Notes: Episode 3, Tesla And Edison (Part 1)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


6:50 – Edison’s father, Samuel Edison, had several jobs throughout his life – anything from roofing to tailoring to keeping a tavern. Samuel was born in Nova Scotia and forced to leave Canada after participating in the 1837 Mackenzie rebellions, which are extremely interesting and unexpectedly exciting for Canadian history. Teachers will try their best to convince you nothing fun ever happened in Canadian history, but this was a riot that started at a bar. Check it out.


15:57 – I say that tungsten filaments for bulbs were introduced “much later”, which let’s face it was a bit of a cop-out. They were patented in 1904 by Hungarians Sandor Just and Franjo Hanaman. General Electric had their own version of the tungsten lamp by 1906. Tungsten glows brighter and lasts longer than a carbon filament.


16:12 – The very cursory research I did on the typical lifespan of an incandescent lamp (though I didn’t spend much time on this) yielded between 1000 and 2000 hours per bulb. Edison’s rating of 1200 hours may have been optimistic on his part, but it was more or less in line with current bulb ratings. It should be noted, however, that his bulbs were usually run at much lower current than a modern bulb, which tends to vastly increase lifespan.


22:55 – The term “War of the Currents” was not used during the period between 1887 and 1893, as I incorrectly speculated. I couldn’t find any good information on the origin of the term, but the earliest use I could find was from 1937.


39:30 – William Kemmler was convicted of murdering his wife with a hatchet. It makes Westinghouse’s quip about the execution likely going better if they had used an axe that much better.


43:11 РFor some reason I claim that Dale Carnegie built Carnegie Hall. He did not; he wrote the wildly popular book How To Win Friends And Influence People. He was not in any way related to Andrew Carnegie, who actually built the hall. If history could please have only one notable person per last name, that would be really helpful. Thank you.


49:15 – Edison’s bid with General Electric for the Chicago World’s Fair of over 1 million was, in fact, about 1.8 million dollars. In today’s currency that would be around $47 million.¬†They revised their bid to $554,000 ($14.5 million today), but Westinghouse won the bid at $399,000 (today $10.4 million). Given the adjusted values, it’s a lot less close than it seems at first glance. Westinghouse had it locked down.

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