventeen, he was apprenticed to a bookbinder and stationer. His education had been very limited - just a little reading, writing and arithmetic, but in his new job he found the time to read and learn about many new things. His attention was drawn to an article about electricity in the Encyclopaedia Britannica which he was binding. He became so interested in the accounts of the experiments that he tried to save up enough money to do them himself.

     In his search for knowledge, Faraday was fortunate enough to attend some of Sir Humphrey Davy's lectures on science at the Royal Institution. Davy's lectures interested Faraday so much that he took down complete notes, a copy of which he later bound and sent Sir Humphrey.

     Davy, after reading the notes, offered young Faraday a position as laboratory assistant at a salary of about $10.00 per week. Nothing could have been more fortunate than this connection with Sir Humphrey Davy for here was the beginning of an epoch of experimental science.

     At this time, the principles of electricity were just being discovered. On Christmas Day, in 1821, while he was showing an experiment to his wife, Faraday got the idea that turned out to be the basic principle of all electric generators and motors. It took months of experimenting before he could prove that the principle was correct.

     Faraday was so delighted with this new idea and its great possibilities that he showed it to Gladstone, the English statesman. Gladstone looked on with much interest and asked, "Of what use is it?" Faraday replied, "Why, Sir, there is every possibility it may have industrial application and you may soon be able to tax it."

     If Faraday and Gladstone were living today, they could see just how true was this prophecy, because from these simple experiments has come our electrical industry with its great army of employees and, if I have been properly informed, taxes have come too, just as Faraday predicted.

     In 1825, when he was only thirty-two years old, Faraday was elected a Fellow in the Royal Society. But he never forgot the help he had received from the lectures of Sir Humphrey Davy. And to help others as he had been helped, he became a lecturer and teacher himself. Nor did he forget the Christmas Day when the idea came to him. For each year at Christmas time, he gave a series of scientific lectures to the young people to pay, as he thought, the debt he owed the community.

     The great scientists of England have continued these Christmas lectures through all these years. In England, Christmas and Faraday are closely linked.

     By his initiative and self-development Michael Faraday rose to be one of the world's greatest scientists. He laid the foundation of our laboratory technique and gave experimental science a permanent place in the world.

     Young and old today have far greater opportunities to learn than in Faraday's time - books, schools and laboratories are more available.

     In fact, I often think we have so many facilities that we lose track of the problem. Problems, as you know, are solved in the mind of some intensely interested person. The books and apparatus can do nothing alone.

     Although, since Faraday's time, thousands of discoveries have been made, I am sure there are as many unsolved problems today as there were 100 years ago. We know so little that only egotism can prevent us from seeing the infinite possibilities before us at this Christmas time of 1943, the same as Faraday saw them in 1821.






     The other day a gentleman came to my office and said, "My friends think I should be more patient. Now I want to talk to you, as I understand research requires a lot of patience and I want to know just where to draw the line.

     How much patience should you have before people think you are stupid?" I explained to him that patience is not an isolated thing. It is an intelligent desire with a willingness to work, and an understanding of how much effort and time will be required.

     The man was right when he said research required a lot of patience. To start out on a new project is something like taking a trip from New York to the West Coast. We must know our destination and understand about how long the trip will last. We must realize that we will have to be on the train for several days. No intelligent person would become impatient and get off the train at Kansas City and then complain that he was not in Los Angeles.

      For a classic illustration of patience, let us look at the career of Charles Goodyear. In 1833, Goodyear became interested in rubber and the many failures that prevented rubber from becoming one of the world's most valuable materials.

     Realizing what a great benefit such a material would be to mankind, he resolved to dedicate his life to the solution of the problem. He had picked his destination.

     It has been said, "For years Charles Goodyear thought of nothing but rubber. He experimented on it, borrowed and begged for it, and bored his friends with his rubber talk. He wore it, went to prison for it - pawned his wife's clothes and sold his children's school books for rubber. He starved, and entered law suits, even crossed the ocean - all for rubber. It was his life. But all these troubles encountered by Goodyear fade into insignificance when we realize what his discovery has meant to mankind - the tremendous industry and employment it has created.

     Rubber is one of the basic materials of the automotive transportation system and the foundation of hundreds of other industries producing thousands of articles, from surgeon's gloves to life rafts.

     I believe most of us know something about Goodyear's experiments. When he first found out about rubber, the difficulty with the material was, of course, that it became sticky in warm weather.

     Many people had tried to discover means of getting around this. They put rubber between cloth and tried mixing all sorts of things with it to cure this stickiness. Goodyear, starting from there, in 1833 began his patient search by the cut-and-try method. Three years later, he thought he had found the secret when he discovered that sulphuric acid would vulcanize the surface - in fact, it wasn't too bad for very thin articles. But in the summer heat 150 large bags he had made for the Government melted and he had to start all over again.

     He realized that the train he had taken had merely stopped at a water tower en route to his destination, but he knew he was moving in the right direction.

      Many of the rubber articles he had made by this unsatisfactory process were returned to him. He was swamped with claims and went further and further into debt. He had to auction his household goods to pay the butcher and the baker.

     In 1839, by sheer accident, you will remember, he had smeared a piece of rubber with sulphur and left it lying overnight near a hot stove. In the morning, he found that part of the rubber had become very hard; in fact, he had discovered the material now known as "vulcanite." Other parts of the piece were elastic - the stickiness was gone. Goodyear was at last in sight of his destination.

     But Goodyear found that his battle had only begun. He became poverty stricken trying to get a patent, and fighting legal battles. It was not until 1853 that Daniel Webster won the final decision for him. Goodyear's train trip had taken nearly 20 years.

     No one should pick a problem, or make a resolution, unless he realizes that the ultimate value of it will offset the inevitable discomfort and trouble that always go along with the accomplishment of anything worth while. So let us not waste our time and effort on some trivial thing.

     Next year will, undoubtedly, be an important one. We should all be prepared to contribute the great amount of energy and patience that will be required to make it one of lasting benefit to mankind, by setting a pattern for permanent Peace.




A Word to the Wise


     When I was a small boy on the farm, we bought a sewing machine and in one of the catalogues I read the story of Elias Howe, the inventor. There was one thing in this story that impressed me very much. It was the very simple incident that started his work on the invention.

     Howe was employed in Boston by an instrument maker by the name of Davis, and one day he overheard a conversation between Davis and a man who had brought a model of a knitting machine to the shop for Davis to see. Davis asked the man why he didn't invent a sewing machine. The inventor said it couldn't be done. But a man nearby said, "Some day it will be done" - "And the inventor will make a fortune," said another bystander. This started Howe on his great venture.

     At first, young Howe tried to imitate mechanically the motions of the hands but that was too complicated. He made many unsuccessful devices during the next two years until finally he recalled the moving shuttle he had seen in the textile mills.

     But Howe really solved the problem when he overcame his mental inertia and put the eye and point on the same end of the needle. By combining the eye-pointed needle with the shuttle principle, he had the right idea but he realized in order to build a working model he would need more money and equipment than he could possibly afford.

     But he ran into good fortune. A boyhood friend of his, George Fisher inherited some money and offered to stake him to $500.00 and a place to work - the proceeds from the invention, if any, were to be shared equally by Howe and Fisher.

     So in a little corner in Fisher's home, Howe set to work to put his idea into physical form. And by 1845, he had a machine and actually sewed the seams of two suits of clothes, one for Fisher and one for himself.

     But his battle had only begun. When he invited a tailor to witness a demonstration, the man refused to come - he thought it was just another crackpot idea. However, Howe was determined to make the demonstration, so he set up a shop and offered to sew, free of charge, the work brought to him.

     He had many visitors who were surprised how easily the machine did the work. Later, a contest was held between the new machine and five girls. Howe won because, as the judges said, his machine work was "neater and stronger."

     But Howe could not sell his machine even after it was proved. People simply wouldn't pay $300.00 for such a new device. His partner, Fisher, lost faith in the project and along with it $2,000.00 - so he withdrew. But Howe still had the sample, which he and his brother took to England and later sold.

     He spent his last cent making an improved machine and found himself stranded abroad. So he sold his new model for $20.00 and got back to New York with 60 cents in his pocket only to find sewing machines being made in this country.

     He believed these were patterned after his design so he borrowed money for an infringement suit. After much delay, the suit was decided in his favor and the royalties began to come in. By this time Howe was forty.

     As he achieved success, he realized how difficult is the step from idea to industry, yet it was worth the effort for he had laid the foundation of a great new industry and materially reduced the cost of clothing to everyone.

     A very simple incident started Howe on his career. Today [March 19, 1944] the inventors of America have a powerful incentive - a World War. Before the War started, the Government set up the National Inventors Council in Washington to examine ideas pertaining to War and National defense. It really is a home office for the inventors of America and, in addition, it classifies and evaluates the inventions, and through definite channels brings them to the attention of the armed forces.

     The Council thanks the American inventors for their work and hopes they will continue to submit ideas for military purposes while the needs are fresh in their minds.

     From the point of view of the Council, the American inventive mind is apparently as alert and keen as ever, and if these men can apply themselves so effectively to the problems of War, there is no reason why we should want for new industries when Peace comes.




The Bookkeeper Had a Hobby


     Today it is so easy to take pictures with a camera that you can slip into your pocket, we may not realize it was not always this way.

     About 70 years ago a young bookkeeper living in Rochester, New York had a great desire to take pictures, but it wasn't so simple then. In the first place photography wasn't a hobby - it was a profession.

     So this young man, George Eastman, took lessons from a local photographer. He not only had to learn how to handle the camera, but also the more complicated business of developing the plates and printing from them.

     He couldn't afford a studio and, since he had such a great interest in photography, there was only one thing he could do - take pictures outdoors. But you didn't take just a camera with you in those days; you carried an outfit of which the camera was only a part.

     Eastman's outfit consisted of a camera the size of a soapbox, a large tripod, a big plate holder, a dark tent, a nitrate bath and a water container.

     Taking pictures was more than a hobby in those days - it was an expedition! The young enthusiast soon discovered that he would either have to give up the hobby or get a horse and wagon to haul the equipment.

     So he decided to do something about it. He analyzed the equipment and found that the tent and the nitrate bath were necessary only because of the wet plates used in those days. So the first job was to get rid of this type of plate.

     For three years Eastman worked on this problem - night and day in his spare time. He even took courses in foreign languages so he could read the existing literature on photographic plates.

     A few dry plates were made, but it was by a very tedious process, so Eastman studied how such plates might be made more available. His problem was to find some easier way of getting the light sensitive chemical on the plate in a dry state.

     After months of work, and countless experiments, he perfected a machine for producing gelatine-coated dry plates. These could be exposed and then shipped back to a laboratory to be developed. The outdoor photographer no longer had to carry the tent, developing tanks, and solutions.

     This was a great step forward. But as more and more people began taking pictures, another handicap arose. The dry plates did the job all right, but as more of them were used, complaints began to come in about the breakage. His next problem was to find a substitute for the glass. Again another long process of cut-and-try until he at last hit upon paper coated with collodion as a base for his photographic emulsion. Using this method, the film for a hundred pictures could now be put in a roll and used in a special camera, which he had also designed.

     As is so often the case with a new development, it brings along with it a special set of troubles. In this case it was the disadvantages of stripping off the collodion coating from the paper. Eastman wanted a material that would have all the advantages of the collodion-type film, but strong enough not to need the paper backing. It took another three years for Eastman and a chemist named Reichenbach to get a good transparent material.

     In a laboratory in New Jersey another inventor was working with photography. He wanted to take 15 or 20 pictures a second on a strip of film, but he had been unable to find any such material until one day he heard of Eastman's work. So he immediately wrote a letter to Rochester enclosing $2.50 for a sample strip of the new material to be sent to T. A. Edison, Orange, New Jersey. The new film, apparently, did the job because in 1894 - fifty years ago, in an old shoe store on Broadway, Thomas A. Edison exhibited the Kinetoscope. This was the beginning of commercial motion pictures.

     It is difficult to estimate how many years photography might have been delayed if someone, such as Eastman, had not had such an intense desire to take pictures.

     If we were to withdraw the work of all the photographic pioneers from tintype to technicolor, there would be many thousands of persons working now in different jobs. There would be no Hollywood or movie theatres, no snapshots in American homes, and no pictures in the magazines and newspapers.

     George Eastman made a great contribution to world progress and his work has clearly shown us that, in the early stages of a problem, the desire to do a thing is more essential than technical knowledge, and this same desire is also the best guarantee of final success.




Dots and Dashes


     Next Wednesday, May 24, [1944], we understand there will be re-enacted in Washington a scene which took place just 100 years ago. A telegraph message will be sent from Washington to Baltimore - the dots and dashes will again spell out, "What hath God wrought ?"

     Today when we hear the word "telegraph" we naturally think of an electrical device, but many other methods of sending messages have been designed by men through the ages. Over 3,000 years ago the Greeks relayed back to Greece news of the capture of Troy, by signaling with fires.

     The American Indians used puffs of smoke for signals. One of the largest of the mounds they used for this purpose is near Miamisburg, Ohio, about 10 miles from Dayton.

    Tribes in Africa and on the islands of the Pacific have for centuries had a form of telegraph, using specially made drums; for extreme distances a listening drum is exactly tuned to the same tone as the sending drum.

     One of the most important developments in visual telegraphy took place during the French Revolution when Claude Chappe devised a semaphore system. These semaphores were erected on high towers about 10 miles apart, and a message could be sent from Paris to Lille, 130 miles away, at the rate of about 100 words per hour. An English writer of the time said, "Telegraphs have now been brought to a great degree of perfection… The whole kingdom could be warned in an instant of an approach of an invading army."

     However, long before this, a new Force - electricity - was beginning to make itself felt in the world of science. Almost 200 years ago Benjamin Franklin sent an electric current through a wire stretched across the Schuylkill River, and set fire to alcohol at the other end. Oersted, Sturgeon and Faraday, over a period of years, had uncovered many of the basic principles of electricity and magnetism. In 1831 Professor Joseph Henry strung nearly a mile of wire around one of the rooms in the Albany Academy. By closing a switch at one end of the wire, he could ring a bell at the other. The stage was being set for the electromagnetic telegraph.

     In 1832 Samuel Morse, a famous artist and President of the National Academy of Design in New York, returning from Europe on the packet ship "Sully" met Dr. Charles Jackson of Boston. One evening at dinner Dr. Jackson mentioned that experiments had shown that electricity possesses the ability to pass instantly over any length of wire. In the course of the conversation Morse said, "I see no reason why intelligence may not be transmitted by electricity."

     Obsessed with the idea, Morse neglected his painting, using it only as a means of providing funds for his experiments. In a garret in lower Manhattan he slept, ate and worked. He used the best information he could get from Professor Henry on electromagnets.

     With the help of Alfred Vail he managed to develop an instrument that would receive and record dots and dashes on paper. Later they dropped the recording and used the audible dots and dashes so well known to everyone today.

     For 10 years Morse tried to interest people in his electric telegraph, and it was not until 1843 that Congress finally provided the money to build a line from Washington to Baltimore. In May, 100 years ago, the first message was transmitted.

     In addition to providing a new form of communication, the electric telegraph stimulated science, industry, commerce and invention. It opened the way to the development of the Atlantic cable, the telephone, the radio and television.

     Each of these methods of communication has or will develop a new field of its own, and each contributes to the progress of the others. The public dictates, by the way it uses them, the particular service each has to perform; engineering and management try to improve the service and reduce the cost.

     Next Wednesday when that first message is again tapped out from Washington, we should all join with the thousands of employees of the communication industries in a vote of thanks to Samuel Morse for his great work. He had the courage to go through all the hardships, poverty and discouragement necessary, not only to solve the technical problems, but also to demonstrate the commercial possibilities of the telegraph.

     As we review our great communication systems, I know we will not forget that there are thousands of inventions yet to be made. We should always help in their development by keeping open the road for men with new ideas and not allow progress to be blocked by either prejudice or preconceived opinions.




The Crown Jewels


     Recently Dr. Harry Holmes, professor of chemistry and past president of the American Chemical Society, gave me the highlights of the commercial development of aluminum when I visited Oberlin, Ohio, to attend the College commencement. It is really a story of two men: a chemistry professor and one of his students.

      About sixty years ago, Professor Frank Jewett was telling his class something about a then comparatively rare metal - aluminum. He gave them some of the highlights of the history of the metal. He told them how Oersted, a Dane, in 1825 first isolated the new element and Wohler, in Germany, using an entirely different method succeeded in producing the same material. But Oersted and Wohler had failed to get the metal in anything more than a powder.

     A Frenchman, Henri Deville, in 1854, managed to obtain metallic aluminum by reducing aluminum chloride with metallic sodium. The first object to be made of aluminum was a rattle for the Prince Imperial of France. Napoleon III wore with pride an aluminum helmet and once, at a state dinner, he had the most distinguished guests served on aluminum plates, the others had to be content with just plain gold. From 1860 to 1880 the yearly world production was only about a ton and a half a year.

     At the conclusion of this lecture on aluminum, Professor Jewett said, "If anyone should invent a process by which aluminum could be made on a commercial scale, not only would he be a benefactor to the world but would also be able to lay up a great fortune for himself."

     Just as he concluded his remarks, a student, Charles Hall, turning to a classmate said, "I am going for that metal!"

     Inspired by Jewett's statement and his sound advice, he embarked on a research project that has made history. Hall devoted all of his spare time to the project during his remaining college years.

     When young Hall graduated in 1885 he would not admit that he was unable to obtain aluminum from its ores, so after graduation he continued the work in a wood-shed back of his father's house in Oberlin. He put together all sorts of home-made combinations and he would often call on his friend, Professor Jewett, for the loan of a piece of apparatus.

     The Frenchman, Deville, had tried to produce aluminum by electrolysis using a bath of molten cryolite and common salt, but he had abandoned the process thirty years before. After reading this, Hall thought he would try electrolysis, but instead of using cryolite melted with salt, he used aluminum oxide in the molten cryolite. This was new.

     Again followed a period of failures. He had to make experiments which depended on batteries home-made out of all sorts of cups, tumblers and pieces of carbon, but somehow Hall made them work. One morning, the 23rd of February, 1886, to be exact, Hall burst into Professor Jewett's office. "Professor, I've got it!" he said, showing some little pellets of aluminum in the palm of his hand.

     If you should have occasion to visit Oberlin College you will see some of these first globules of Hall's aluminum displayed in the Severance Chemical Laboratory. They are in a hand-wrought aluminum jewel casket labeled "The Crown Jewels" of aluminum.

     At the age of 22, Hall had succeeded where some of the world's best-known scientists had failed. We have often said the desire to do a thing is more important than the knowledge of how to do it.

     But the young inventor ran up against the situation that confronts nearly everyone who brings out a new thing, the problem of convincing the world he had something valuable. This took another two years until three Pittsburgh men raised $20,000.00 to finance the new enterprise calling it the Pittsburgh Reduction Company.

      In 1888 they produced 50 pounds of aluminum to be sold at $2.00 a pound. In 1890 the first aluminum cooking utensil was made. Today something like 400 million pieces of aluminum ware have been made.

     Charles Hall did not discover aluminum, he did something that was probably more important, he made it commercially available. It is no longer a precious metal, it is a commercial material that has thousands of everyday uses - from thimbles to airplane wings. When we read of a thousand airplanes today we are reading of thousands of tons of aluminum, a far cry from the few pellets in Hall's hand 58 years ago!

     Down in the Severance Chemical Laboratory is an aluminum statue of Charles Hall, nearby is a large photograph of Frank Jewett - pupil and teacher - boy and man.

     Jewett did not make the discovery but, I believe, he was of great help to Hall. That combination has a striking parallel in many of the things we do today - the guiding hand of Experience coupled with the fire and enthusiasm of Youth. In the new world of tomorrow that lies just over the horizon, we shall, as never before, need both. 




Rôle d'Honneur


      A country that produces great music, as a rule, also makes important contributions to science and invention. In this intermission, I should like to mention briefly some of the accomplishments of French engineers and scientists which have had a great and lasting influence on world progress.

     The Italian Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first to experiment with flying machines in about 1500, but for nearly 300 years no progress was made until in the Montgolfier brothers constructed a balloon which rose to a height of 6000 feet.

     A short time later another Frenchman, de Rozier, made the first human flight; and only two years after the first flight, Blanchard crossed the English channel in a balloon. Ten years later Blanchard came to America and flew from Philadelphia, across the Delaware River into New Jersey. He carried and delivered the first air mail.

     French inventors also contributed much to transportation on the ground. In nearly every history dealing with self-propelled road vehicles, you will find the name Nicholas Cugnot. Cugnot was a French artillery officer and built a three-wheeled steam propelled vehicle to pull artillery. Its chief difficulties were that it had to be refueled every 15 miles and turned over very easily. Because of these faults, the inventor was driven into exile.

     The idea of a self-propelled vehicle, however, could not be exiled. It made its appearance again when Lenoir, in 1860, built the first practical internal combustion engine in which the fire that operated it was in the engine cylinder.

    Thirty-four years after this, Levassor, later of the well-known Panhard-Levassor Company, departed from the horse-drawn vehicle design. He placed the engine out in front, used a clutch, a gear box and a differential - it was no longer a "horseless carriage," it was an "automobile," a word, which along with many other automotive terms came from the French.

     French scientists, however, were not idle in this period. In the middle of the 18th century there lived a man who has been given credit for founding the science of chemistry - his name - Antoine Lavoisier. We must remember that in those days there was no science of chemistry. The nearest thing to a chemist was the alchemist, a sort of magician who was constantly searching for the "Philosopher's Stone" to turn base metals into gold.

     Lavoisier laid the foundation for modern chemistry when he defined the chemical word "element." He discovered the composition of air and stated the guiding principle for modern research when he said "I wish to speak only of facts." Lavoisier was executed during the French Revolution but he left to the world a priceless volume - his "Elementary Treatise of Chemistry."

     We are also indebted to another Frenchman who lived over a hundred years ago for his pioneering work in photography - Louis Daguerre. Daguerre combined the talents of a painter and a physicist, and to this we can probably attribute his interest in obtaining permanent pictures by the action of sunlight on certain chemicals. In 1839 he was successful in his search - he discovered a process that produced a picture that has become famous down through the years - the daguerreotype.

     In recent years motion pictures have dramatized the careers of two of the world's greatest scientists - Madame Curie and Louis Pasteur. No medium, however, can do justice to the contributions of these two citizens of France. Time only adds to their value.

     These are only a few of those French scientists whose names are on the roll of honor - just a cross section to show the versatility of a people. There are hundreds of others whose names should be mentioned today for their contributions to world progress.

     Today, France is in the process of recovering from the effects of over four years of enemy occupation. She faces the future with that determination and courage so typical of her people. Perhaps her attitude can best be expressed by quoting from Louis Pasteur's farewell message to the world on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

     I quote, "Gentlemen - you bring me the greatest happiness that can be experienced by a man whose invincible belief is that science and peace will triumph over ignorance and war. Never permit the sadness of certain hours which pass over Nations to discourage you. Have faith that in the long run the Nations will learn to unite - not for destruction but for cooperation - and that the Future will belong not to the conquerors but to the saviors of mankind."   




Ghost Pictures


      Fifty years ago an event took place that gave the world an entirely new concept of sight. Everyone knew that ordinary light would go through pane of glass, but when Röntgen announced that he had discovered a way of seeing through opaque materials such as wood, metal and flesh, it was extremely difficult for people to comprehend. The X-ray opened a door to an entirely new world - a world no one had ever dreamed could exist. Here is how it happened.

     In November 1895, Professor W. Röntgen of the physics department at the University of Würsburg was experimenting with the flow of electricity through rarified air. He could detect the presence of free electrons by holding a fluorescent screen near the vacuum tube. On this particular day he had covered the tube with black paper and was studying the screen near the tube when he noticed that some small crystals quite a distance from the table were glowing.

     At first he thought that some stray electrons might be causing this, but he placed the crystals beyond the known range of such effects but they continued to glow.

     At the time Röntgen wrote to a friend, "I have discovered something interesting but I don't know if my observations are correct." But he was convinced that he had uncovered something amazing when he tried some more experiments.

     He placed a book and sheets of metal between the tube and his screen. The new rays easily passed through them. The only metals that stopped the rays were platinum and lead. Because he knew so little about this mysterious light, Röntgen gave it the name X-ray.

     But the most startling development took place when he put his hand between the tube and the screen. The bones absorbed more of the rays than the flesh and there on the fluorescent screen he saw the outline of his hand with the bones inside clearly outlined as a denser shadow.

     On December 22, 1895, he replaced the screen with a photographic plate and asked his wife to place her hand between the plate and the tube.

     He feverishly developed the exposed plate and out with the world's first radiograph - a picture of his wife's hand clearly showing the bones and ring on her finger. Röntgen's discovery made a startling impression upon the general public. The story of the rays that revealed the bones in the human body quickly appeared in the press.

      Here in America, Thomas Edison built a fluoroscope, a device somewhat like the old stereoscope except it was equipped with a screen that would glow in the presence of X-rays. Now any object placed between the fluoroscope and the tube would appear as an X-ray shadow on the screen.

     In May, 1896, Edison arranged a special exhibition of this detecting device at an electrical show in New York City. The "ghost" pictures proved to be the greatest attraction at the show - long lines of people patiently stood for hours to see them. Many people were awed but the majority thought it must be just a joke.

     The medical profession quickly realized that this wasn't a laughing matter - it didn't take them long to see this could be one of the most valuable diagnostic aids ever invented. The hand pictures had given them the clue - they could now see things which they could only guess at before. Medical diagnosis would be much more precise in the future.

     Like many other great scientists, Röntgen opened the door to an entirely new world - the world of radioactivity.

     This discovery stimulated Henri Becquerel, a Frenchman, to investigate the radiating qualities of different substances and this led to the discovery that the element uranium gives off rays that would go through opaque matter.

     This in turn affected the research of another person - Madame Curie. We all know the story of radium and the medical research that has followed.

     Since those comparatively early days - although they are less than 50 years ago - the picture has changed. Dr. Coolidge and many others have improved the X-ray tubes to the point where we can see flaws hidden deep in a block of steel up to a foot thick. The X-ray is as necessary to a modern diagnosis as an anesthetic is to surgery. In fact, in just one clinic 15,000 routine examinations were made last year. The X-ray is an all important section of metallurgy and is used in factories to inspect castings as well as in hospitals to help save lives.

     We often hear some people say there are no new frontiers - our knowledge is complete. But just as Columbus opened up a new physical world when he discovered America, Röntgen opened the door to a new world of scientific development when he uncovered the X-ray. How many of these new worlds, these new frontiers of science, are as yet undiscovered we do not know. Only time and our patient search can answer that. 




"Poor Richard"


      When young Beethoven was beginning his musical career at Bonn in 1783, Doctor Benjamin Franklin, ambassador from the newly born American republic, was being welcomed in Paris. One was beginning his life work, the other was at the zenith of his career - both were to leave their imprints on the world to come.

     Benjamin Franklin was born in a house on Milk Street in Boston. Today we would say young Franklin was dynamic, for at the age of 17 his energy took him from Boston via New York to Philadelphia.

     Later he was sent to London to learn more about the printing business and to study "natural philosophy" as "science" was called in those days.

     When he came back to Philadelphia, he set up a printing shop of his own and published, among other things, "Poor Richard's Almanack" which still ranks as one of the all-time best sellers.

     In addition to printing, he invented a stove, an improved outdoor lamp, and promoted paved streets in an attempt to raise the sanitary standards of the American city. The Junto Club which he organized to spread culture became probably America's first circulating library.

  When he reached the age of forty, Franklin, in 1746, began his electrical studies. We all know the story of his experiment with the kite and key. But his work to determine the positive and negative character of electricity, his improvements on the Leyden jar and his invention of the lightning rod may not be so well known.

      The lightning rod is a good illustration of the direct thinking of Franklin's - which was at odds with the prolific theorizing in those days. He expressed it this way, "Utility is in my opinion the only test of value in matters of invention."

     By 1749, he wanted to devote his entire time to science but events in this country changed his whole life. The threat of the French and Indian alliance suggested a defensive measure to Franklin, and he drew up a plan for the colonies to unite under a single government. But the Colonial Assemblies turned it down on the basis that such a central government would have too much power, and in England they thought the idea entirely too democratic.

     In less than 30 years however, the Assemblies did adopt it. For this reason, Balzac credited Franklin with inventing the idea of the United States.

     Franklin went to London to act as a peace-maker in the dispute between America and Great Britain, but in 1775 he gave up and came home. The Revolution had already begun when he landed on May 7th and a little over a year later he, along with the other American patriots, signed the Declaration of Independence.

     After the Revolution, as we mentioned, Franklin went to France as the American ambassador.

     While in Paris, he became extremely interested in Montgolfier's balloon experiments; and, 160 years ago, he wrote this, "Five thousand balloons could not cost more than five large ships and where is the Ruler who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds could not do an infinite amount of harm?"

     Sometimes we wish that great men such as Beethoven and Franklin could visit us today. Imagine Beethoven's pleasure if he could hear Maestro Toscanini, and Franklin's satisfaction if he could see how his electrical experiments were the forerunners of radio.

     These men, unknowingly and unselfishly, worked and built for Eternity. Each felt an inner urge to contribute his conscientious best to the world.

     There must be among us now those who have that same feeling - while we cannot name them, we know that 200 years from now, our descendants will be enjoying the contributions of the inspired Beethovens and Franklins of today.  




Music and Stars


      Recently we discussed an American contemporary of Beethoven - the famous statesman and scientist - Benjamin Franklin. Today, it might be appropriate to look at the career of one of the great men who lived in England at that time. The man is William Herschel who started as a skilled musician but became one of the most noted English scientists.

     Beethoven once said, "The barriers are not yet erected which can say to aspiring genius 'Thus far and no further'." And he might well have had Herschel in mind when he made this statement because it so aptly described the philosophy of the musician-scientist.

     Herschel's career began in Hanover, Germany about the middle of the 18th century. His father passed on to him two things - a musical training and a love of "natural philosophy" or science. William's skill as an oboe player won him a position in the Hanover Military Band and gave him an opportunity to visit England.

     Greatly impressed with that country, he left Hanover at the age of 19 to live in England so we next hear of him four years later as an organist in a church at Bath. It was here that he began to give music lessons - often spending as many as 15 hours a day teaching. In addition, he composed music and wrote anthems and psalms - all of which kept him well occupied.

     But the other side of his character began to assert itself - his love of science led him to devote long hours after his musical activities to the study of language, optics and astronomy. He couldn't find time to read during the day so he took it from his sleep. But with all of these things on his mind he didn't forget his favorite sister - Caroline.

     He went to Hanover and brought her to England where she could study voice and keep house for him. But she did much more than this - "she became his valuable and skilled assistant in the later scientific investigations." Science groups this brother and sister together in recognizing their remarkable achievements.

     Herschel inherited from his father a great love for astronomy and when he was the conductor of a hundred piece orchestra he would often go outside the theatre during the intermission and study the stars.

     Although he longed for a telescope, he was too poor to buy one so he did the only other thing possible - he built one. After his music pupils left for the summer vacation, he turned his house into a workshop - making the tube of the telescope in the living room and grinding lenses in the bedroom.

     He made several this way and with each improved model he opened up new fields for observation and study. When he was 43, after several unsuccessful attempts, he succeeded in casting a 36-inch mirror for a new reflecting telescope.

     This opened up an entirely new world to him and he discovered the planet later named Uranus. For this discovery he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and the next year George III appointed him Royal Astronomer.

      Herschel now had to make a very difficult decision. He was torn by an inner conflict. Should he devote his time to music or should he do astronomical research? But he made his decision and on Whit Sunday, 1782, he played an anthem of his own composition and said good bye to his pupils.

     Now at the age of 45 Herschel was free to devote all his time to his chosen career and in the years that followed he made scientific history. His observations and analysis led another astronomer to say, "As a scientific conception it is perhaps the grandest that has ever entered into the human mind."

     But Herschel himself realized, as no one else, how little was known. He expressed this in a letter to his sister. "Among opticians and astronomers, nothing now is talked of but what they call my great discoveries. This shows how far the scientists are behind when such trifles as I have done are called great."

      Herschel knew that greater worlds were hidden only because of man's inability to see them. We know today that regardless of the apparently marvelous accomplishments that surround us, many are, as Herschel would say, just "trifles" when compared to what the Future will develop through the minds and hands of the great men of tomorrow. 




Thomas Midgley, Jr.


     On the afternoon of February 2, 1923, over twenty-two years ago, a car drove into a filling station in Dayton, Ohio and the driver said, "Give me five gallons of that new Ethyl Gas advertised on the sign." That simple event is important because it was the first sale of this anti-knock gasoline to the public- and it set a precedent that millions of motorists have followed ever since that day.

     I have referred in the past to the importance of the Ethyl development in connection with the war effort, peace time transportation and the conservation of our petroleum resources. This afternoon I would like to pay tribute to all of the men who worked on this project, and one in particular - a very close friend and brilliant thinker - the late Thomas Midgley, Jr.

      Young Midgley was descended from a long line of inventors - in fact, I believe one of his ancestors was an employee of James Watt, the father of the steam engine. This may have had something to do with the fact that young Tom was graduated from Cornell, 1911, as a mechanical engineer. But at the time of his death, he was president of the American Chemical Society.

     This young man joined one of our Engineering Departments in 1916. Ever since we had put the self-starter on the automobile, engineers were inclined to blame the engine knock on the battery ignition which was part of the starter. About 1913 we had done some work on the cause of this difficulty but for the lack of time it was laid aside. Midgley and a group of us talked this over one Saturday at lunch and I said "Why don't you get the old apparatus out of my closet and see what you can find out?"

     Engine knock in those days was supposed to be caused by either ignition or carbon. Our preliminary studies had showed that there was more to it, so the first job that Midgley did was to devise a means of determining just what it was. The old indicator I had used was not satisfactory so for several months he developed an optical device in which a light beam traced a line on a screen showing the changing pressures in the engine. The copies of the first such diagrams are treasured in our archives.

     Armed with this valuable instrument, he was now ready to hunt for something to eliminate the disagreeable effect of the knock. Because of another experiment, we thought that if the fuel were colored red, it might help reduce the effect, so as dye we added iodine to the fuel. And it did help!

     But it was not the color as later tests showed. Then Midgley and his men began the epic search for a practical anti-knock.

     There was nothing in the books, so with home-made theories and cut and try methods, they added thousands of things to gasoline and observed their effects. For years this went on - day and night.

     New chemical compounds were imported from overseas and many other new ones were made in our own laboratories. Meals were forgotten, sleep was lost and the happy families of the researchers ceased to be "happy." And just as everyone was becoming absolutely discouraged, an experiment produced a bare teaspoonful of a rare compound called - tetra-ethyl lead.

    Now how to make it, and how to use it and a dozen other very difficult problems came to the front. Midgley was not only an inventor - he also had the ability to reduce the invention to practical usefulness and sell and educate the public as to its advantages.

     The combination of these three things in an individual seldom occurs. He was a great crusader as well as a great scientist.

     His versatility was evidenced by a correct evaluation of education. He had learned the usual text book facts dealing with mechanical engineering problems. But he had also learned that a method of finding facts in other lines was just as important. His knowledge of how to proceed with any problem coupled with his great desire to find the answer would have made him an outstanding figure in any field.

     Honors were conferred upon him from many directions. He was a member of the leading scientific societies, he was Vice-chairman of the National Inventor's Council, head of a branch of the National Defense Research Committee, and retiring president of the American Chemical Society at the time of his death.

     This is all too brief a story of Thomas Midgley, Jr. the mechanical engineer who became a world renowned chemist. His work and inventions have added greatly to the industrial and economic status of the world in which we live today, and these same ideas will undoubtedly influence progress and scientific thinking in the new world of tomorrow.




The Man of a Thousand Ideas


          On February 11th, 1847, the great American Thomas A. Edison was born in Milan, Ohio. His inventions have changed the entire pattern of civilization.

     Edison's ideas have invaded almost every phase of our daily life. We pick up a telephone and his handiwork is there. We push a switch and Edison's idea illuminates the room. We put a record on a phonograph and Edison makes it come to life.

     He helped create the electrical age and made the world of motion pictures. Edison has made our world a more convenient, a more interesting and a much better place in which to live. And what is just as important, he created millions of new jobs.

      Nearly all of us are familiar with the story of the first incandescent lamp, his experiments with the phonograph and motion pictures, but perhaps some of the other highlights in his life are not so well known.

     Edison never seemed to have enough to do. Even while working fifteen hours a day as a train newsboy, on the side he learned telegraphy and set up an amateur printing press in the mail car.

     His education consisted of observing, doing and reading. Later when he became an expert telegraph operator, he still found time to continue his studies.

     Edison's mind from early youth was always filled with ideas. He was always looking for better ways to do the job. But he had more than ideas. He had a desire and ability to put them into physical form and try them out. But this experimenting cost money, and the minute young Tom would get hold of a few dollars, it went into apparatus and equipment.

     But it wasn't long before his experiments bore fruit. He redesigned the clumsy stock ticker of that day and sold the improved machine for $40,000, a fortune then. To Edison it meant only that he could spend more time and money in research.

     By the time he was 30 he had become a professional inventor. He had more ideas than he could complete by himself, so he set up a laboratory at Menlo Park in New Jersey and employed some assistants to help him work on the many unknown details.

     This procedure of Edison's is probably the first time in history that an organized group was used to investigate a problem. The lone inventor was being replaced by organized research. The Menlo Park Laboratories were moved to Dearborn, Michigan under Mr. Edison's supervision where it is now a part of the great Ford Museum. Out of this laboratory came the telephone transmitter, the phonograph, the incandescent lamp and the motion picture.

     Because of the variety and number of Edison's inventions, we are apt to get the impression that these things came to him easily - that they were just flashes of genius. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is one story about Edison that illustrates not only this point but brings out his ability to use a fact whether it was good or bad.

     Edison was hard at work experimenting on an important invention. In spite of numerous attempts he could not get the result he wanted. All his efforts failed. A sympathetic friend said to him, "It's too bad to do all of that work for nothing." "But it's not for nothing." said Edison. "We have got a lot of good results. Look now, we know 700 things that won't work."

     A further illustration of this tenacity of purpose is demonstrated by his search for the best filament material for his incandescent lamp. For eighteen to twenty hours a day he experimented with all sorts of materials - from human hair to plant fiber from the South Seas - until one day he found that carbonized bamboo fiber gave the best results.

     Most people would have stopped there but not Edison - he had to find the best type of fiber. As one writer said, "He ransacked the earth from the Malay Peninsula to the jungles of the Amazon. He tried 6,000 varieties and it cost him over one hundred thousand dollars until he found the ideal type in the South American jungle."

     Just as a journey of a thousand miles must start with a single step, this man has taught us that many times the great inventions start with small ideas. And Edison lived in a world of ideas - he knew he was surrounded by thousands of things, everyone of which he felt he could improve. His only difficulties were that the days and nights were too short and there were not enough hands and minds to work on all the problems.

     If he were living today, I am sure Thomas Edison would look around and say, "Let us not become egotists just because we have made some progress. There are many problems yet to be solved and it seems to me there are just about as many things to be done now as there were when I was a boy, but the opportunities are so much greater. So let's get to work."  




Scientific Giant


     Once in a while we need to look at the interrelation of such things as music, science, engineering and anatomy because new information found in anyone of these fields can greatly influence all the others.

     Before our modern scientific age came into being, this tying together of different types of knowledge was done as a rule by people who were educated in one field and through choice or force of circumstances worked in another. One of the outstanding men of this class was Hermann Von Helmholtz who lived more than a century ago and brought together physiology, music and physics.

     Helmholtz was born in Potsdam, Germany in 1821. His father was an eminent teacher and his son received an excellent education in medicine and surgery.

     After practicing medicine for a while, young Helmholtz taught anatomy in Berne and then physiology in several of the best universities, including Konigsberg. What is still more important, in the latter part of his life he became professor of physics in the University of Berlin where he made great contributions to the physiological effect of sound and light.

     When we are listening to this splendid music, I am sure some of us wonder just why symphonies affect us as they do. Why do some compositions stir and others soothe us? Before the time of Helmholtz, music was a mysterious thing, a gift from the gods which could not be explained by man. By turning his attention to both the physical and artistic parts of music, Helmholtz explained this mystery and brought about a new method of studying the pleasing as well as the disagreeable characters of sounds.

     Musical tones such as we are listening to this afternoon are very complex, and Helmholtz developed the Resonator, an instrument by which sounds could be resolved into their simple components just as a glass prism breaks up a beam of light into its elementary colors. From this work he concluded that all musical tones could be measured by three factors, pitch, intensity and quality.

     Now pitch as we all know is the frequency of vibration, Middle C being 256 per second. The frequency doubles for each octave above. Intensity is loudness. The most important factor however is quality which is the blending of selected pure tones of various pitches and intensities. You recognize the voice of a friend, not so much by loudness or pitch but by the quality which is almost the same as his personality.

     The principles of quality are shown by having different instruments play the same note. The pitch of course is the same and the loudness is easily controlled. The piano, the violin, the trumpet or the oboe are readily distinguished by their overtones which give them individuality. The mechanism for mixing pure tones of varying pitches and intensities makes the modern electronic organ possible.

      After Helmholtz had finished his studies on sound, he did work in connection with the mechanism of sight. Often when driving along a road in the dark, we have been startled by the light coming from a cat's eyes. The Egyptians who were cat worshippers attributed this to the animal's mystic power, but Helmholtz thought it was only a reflection. He reasoned that if the eye were capable of reflecting light from the outside, there must be a means of looking into it from the outside.

     From this theory he developed an instrument which every optician uses today to diagnose your seeing difficulty. You have all seen the small mirror with the peephole in the center with which the specialist actually examines the inside of your eye. Helmholtz developed this device in 1850 - nearly a hundred years ago, but it was just the beginning of his research on vision.

     He discovered and named the fault known as astigmatism and studied the muscles and actions of the eye and devised lenses to correct this fault. His book on PHYSIOLOGICAL OPTICS contains the results of all of these experiments and stands today as one of the most important works ever written on the subject.

     To Helmholtz, medicine, music, physics and chemistry were all part of the day's work. From this we can learn that in working on any problem we should be able to call upon all of the different fields of development for assistance just as a carpenter reaches for his hammer, his saw or his plane.

     If such remarkable contributions to man's progress can be made by using information from different branches of science, and since we do not always have such brilliant men as Helmholtz, it is important that we have workers in all the different fields when we undertake a new problem. The correlation of such information to a single purpose is what makes modern industrial research so valuable to every phase of human activity.  

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