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The Agricultural Revolution Index

Introduction to the Agricultural Revolution

The Industrial Revolution Index

Introduction to the First Industrial Revolution

The Second Industrial Revolution Index

William Murdock and the Gas Industry
Sir Humphry Davy
Michael Faraday
The Development of Communications
Samuel Breese Morse
Guglielmo Marconi
Urbanisation and Public Transport
The Motor Industry
The Development of Flight
The Industrial Revolution and Warfare

History Chapters Main Index

 

Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914)

 

Sir Joseph Wilson Swan

 

Joseph Swan started his working life as an assistant to a Sunderland pharmacist. Swan later became an assistant at a chemical manufacturing company in Newcastle. He eventually worked his way up to a full partnership in the business.

Between 1871 and 1904, Swan was responsible for many important scientific discoveries. He invented bromide paper, for use in photography. He first experimented with carbon filament lamps twenty years before Thomas Edison, but the technology of the day did not allow him to obtain the vacuum needed inside the glass bulb.

Swan went on to improve vacuum technology and develop the first practical light bulb. His investigations into carbon filament development led him, quite accidentally, to the discovery of an artificial fiber. In 1885, Swan exhibited the first articles of clothing made entirely from artificial fiber. In 1904, Joseph Swan received a knighthood for his contribution to science and technology.

 

 

 

 

TWO CENTURIES OF REVOLTIONARY CHANGE

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The Second Industrial Revolution

Electricity and Electric Power

 

Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

 

Thomas Edison

 

Thomas Edison's father was a lighthouse keeper in the American state of Michigan. Edison was partially deaf, which made him appear to be backward at school. Because of this reputation, Edison did not attend school very much but he did use his free time to read extensively. In 1859, he started work for the railroad and his job taught him telegraphy. At first, when telegraphy was a visual art - a series of dots and dashes punched out on a card - Edison coped very well. Later developments, however, changed the dots and dashes into audio signals, which, because of his hearing problem, made his work much more difficult for him.

In 1863, Edison became an apprentice engineer with the precise ambition to improve telegraphic technology enough for him to be able to hear the signals. He turned out to be a prolific inventor, however, and was the originator of the duplex telegraph, which could send two messages at once, and the printer. Edison moved to New York City and formed a company with a business partner. His automatic telegraph, based on chemical imprints which sent electrical signals, was not a great success. However, the knowledge he gained from developing it allowed him to create the electric pen and the mimeograph. Both of these latter inventions led directly to other researchers producing the phonograph.

 

An older Thomas Edison

 

In 1878, Edison developed a carbon filament lamp which used an evacuated glass bulb. Although this was a parallel invention with that of Joseph Swan, Edison received most of the credit for it since he developed the rest of the technology, such as the power lines, which the system needed to work properly.

 

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