Thomas Alva Edison is a revered icon in the U.S. and around the world. Many credit him with developing electricity and lighting up the world.
He is credited with the invention of the incandescent light bulb, but priority for that invention goes to an Englishman named Sir Joseph Swan (1828-1914).
Edison was a hard taskmaster, and the men who worked for him HAD to "invent" something . . . no matter whose ideas or patents they stole.
Today, all the world takes AC for granted, but they don't realize how bitterly Edison, Morgan, and Rockefeller fought against this great advance in civilization.
Tesla worked for Edison for about a year and Edison failed to "discover" the greatest electrical genius that ever lived!!
Edison's only original "invention" was the ELECTRIC CHAIR!!
As we stated, Edison was a general in the Battle of the Currents which pitted Edison and Morgan against Nicola Tesla and George Westinghouse. He called AC KILLER CURRENT and he set out to prove it by killing a man with an electric chair powered by AC.
Edison hired a man named Harold P. Brown to develop the electric chair in order to discredit Tesla's AC system.
In order to prove that AC electricity was better for executions, Brown and Edison killed many animals, including a circus elephant, while testing their prototypes. They also held executions of animals for the press in order to ensure that AC current was associated with electrocution. It was at these events that the term electrocution was coined. Most of their experiments were conducted at Edison's West Orange, New Jersey, laboratory in 1888.
Edison's "killer current" research laboratory!!
Edison employed hundreds of men at his Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory. When any workers improved on an existing invention (like the light bulb) or discovered something new, Edison immediately patented it under his name.
In order to discredit AC, Edison collected dogs, cats, sheep, horses and even elephants to electrocute with AC. The research laboratory became a veritable slaughterhouse:
First man to die in the electric chair was said to be "Westinghoused"
The first man to die in the electric chair was William Kemmler. He was sentenced in May, 1889, and the sentence was carried out on August 6, 1890.
Edison was determined that the execution would be carried out by AC so he had Harold Brown secretly buy and install Westinghouse AC generators in the prison.
George Westinghouse tried to halt the execution on the grounds that it was cruel and unusual punishment but all his appeals were turned down.
The first application of current was botched and Kemmler did not die until the current was fired up a second time. When he was dead, the newspapers said that he had been "Westinghoused."
That God that this desperate, deadly gambit by Edison failed to turn people away from AC and eventually AC triumphed over DC and became the standard universal current.
Moran, Richard. Executioner's Current. Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and the Invention of the Electric Chair. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2002.
Wachhorst, Wyn. Thomas Alva Edison. An American Myth. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MASS. 1981.
Copyright © 2008 Niall Kilkenny