Little Masterpieces of Science: - Invention and Discovery
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Little Masterpieces of Science

Edited by George Iles



Benjamin Franklin Alexander Graham Bell Michael Faraday Count Rumford Joseph Henry George Stephenson




Copyright, 1902, by Doubleday, Page & Co.

Copyright, 1877, by George B. Prescott

Copyright, 1896, by S. S. McClure Co.

Copyright, 1900, by Doubleday, McClure & Co.


To a good many of us the inventor is the true hero for he multiplies the working value of life. He performs an old task with new economy, as when he devises a mowing-machine to oust the scythe; or he creates a service wholly new, as when he bids a landscape depict itself on a photographic plate. He, and his twin brother, the discoverer, have eyes to read a lesson that Nature has held for ages under the undiscerning gaze of other men. Where an ordinary observer sees, or thinks he sees, diversity, a Franklin detects identity, as in the famous experiment here recounted which proves lightning to be one and the same with a charge of the Leyden jar. Of a later day than Franklin, advantaged therefor by new knowledge and better opportunities for experiment, stood Faraday, the founder of modern electric art. His work gave the world the dynamo and motor, the transmission of giant powers, almost without toll, for two hundred miles at a bound. It is, however, in the carriage of but trifling quantities of motion, just enough for signals, that electricity thus far has done its most telling work. Among the men who have created the electric telegraph Joseph Henry has a commanding place. A short account of what he did, told in his own words, is here presented. Then follows a narrative of the difficult task of laying the first Atlantic cables, a task long scouted as impossible: it is a story which proves how much science may be indebted to unfaltering courage, to faith in ultimate triumph.

To give speech the wings of electricity, to enable friends in Denver and New York to converse with one another, is a marvel which only familiarity places beyond the pale of miracle. Shortly after he perfected the telephone Professor Bell described the steps which led to its construction. That recital is here reprinted.

A recent wonder of electric art is its penetration by a photographic ray of substances until now called opaque. Professor Roentgen's account of how he wrought this feat forms one of the most stirring chapters in the history of science. Next follows an account of the telegraph as it dispenses with metallic conductors altogether, and trusts itself to that weightless ether which brings to the eye the luminous wave. To this succeeds a chapter which considers what electricity stands for as one of the supreme resources of human wit, a resource transcending even flame itself, bringing articulate speech and writing to new planes of facility and usefulness. It is shown that the rapidity with which during a single century electricity has been subdued for human service, illustrates that progress has leaps as well as deliberate steps, so that at last a gulf, all but infinite, divides man from his next of kin.

At this point we pause to recall our debt to the physical philosophy which underlies the calculations of the modern engineer. In such an experiment as that of Count Rumford we observe how the corner-stone was laid of the knowledge that heat is motion, and that motion under whatever guise, as light, electricity, or what not, is equally beyond creation or annihilation, however elusively it may glide from phase to phase and vanish from view. In the mastery of Flame for the superseding of muscle, of breeze and waterfall, the chief credit rests with James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine. Beside him stands George Stephenson, who devised the locomotive which by abridging space has lengthened life and added to its highest pleasures. Our volume closes by narrating the competition which decided that Stephenson's "Rocket" was much superior to its rivals, and thus opened a new chapter in the history of mankind.





Franklin explains the action of the Leyden phial or jar. Suggests lightning-rods. Sends a kite into the clouds during a thunderstorm; through the kite-string obtains a spark of lightning which throws into divergence the loose fibres of the string, just as an ordinary electrical discharge would do. 3



Notices the inductive effect in one coil when the circuit in a concentric coil is completed or broken. Notices similar effects when a wire bearing a current approaches another wire or recedes from it. Rotates a galvanometer needle by an electric pulse. Induces currents in coils when the magnetism is varied in their iron or steel cores. Observes the lines of magnetic force as iron filings are magnetized. A magnetic bar moved in and out of a coil of wire excites electricity therein,—mechanical motion is converted into electricity. Generates a current by spinning a copper plate in a horizontal plane. 7



Improves the electro-magnet of Sturgeon by insulating its wire with silk thread, and by disposing the wire in several coils instead of one. Experiments with a large electro-magnet excited by nine distinct coils. Uses a battery so powerful that electro-magnets are produced one hundred times more energetic than those of Sturgeon. Arranges a telegraphic circuit more than a mile long and at that distance sounds a bell by means of an electro-magnet. 23



Forerunners at New York and Dover. Gutta-percha the indispensable insulator. Wire is used to sheathe the cables. Cyrus W. Field's project for an Atlantic cable. The first cable fails. 1858 so does the second cable 1865. A triumph of courage, 1866. The highway smoothed for successors. Lessons of the cable. 37



Indebted to his father's study of the vocal organs as they form sounds. Examines the Helmholtz method for the analysis and synthesis of vocal sounds. Suggests the electrical actuation of tuning-forks and the electrical transmission of their tones. Distinguishes intermittent, pulsatory and undulatory currents. Devises as his first articulating telephone a harp of steel rods thrown into vibration by electro-magnetism. Exhibits optically the vibrations of sound, using a preparation of a human ear: is struck by the efficiency of a slight aural membrane. Attaches a bit of clock spring to a piece of goldbeater's skin, speaks to it, an audible message is received at a distant and similar device. This contrivance improved is shown at the Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876. At first the same kind of instrument transmitted and delivered, a message; soon two distinct instruments were invented for transmitting and for receiving. Extremely small magnets suffice. A single blade of grass forms a telephonic circuit. 57

DAM, H. J. W.


Roentgen indebted to the researches of Faraday, Clerk-Maxwell, Hertz, Lodge and Lenard. The human optic nerve is affected by a very small range in the waves that exist in the ether. Beyond the visible spectrum of common light are vibrations which have long been known as heat or as photographically active. Crookes in a vacuous bulb produced soft light from high tension electricity. Lenard found that rays from a Crookes' tube passed through substances opaque to common light. Roentgen extended these experiments and used the rays photographically, taking pictures of the bones of the hand through living flesh, and so on. 87



What may follow upon electric induction. Telegraphy to a moving train. The Preece induction method; its limits. Marconi's system. His precursors, Hertz, Onesti, Branly and Lodge. The coherer and the vertical wire form the essence of the apparatus. Wireless telegraphy at sea. 109



Electricity does all that fire ever did, does it better, and performs uncounted services impossible to flame. Its mastery means as great a forward stride as the subjugation of fire. A minor invention or discovery simply adds to human resources: a supreme conquest as of flame or electricity, is a multiplier and lifts art and science to a new plane. Growth is slow, flowering is rapid: progress at times is so quick of pace as virtually to become a leap. The mastery of electricity based on that of fire. Electricity vastly wider of range than heat: it is energy in its most available and desirable phase. The telegraph and the telephone contrasted with the signal fire. Electricity as the servant of mechanic and engineer. Household uses of the current. Electricity as an agent of research now examines Nature in fresh aspects. The investigator and the commercial exploiter render aid to one another. Social benefits of electricity, in telegraphy, in quick travel. The current should serve every city house. 125



Observes that in boring a cannon much heat is generated: the longer the boring lasts, the more heat is produced. He argues that since heat without limit may be thus produced by motion, heat must be motion. 155



Shall it be a system of stationary engines or locomotives? The two best practical engineers of the day are in favour of stationary engines. A test of locomotives is, however, proffered, and George Stephenson and his son, Robert, discuss how they may best build an engine to win the first prize. They adopt a steam blast to stimulate the draft of the furnace, and raise steam quickly in a boiler having twenty-five small fire-tubes of copper. The "Rocket" with a maximum speed of twenty-nine miles an hour distances its rivals. With its load of water its weight was but four and a quarter tons. 163



[From Franklin's Works, edited in ten volumes by John Bigelow, Vol. I, pages 276-281, copyright by G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York.]

Dr. Stuber, the author of the first continuation of Franklin's life, gives this account of the electrical experiments of Franklin:—

"His observations he communicated, in a series of letters, to his friend Collinson, the first of which is dated March 28, 1747. In these he shows the power of points in drawing and throwing off the electrical matter, which had hitherto escaped the notice of electricians. He also made the grand discovery of a plus and minus, or of a positive and negative state of electricity. We give him the honour of this without hesitation; although the English have claimed it for their countryman, Dr. Watson. Watson's paper is dated January 21, 1748; Franklin's July 11, 1747, several months prior. Shortly after Franklin, from his principles of the plus and minus state, explained in a satisfactory manner the phenomena of the Leyden phial, first observed by Mr. Cuneus, or by Professor Muschenbroeck, of Leyden, which had much perplexed philosophers. He showed clearly that when charged the bottle contained no more electricity than before, but that as much was taken from one side as thrown on the other; and that to discharge it nothing was necessary but to produce a communication between the two sides by which the equilibrium might be restored, and that then no signs of electricity would remain. He afterwards demonstrated by experiments that the electricity did not reside in the coating as had been supposed, but in the pores of the glass itself. After the phial was charged he removed the coating, and found that upon applying a new coating the shock might still be received. In the year 1749, he first suggested his idea of explaining the phenomena of thunder gusts and of aurora borealis upon electric principles. He points out many particulars in which lightning and electricity agree; and he adduces many facts, and reasonings from facts, in support of his positions.

"In the same year he conceived the astonishingly bold and grand idea of ascertaining the truth of his doctrine by actually drawing down the lightning, by means of sharp pointed iron rods raised into the regions of the clouds. Even in this uncertain state his passion to be useful to mankind displayed itself in a powerful manner. Admitting the identity of electricity and lightning, and knowing the power of points in repelling bodies charged with electricity, and in conducting fires silently and imperceptibly, he suggested the idea of securing houses, ships and the like from being damaged by lightning, by erecting pointed rods that should rise some feet above the most elevated part, and descend some feet into the ground or water. The effect of these he concluded would be either to prevent a stroke by repelling the cloud beyond the striking distance or by drawing off the electrical fire which it contained; or, if they could not effect this they would at least conduct the electrical matter to the earth without any injury to the building.

"It was not until the summer of 1752 that he was enabled to complete his grand and unparalleled discovery by experiment. The plan which he had originally proposed was, to erect, on some high tower or elevated place, a sentry-box from which should rise a pointed iron rod, insulated by being fixed in a cake of resin. Electrified clouds passing over this would, he conceived, impart to it a portion of their electricity which would be rendered evident to the senses by sparks being emitted when a key, the knuckle, or other conductor, was presented to it. Philadelphia at this time afforded no opportunity of trying an experiment of this kind. While Franklin was waiting for the erection of a spire, it occurred to him that he might have more ready access to the region of clouds by means of a common kite. He prepared one by fastening two cross sticks to a silk handkerchief, which would not suffer so much from the rain as paper. To the upright stick was affixed an iron point. The string was, as usual, of hemp, except the lower end, which was silk. Where the hempen string terminated, a key was fastened. With this apparatus, on the appearance of a thundergust approaching, he went out into the commons, accompanied by his son, to whom alone he communicated his intentions, well knowing the ridicule which, too generally for the interest of science, awaits unsuccessful experiments in philosophy. He placed himself under a shed, to avoid the rain; his kite was raised, a thunder-cloud passed over it, no sign of electricity appeared. He almost despaired of success, when suddenly he observed the loose fibres of his string to move towards an erect position. He now presented his knuckle to the key and received a strong spark. How exquisite must his sensations have been at this moment! On his experiment depended the fate of his theory. If he succeeded, his name would rank high among those who had improved science; if he failed, he must inevitably be subjected to the derision of mankind, or, what is worse, their pity, as a well-meaning man, but a weak, silly projector. The anxiety with which he looked for the result of his experiment may easily be conceived. Doubts and despair had begun to prevail, when the fact was ascertained, in so clear a manner, that even the most incredulous could no longer withhold their assent. Repeated sparks were drawn from the key, a phial was charged, a shock given, and all the experiments made which are usually performed with electricity."


[Michael Faraday was for many years Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Institution, London, where his researches did more to subdue electricity to the service of man than those of any other physicist who ever lived. "Faraday as a Discoverer," by Professor John Tyndall (his successor) depicts a mind of the rarest ability and a character of the utmost charm. This biography is published by D. Appleton & Co., New York: the extracts which follow are from the third chapter.]

In 1831 we have Faraday at the climax of his intellectual strength, forty years of age, stored with knowledge and full of original power. Through reading, lecturing, and experimenting, he had become thoroughly familiar with electrical science: he saw where light was needed and expansion possible. The phenomena of ordinary electric induction belonged, as it were, to the alphabet of his knowledge: he knew that under ordinary circumstances the presence of an electrified body was sufficient to excite, by induction, an unelectrified body. He knew that the wire which carried an electric current was an electrified body, and still that all attempts had failed to make it excite in other wires a state similar to its own.

What was the reason of this failure? Faraday never could work from the experiments of others, however clearly described. He knew well that from every experiment issues a kind of radiation, luminous, in different degrees to different minds, and he hardly trusted himself to reason upon an experiment that he had not seen. In the autumn of 1831 he began to repeat the experiments with electric currents, which, up to that time, had produced no positive result. And here, for the sake of younger inquirers, if not for the sake of us all, it is worth while to dwell for a moment on a power which Faraday possessed in an extraordinary degree. He united vast strength with perfect flexibility. His momentum was that of a river, which combines weight and directness with the ability to yield to the flexures of its bed. The intentness of his vision in any direction did not apparently diminish his power of perception in other directions; and when he attacked a subject, expecting results, he had the faculty of keeping his mind alert, so that results different from those which he expected should not escape him through pre-occupation.

He began his experiments "on the induction of electric currents" by composing a helix of two insulated wires, which were wound side by side round the same wooden cylinder. One of these wires he connected with a voltaic battery of ten cells, and the other with a sensitive galvanometer. When connection with the battery was made, and while the current flowed, no effect whatever was observed at the galvanometer. But he never accepted an experimental result, until he had applied to it the utmost power at his command. He raised his battery from ten cells to one hundred and twenty cells, but without avail. The current flowed calmly through the battery wire without producing, during its flow, any sensible result upon the galvanometer.

"During its flow," and this was the time when an effect was expected—but here Faraday's power of lateral vision, separating, as it were from the line of expectation, came into play—he noticed that a feeble movement of the needle always occurred at the moment when he made contact with the battery; that the needle would afterwards return to its former position and remain quietly there unaffected by the flowing current. At the moment, however, when the circuit was interrupted the needle again moved, and in a direction opposed to that observed on the completion of the circuit.

This result, and others of a similar kind, led him to the conclusion "that the battery current through the one wire did in reality induce a similar current through the other; but that it continued for an instant only, and partook more of the nature of the electric wave from a common Leyden jar than of the current from a voltaic battery." The momentary currents thus generated were called induced currents, while the current which generated them was called the inducing current. It was immediately proved that the current generated at making the circuit was always opposed in direction to its generator, while that developed on the rupture of the circuit coincided in direction with the inducing current. It appeared as if the current on its first rush through the primary wire sought a purchase in the secondary one, and, by a kind of kick, impelled backward through the latter an electric wave, which subsided as soon as the primary current was fully established.

Faraday, for a time, believed that the secondary wire, though quiescent when the primary current had been once established, was not in its natural condition, its return to that condition being declared by the current observed at breaking the circuit. He called this hypothetical state of the wire the electro-tonic state: he afterwards abandoned this hypothesis, but seemed to return to it in after life. The term electro-tonic is also preserved by Professor Du Bois Reymond to express a certain electric condition of the nerves, and Professor Clerk Maxwell has ably defined and illustrated the hypothesis in the Tenth Volume of the "Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society."

The mere approach of a wire forming a closed curve to a second wire through which a voltaic current flowed was then shown by Faraday to be sufficient to arouse in the neutral wire an induced current, opposed in direction to the inducing current; the withdrawal of the wire also generated a current having the same direction as the inducing current; those currents existed only during the time of approach or withdrawal, and when neither the primary nor the secondary wire was in motion, no matter how close their proximity might be, no induced current was generated.

Faraday has been called a purely inductive philosopher. A great deal of nonsense is, I fear, uttered in this land of England about induction and deduction. Some profess to befriend the one, some the other, while the real vocation of an investigator, like Faraday, consists in the incessant marriage of both. He was at this time full of the theory of Ampere, and it cannot be doubted that numbers of his experiments were executed merely to test his deductions from that theory. Starting from the discovery of Oersted, the celebrated French philosopher had shown that all the phenomena of magnetism then known might be reduced to the mutual attractions and repulsions of electric currents. Magnetism had been produced from electricity, and Faraday, who all his life long entertained a strong belief in such reciprocal actions, now attempted to effect the evolution of electricity from magnetism. Round a welded iron ring he placed two distinct coils of covered wire, causing the coils to occupy opposite halves of the ring. Connecting the ends of one of the coils with a galvanometer, he found that the moment the ring was magnetized, by sending a current through the other coil, the galvanometer needle whirled round four or five times in succession. The action, as before, was that of a pulse, which vanished immediately. On interrupting the current, a whirl of the needle in the opposite direction occurred. It was only during the time of magnetization or demagnetization that these effects were produced. The induced currents declared a change of condition only, and they vanished the moment the act of magnetization or demagnetization was complete.

The effects obtained with the welded ring were also obtained with straight bars of iron. Whether the bars were magnetized by the electric current, or were excited by the contact of permanent steel magnets, induced currents were always generated during the rise, and during the subsidence of the magnetism. The use of iron was then abandoned, and the same effects were obtained by merely thrusting a permanent steel magnet into a coil of wire. A rush of electricity through the coil accompanied the insertion of the magnet; an equal rush in the opposite direction accompanied its withdrawal. The precision with which Faraday describes these results, and the completeness with which he defined the boundaries of his facts, are wonderful. The magnet, for example, must not be passed quite through the coil, but only half through, for if passed wholly through, the needle is stopped as by a blow, and then he shows how this blow results from a reversal of the electric wave in the helix. He next operated with the powerful permanent magnet of the Royal Society, and obtained with it, in an exalted degree, all the foregoing phenomena.

And now he turned the light of these discoveries upon the darkest physical phenomenon of that day. Arago had discovered in 1824, that a disk of non-magnetic metal had the power of bringing a vibrating magnetic needle suspended over it rapidly to rest; and that on causing the disk to rotate the magnetic needle rotated along with it. When both were quiescent, there was not the slightest measurable attraction or repulsion exerted between the needle and the disk; still when in motion the disk was competent to drag after it, not only a light needle, but a heavy magnet. The question had been probed and investigated with admirable skill by both Arago and Ampere, and Poisson had published a theoretic memoir on the subject; but no cause could be assigned for so extraordinary an action. It had also been examined in this country by two celebrated men, Mr. Babbage and Sir John Herschel; but it still remained a mystery. Faraday always recommended the suspension of judgment in cases of doubt. "I have always admired," he says, "the prudence and philosophical reserve shown by M. Arago in resisting the temptations to give a theory of the effect he had discovered, so long as he could not devise one which was perfect in its application, and in refusing to assent to the imperfect theories of others." Now, however, the time for theory had come. Faraday saw mentally the rotating disk, under the operation of the magnet, flooded with his induced currents, and from the known laws of interaction between currents and magnets he hoped to deduce the motion observed by Arago. That hope he realized, showing by actual experiment that when his disk rotated currents passed through it, their position and direction being such as must, in accordance with the established laws of electro-magnetic action, produce the observed rotation.

Introducing the edge of his disk between the poles of the large horseshoe magnet of the Royal Society, and connecting the axis and the edge of the disk, each by a wire with a galvanometer, he obtained, when the disk was turned round, a constant flow of electricity. The direction of the current was determined by the direction of the motion, the current being reversed when the rotation was reversed. He now states the law which rules the production of currents in both disks and wires, and in so doing uses, for the first time, a phrase which has since become famous. When iron filings are scattered over a magnet, the particles of iron arrange themselves in certain determined lines called magnetic curves. In 1831, Faraday for the first time called these curves "lines of magnetic force;" and he showed that to produce induced currents neither approach to nor withdrawal from a magnetic source, or centre, or pole, was essential, but that it was only necessary to cut appropriately the lines of magnetic force. Faraday's first paper on Magneto-electric Induction, which I have here endeavoured to condense, was read before the Royal Society on the 24th of November, 1831.

On January 12, 1832, he communicated to the Royal Society a second paper on "Terrestrial Magneto-electric Induction," which was chosen as the Bakerian Lecture for the year. He placed a bar of iron in a coil of wire, and lifting the bar into the direction of the dipping needle, he excited by this action a current in the coil. On reversing the bar, a current in the opposite direction rushed through the wire. The same effect was produced, when, on holding the helix in the line of dip, a bar of iron was thrust into it. Here, however, the earth acted on the coil through the intermediation of the bar of iron. He abandoned the bar and simply set a copper-plate spinning in a horizontal plane; he knew that the earth's lines of magnetic force then crossed the plate at an angle of about 70 deg.. When the plate spun round, the lines of force were intersected and induced currents generated, which produced their proper effect when carried from the plate to the galvanometer. "When the plate was in the magnetic meridian, or in any other plane coinciding with the magnetic dip, then its rotation produced no effect upon the galvanometer."

At the suggestion of a mind fruitful in suggestions of a profound and philosophic character—I mean that of Sir John Herschel—Mr. Barlow, of Woolwich, had experimented with a rotating iron shell. Mr. Christie had also performed an elaborate series of experiments on a rotating iron disk. Both of them had found that when in rotation the body exercised a peculiar action upon the magnetic needle, deflecting it in a manner which was not observed during quiescence; but neither of them was aware at the time of the agent which produced this extraordinary deflection. They ascribed it to some change in the magnetism of the iron shell and disk.

But Faraday at once saw that his induced currents must come into play here, and he immediately obtained them from an iron disk. With a hollow brass ball, moreover, he produced the effects obtained by Mr. Barlow. Iron was in no way necessary: the only condition of success was that the rotating body should be of a character to admit of the formation of currents in its substance: it must, in other words, be a conductor of electricity. The higher the conducting power the more copious were the currents. He now passes from his little brass globe to the globe of the earth. He plays like a magician with the earth's magnetism. He sees the invisible lines along which its magnetic action is exerted and sweeping his wand across these lines evokes this new power. Placing a simple loop of wire round a magnetic needle he bends its upper portion to the west: the north pole of the needle immediately swerves to the east: he bends his loop to the east, and the north poles moves to the west. Suspending a common bar magnet in a vertical position, he causes it to spin round its own axis. Its pole being connected with one end of a galvanometer wire, and its equator with the other end, electricity rushes round the galvanometer from the rotating magnet. He remarks upon the "singular independence" of the magnetism and the body of the magnet which carries it. The steel behaves as if it were isolated from its own magnetism.

And then his thoughts suddenly widen, and he asks himself whether the rotating earth does not generate induced currents as it turns round its axis from west to east. In his experiment with the twirling magnet the galvanometer wire remained at rest; one portion of the circuit was in motion relatively to another portion. But in the case of the twirling planet the galvanometer wire would necessarily be carried along with the earth; there would be no relative motion. What must be the consequence? Take the case of a telegraph wire with its two terminal plates dipped into the earth, and suppose the wire to lie in the magnetic meridian. The ground underneath the wire is influenced like the wire itself by the earth's rotation; if a current from south to north be generated in the wire, a similar current from south to north would be generated in the earth under the wire; these currents would run against the same terminal plates, and thus neutralize each other.

This inference appears inevitable, but his profound vision perceived its possible invalidity. He saw that it was at least possible that the difference of conducting power between the earth and the wire might give one an advantage over the other, and that thus a residual or differential current might be obtained. He combined wires of different materials, and caused them to act in opposition to each other, but found the combination ineffectual. The more copious flow in the better conductor was exactly counterbalanced by the resistance of the worst. Still, though experiment was thus emphatic, he would clear his mind of all discomfort by operating on the earth itself. He went to the round lake near Kensington Palace, and stretched four hundred and eighty feet of copper wire, north and south, over the lake, causing plates soldered to the wire at its ends to dip into the water. The copper wire was severed at the middle, and the severed ends connected with a galvanometer. No effect whatever was observed. But though quiescent water gave no effect, moving water might. He therefore worked at London Bridge for three days during the ebb and flow of the tide, but without any satisfactory result. Still he urges, "Theoretically it seems a necessary consequence, that where water is flowing there electric currents should be formed. If a line be imagined passing from Dover to Calais through the sea, and returning through the land, beneath the water, to Dover, it traces out a circuit of conducting matter one part of which, when the water moves up or down the channel, is cutting the magnetic curves of the earth, while the other is relatively at rest.... There is every reason to believe that currents do run in the general direction of the circuit described, either one way or the other, according as the passage of the waters is up or down the channel." This was written before the submarine cable was thought of, and he once informed me that actual observation upon that cable had been found to be in accordance with his theoretic deduction.

Three years subsequent to the publication of these researches, that is to say on January 29, 1835, Faraday read before the Royal Society a paper "On the influence by induction of an electric current upon itself." A shock and spark of a peculiar character had been observed by a young man named William Jenkin, who must have been a youth of some scientific promise, but who, as Faraday once informed me, was dissuaded by his own father from having anything to do with science. The investigation of the fact noticed by Mr. Jenkin led Faraday to the discovery of the extra current, or the current induced in the primary wire itself at the moments of making and breaking contact, the phenomena of which he described and illustrated in the beautiful and exhaustive paper referred to.

Seven and thirty years have passed since the discovery of magneto-electricity; but, if we except the extra current, until quite recently nothing of moment was added to the subject. Faraday entertained the opinion that the discoverer of a great law or principle had a right to the "spoils"—this was his term—arising from its illustration; and guided by the principle he had discovered, his wonderful mind, aided by his wonderful ten fingers, overran in a single autumn this vast domain, and hardly left behind him the shred of a fact to be gathered by his successors.

And here the question may arise in some minds, What is the use of it all? The answer is, that if man's intellectual nature thirsts for knowledge then knowledge is useful because it satisfies this thirst. If you demand practical ends, you must, I think, expand your definition of the term practical, and make it include all that elevates and enlightens the intellect, as well as all that ministers to the bodily health and comfort of men. Still, if needed, an answer of another kind might be given to the question "what is its use?" As far as electricity has been applied for medical purposes, it has been almost exclusively Faraday's electricity. You have noticed those lines of wire which cross the streets of London. It is Faraday's currents that speed from place to place through these wires. Approaching the point of Dungeness, the mariner sees an unusually brilliant light, and from the noble lighthouse of La Heve the same light flashes across the sea. These are Faraday's sparks exalted by suitable machinery to sun-like splendour. At the present moment the Board of Trade and the Brethren of the Trinity House, as well as the Commissioners of Northern Lights, are contemplating the introduction of the Magneto-electric Light at numerous points upon our coasts; and future generations will be able to refer to those guiding stars in answer to the question, what has been the practical use of the labours of Faraday? But I would again emphatically say, that his work needs no justification, and that if he had allowed his vision to be disturbed by considerations regarding the practical use of his discoveries, those discoveries would never have been made by him. "I have rather," he writes in 1831, "been desirous of discovering new facts and new relations dependent on magneto-electric induction, than of exalting the force of those already obtained; being assured that the latter would find their full development hereafter."

In 1817, when lecturing before a private society in London on the element chlorine, Faraday thus expresses himself with reference to this question of utility. "Before leaving this subject, I will point out the history of this substance as an answer to those who are in the habit of saying to every new fact, 'What is its use?' Dr. Franklin says to such, 'What is the use of an infant?' The answer of the experimentalist is, 'Endeavour to make it useful.' When Scheele discovered this substance, it appeared to have no use; it was in its infancy and useless state, but having grown up to maturity, witness its powers, and see what endeavours to make it useful have done."


[In 1855 the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., at the instance of their secretary, Professor Joseph Henry, took evidence with respect to his claims as inventor of the electric telegraph. The essential paragraphs of Professor Henry's statement are taken from the Proceedings of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 1857.]

There are several forms of the electric telegraph; first, that in which frictional electricity has been proposed to produce sparks and motion of pith balls at a distance.

Second, that in which galvanism has been employed to produce signals by means of bubbles of gas from the decomposition of water.

Third, that in which electro-magnetism is the motive power to produce motion at a distance; and again, of the latter there are two kinds of telegraphs, those in which the intelligence is indicated by the motion of a magnetic needle, and those in which sounds and permanent signs are made by the attraction of an electro-magnet. The latter is the class to which Mr. Morse's invention belongs. The following is a brief exposition of the several steps which led to this form of the telegraph.

The first essential fact which rendered the electro-magnetic telegraph possible was discovered by Oersted, in the winter of 1819-'20. It is illustrated by figure 1, in which the magnetic needle is deflected by the action of a current of galvanism transmitted through the wire A B.

The second fact of importance, discovered in 1820, by Arago and Davy, is illustrated in Fig. 2. It consists in this, that while a current of galvanism is passing through a copper wire A B, it is magnetic, it attracts iron filings and not those of copper or brass, and is capable of developing magnetism in soft iron.

The next important discovery, also made in 1820, by Ampere, was that two wires through which galvanic currents are passing in the same direction attract, and in the opposite direction, repel, each other. On this fact Ampere founded his celebrated theory, that magnetism consists merely in the attraction of electrical currents revolving at right angles to the line joining the two poles of the magnet. The magnetization of a bar of steel or iron, according to this theory consists in establishing within the metal by induction a series of electrical currents, all revolving in the same direction at right angles to the axis or length of the bar.

It was this theory which led Arago, as he states, to adopt the method of magnetizing sewing needles and pieces of steel wire, shown in Fig. 3. This method consists in transmitting a current of electricity through a helix surrounding the needle or wire to be magnetised. For the purpose of insulation the needle was enclosed in a glass tube, and the several turns of the helix were at a distance from each other to insure the passage of electricity through the whole length of the wire, or, in other words, to prevent it from seeking a shorter passage by cutting across from one spire to another. The helix employed by Arago obviously approximates the arrangement required by the theory of Ampere, in order to develop by induction the magnetism of the iron. By an attentive perusal of the original account of the experiments of Arago, it will be seen that, properly speaking, he made no electro-magnet, as has been asserted by Morse and others; his experiments were confined to the magnetism of iron filings, to sewing needles and pieces of steel wire of the diameter of a millimetre, or of about the thickness of a small knitting needle.

Mr. Sturgeon, in 1825, made an important step in advance of the experiments of Arago, and produced what is properly known as the electro-magnet. He bent a piece of iron wire into the form of a horseshoe, covered it with varnish to insulate it, and surrounded it with a helix, of which the spires were at a distance. When a current of galvanism was passed through the helix from a small battery of a single cup the iron wire became magnetic, and continued so during the passage of the current. When the current was interrupted the magnetism disappeared, and thus was produced the first temporary soft iron magnet.

The electro-magnet of Sturgeon is shown in Fig. 4. By comparing Figs. 3 and 4 it will be seen that the helix employed by Sturgeon was of the same kind as that used by Arago; instead however, of a straight steel wire inclosed in a tube of glass, the former employed a bent wire of soft iron. The difference in the arrangement at first sight might appear to be small, but the difference in the results produced was important, since the temporary magnetism developed in the arrangement of Sturgeon was sufficient to support a weight of several pounds, and an instrument was thus produced of value in future research.

The next improvement was made by myself. After reading an account of the galvanometer of Schweigger, the idea occurred to me that a much nearer approximation to the requirements of the theory of Ampere could be attained by insulating the conducting wire itself, instead of the rod to be magnetized, and by covering the whole surface of the iron with a series of coils in close contact. This was effected by insulating a long wire with silk thread, and winding this around the rod of iron in close coils from one end to the other. The same principle was extended by employing a still longer insulated wire, and winding several strata of this over the first, care being taken to insure the insulation between each stratum by a covering of silk ribbon. By this arrangement the rod was surrounded by a compound helix formed of a long wire of many coils, instead of a single helix of a few coils, (Fig. 5).

In the arrangement of Arago and Sturgeon the several turns of wire were not precisely at right angles to the axis of the rod, as they should be, to produce the effect required by the theory, but slightly oblique, and therefore each tended to develop a separate magnetism not coincident with the axis of the bar. But in winding the wire over itself, the obliquity of the several turns compensated each other, and the resultant action was at right angles to the bar. The arrangement then introduced by myself was superior to those of Arago and Sturgeon, first in the greater multiplicity of turns of wire, and second in the better application of these turns to the development of magnetism. The power of the instrument with the same amount of galvanic force, was by this arrangement several times increased.

The maximum effect, however, with this arrangement and a single battery was not yet obtained. After a certain length of wire had been coiled upon the iron, the power diminished with a further increase of the number of turns. This was due to the increased resistance which the longer wire offered to the conduction of electricity. Two methods of improvement therefore suggested themselves. The first consisted, not in increasing the length of the coil, but in using a number of separate coils on the same piece of iron. By this arrangement the resistance to the conduction of the electricity was diminished and a greater quantity made to circulate around the iron from the same battery. The second method of producing a similar result consisted in increasing the number of elements of the battery, or, in other words, the projectile force of the electricity, which enabled it to pass through an increased number of turns of wire, and thus, by increasing the length of the wire, to develop the maximum power of the iron.

To test these principles on a larger scale, the experimental magnet was constructed, which is shown in Fig. 6. In this a number of compound helices were placed on the same bar, their ends left projecting, and so numbered that they could be all united into one long helix, or variously combined in sets of lesser length.

From a series of experiments with this and other magnets it was proved that, in order to produce the greatest amount of magnetism from a battery of a single cup, a number of helices is required; but when a compound battery is used, then one long wire must be employed, making many turns around the iron, the length of wire and consequently the number of turns being commensurate with the projectile power of the battery.

In describing the results of my experiments, the terms intensity and quantity magnets were introduced to avoid circumlocution, and were intended to be used merely in a technical sense. By the intensity magnet I designated a piece of soft iron, so surrounded with wire that its magnetic power could be called into operation by an intensity battery, and by a quantity magnet, a piece of iron so surrounded by a number of separate coils, that its magnetism could be fully developed by a quantity battery.

I was the first to point out this connection of the two kinds of the battery with the two forms of the magnet, in my paper in Silliman's Journal, January, 1831, and clearly to state that when magnetism was to be developed by means of a compound battery, one long coil was to be employed, and when the maximum effect was to be produced by a single battery, a number of single strands were to be used.

These steps in the advance of electro-magnetism, though small, were such as to interest and astonish the scientific world. With the same battery used by Mr. Sturgeon, at least a hundred times more magnetism was produced than could have been obtained by his experiment. The developments were considered at the time of much importance in a scientific point of view, and they subsequently furnished the means by which magneto-electricity, the phenomena of dia-magnetism, and the magnetic effects on polarized light were discovered. They gave rise to the various forms of electro-magnetic machines which have since exercised the ingenuity of inventors in every part of the world, and were of immediate applicability in the introduction of the magnet to telegraphic purposes. Neither the electro-magnet of Sturgeon nor any electro-magnet ever made previous to my investigations was applicable to transmitting power to a distance.

The principles I have developed were properly appreciated by the scientific mind of Dr. Gale, and applied by him to operate Mr. Morse's machine at a distance.

Previous to my investigations the means of developing magnetism in soft iron were imperfectly understood. The electro-magnet made by Sturgeon, and copied by Dana, of New York, was an imperfect quantity magnet, the feeble power of which was developed by a single battery. It was entirely inapplicable to a long circuit with an intensity battery, and no person possessing the requisite scientific knowledge, would have attempted to use it in that connection after reading my paper.

In sending a message to a distance, two circuits are employed, the first a long circuit through which the electricity is sent to the distant station to bring into action the second, a short one, in which is the local battery and magnet for working the machine. In order to give projectile force sufficient to send the power to a distance, it is necessary to use an intensity battery in the long circuit, and in connection with this, at the distant station, a magnet surrounded with many turns of one long wire must be employed to receive and multiply the effect of the current enfeebled by its transmission through the long conductor. In the local or short circuit either an intensity or a quantity magnet may be employed. If the first be used, then with it a compound battery will be required; and, therefore on account of the increased resistance due to the greater quantity of acid, a less amount of work will be performed by a given amount of material; and, consequently, though this arrangement is practicable it is by no means economical. In my original paper I state that the advantages of a greater conducting power, from using several wires in the quantity magnet, may, in a less degree, be obtained by substituting for them one large wire; but in this case, on account of the greater obliquity of the spires and other causes, the magnetic effect would be less. In accordance with these principles, the receiving magnet, or that which is introduced into the long circuit, consists of a horseshoe magnet surrounded with many hundred turns of a single long wire, and is operated with a battery of from twelve to twenty-four elements or more, while in the local circuit it is customary to employ a battery of one or two elements with a much thicker wire and fewer turns.

It will, I think, be evident to the impartial reader that these were improvements in the electro-magnet, which first rendered it adequate to the transmission of mechanical power to a distance; and had I omitted all allusion to the telegraph in my paper, the conscientious historian of science would have awarded me some credit, however small might have been the advance which I made. Arago and Sturgeon, in the accounts of their experiments, make no mention of the telegraph, and yet their names always have been and will be associated with the invention. I briefly, however, called attention to the fact of the applicability of my experiments to the construction of the telegraph; but not being familiar with the history of the attempts made in regard to this invention, I called it "Barlow's project," while I ought to have stated that Mr. Barlow's investigation merely tended to disprove the possibility of a telegraph.

I did not refer exclusively to the needle telegraph when, in my paper, I stated that the magnetic action of a current from a trough is at least not sensibly diminished by passing through a long wire. This is evident from the fact that the immediate experiment from which this deduction was made was by means of an electro-magnet and not by means of a needle galvanometer.

At the conclusion of the series of experiments which I described in Silliman's Journal, there were two applications of the electro-magnet in my mind: one the production of a machine to be moved by electro-magnetism, and the other the transmission of or calling into action power at a distance. The first was carried into execution in the construction of the machine described in Silliman's Journal, vol. xx, 1831, and for the purpose of experimenting in regard to the second, I arranged around one of the upper rooms in the Albany Academy a wire of more than a mile in length, through which I was enabled to make signals by sounding a bell, (Fig. 7.) The mechanical arrangement for effecting this object was simply a steel bar, permanently magnetized, of about ten inches in length, supported on a pivot, and placed with its north end between the two arms of a horseshoe magnet. When the latter was excited by the current, the end of the bar thus placed was attracted by one arm of the horseshoe, and repelled by the other, and was thus caused to move in a horizontal plane and its further extremity to strike a bell suitably adjusted.

I also devised a method of breaking a circuit, and thereby causing a large weight to fall. It was intended to illustrate the practicability of calling into action a great power at a distance capable of producing mechanical effects; but as a description of this was not printed, I do not place it in the same category with the experiments of which I published an account, or the facts which could be immediately deduced from my papers in Silliman's Journal.

From a careful investigation of the history of electro-magnetism in its connection with the telegraph, the following facts may be established:

1. Previous to my investigations the means of developing magnetism in soft iron were imperfectly understood, and the electro-magnet which then existed was inapplicable to the transmission of power to a distance.

2. I was the first to prove by actual experiment that, in order to develop magnetic power at a distance, a galvanic battery of intensity must be employed to project the current through the long conductor, and that a magnet surrounded by many turns of one long wire must be used to receive this current.

3. I was the first actually to magnetize a piece of iron at a distance, and to call attention to the fact of the applicability of my experiments to the telegraph.

4. I was the first to actually sound a bell at a distance by means of the electro-magnet.

5. The principles I had developed were applied by Dr. Gale to render Morse's machine effective at a distance.



[From "Flame, Electricity and the Camera," copyright Doubleday, Page & Co., New York.]

Electric telegraphy on land has put a vast distance between itself and the mechanical signalling of Chappe, just as the scope and availability of the French invention are in high contrast with the rude signal fires of the primitive savage. As the first land telegraphs joined village to village, and city to city, the crossing of water came in as a minor incident; the wires were readily committed to the bridges which spanned streams of moderate width. Where a river or inlet was unbridged, or a channel was too wide for the roadway of the engineer, the question arose, May we lay an electric wire under water? With an ordinary land line, air serves as so good a non-conductor and insulator that as a rule cheap iron may be employed for the wire instead of expensive copper. In the quest for non-conductors suitable for immersion in rivers, channels, and the sea, obstacles of a stubborn kind were confronted. To overcome them demanded new materials, more refined instruments, and a complete revision of electrical philosophy.

As far back as 1795, Francisco Salva had recommended to the Academy of Sciences, Barcelona, the covering of subaqueous wires by resin, which is both impenetrable by water and a non-conductor of electricity. Insulators, indeed, of one kind and another, were common enough, but each of them was defective in some quality indispensable for success. Neither glass nor porcelain is flexible, and therefore to lay a continuous line of one or the other was out of the question. Resin and pitch were even more faulty, because extremely brittle and friable. What of such fibres as hemp or silk, if saturated with tar or some other good non-conductor? For very short distances under still water they served fairly well, but any exposure to a rocky beach with its chafing action, any rub by a passing anchor, was fatal to them. What the copper wire needed was a covering impervious to water, unchangeable in composition by time, tough of texture, and non-conducting in the highest degree. Fortunately all these properties are united in gutta-percha: they exist in nothing else known to art. Gutta-percha is the hardened juice of a large tree (Isonandra gutta) common in the Malay Archipelago; it is tough and strong, easily moulded when moderately heated. In comparison with copper it is but one 60,000,000,000,000,000,000th as conductive. As without gutta-percha there could be no ocean telegraphy, it is worth while recalling how it came within the purview of the electrical engineer.

In 1843 Jose d'Almeida, a Portuguese engineer, presented to the Royal Asiatic Society, London, the first specimens of gutta-percha brought to Europe. A few months later, Dr. W. Montgomerie, a surgeon, gave other specimens to the Society of Arts, of London, which exhibited them; but it was four years before the chief characteristic of the gum was recognized. In 1847 Mr. S. T. Armstrong of New York, during a visit to London, inspected a pound or two of gutta-percha, and found it to be twice as good a non-conductor as glass. The next year, through his instrumentality, a cable covered with this new insulator was laid between New York and Jersey City; its success prompted Mr Armstrong to suggest that a similarly protected cable be submerged between America and Europe. Eighteen years of untiring effort, impeded by the errors inevitable to the pioneer, stood between the proposal and its fulfilment. In 1848 the Messrs. Siemens laid under water in the port of Kiel a wire covered with seamless gutta-percha, such as, beginning with 1847, they had employed for subterranean conductors. This particular wire was not used for telegraphy, but formed part of a submarine-mine system. In 1849 Mr. C. V. Walker laid an experimental line in the English Channel; he proved the possibility of signalling for two miles through a wire covered with gutta-percha, and so prepared the way for a venture which joined the shores of France and England.

In 1850 a cable twenty-five miles in length was laid from Dover to Calais, only to prove worthless from faulty insulation and the lack of armour against dragging anchors and fretting rocks. In 1851 the experiment was repeated with success. The conductor now was not a single wire of copper, but four wires, wound spirally, so as to combine strength with flexibility; these were covered with gutta-percha and surrounded with tarred hemp. As a means of imparting additional strength, ten iron wires were wound round the hemp—a feature which has been copied in every subsequent cable (Fig. 58). The engineers were fast learning the rigorous conditions of submarine telegraphy; in its essentials the Dover-Calais line continues to be the type of deep-sea cables to-day. The success of the wire laid across the British Channel incited other ventures of the kind. Many of them, through careless construction or unskilful laying, were utter failures. At last, in 1855, a submarine line 171 miles in length gave excellent service, as it united Varna with Constantinople; this was the greatest length of satisfactory cable until the submergence of an Atlantic line.

In 1854 Cyrus W. Field of New York opened a new chapter in electrical enterprise as he resolved to lay a cable between Ireland and Newfoundland, along the shortest line that joins Europe to America. He chose Valentia and Heart's Content, a little more than 1,600 miles apart, as his termini, and at once began to enlist the co-operation of his friends. Although an unfaltering enthusiast when once his great idea had possession of him, Mr. Field was a man of strong common sense. From first to last he went upon well-ascertained facts; when he failed he did so simply because other facts, which he could not possibly know, had to be disclosed by costly experience. Messrs. Whitehouse and Bright, electricians to his company, were instructed to begin a preliminary series of experiments. They united a continuous stretch of wires laid beneath land and water for a distance of 2,000 miles, and found that through this extraordinary circuit they could transmit as many as four signals per second. They inferred that an Atlantic cable would offer but little more resistance, and would therefore be electrically workable and commercially lucrative.

In 1857 a cable was forthwith manufactured, divided in halves, and stowed in the holds of the Niagara of the United States navy, and the Agamemnon of the British fleet. The Niagara sailed from Ireland; the sister ship proceeded to Newfoundland, and was to meet her in mid-ocean. When the Niagara had run out 335 miles of her cable it snapped under a sudden increase of strain at the paying-out machinery; all attempts at recovery were unavailing, and the work for that year was abandoned. The next year it was resumed, a liberal supply of new cable having been manufactured to replace the lost section, and to meet any fresh emergency that might arise. A new plan of voyages was adopted: the vessels now sailed together to mid-sea, uniting there both portions of the cable; then one ship steamed off to Ireland, the other to the Newfoundland coast. Both reached their destinations on the same day, August 5, 1858, and, feeble and irregular though it was, an electric pulse for the first time now bore a message from hemisphere to hemisphere. After 732 despatches had passed through the wire it became silent forever. In one of these despatches from London, the War Office countermanded the departure of two regiments about to leave Canada for England, which saved an outlay of about $250,000. This widely quoted fact demonstrated with telling effect the value of cable telegraphy.

Now followed years of struggle which would have dismayed any less resolute soul than Mr. Field. The Civil War had broken out, with its perils to the Union, its alarms and anxieties for every American heart. But while battleships and cruisers were patrolling the coast from Maine to Florida, and regiments were marching through Washington on their way to battle, there was no remission of effort on the part of the great projector.

Indeed, in the misunderstandings which grew out of the war, and that at one time threatened international conflict, he plainly saw how a cable would have been a peace-maker. A single word of explanation through its wire, and angry feelings on both sides of the ocean would have been allayed at the time of the Trent affair. In this conviction he was confirmed by the English press; the London Times said: "We nearly went to war with America because we had no telegraph across the Atlantic." In 1859 the British government had appointed a committee of eminent engineers to inquire into the feasibility of an Atlantic telegraph, with a view to ascertaining what was wanting for success, and with the intention of adding to its original aid in case the enterprise were revived. In July, 1863, this committee presented a report entirely favourable in its terms, affirming "that a well-insulated cable, properly protected, of suitable specific gravity, made with care, tested under water throughout its progress with the best-known apparatus, and paid into the ocean with the most improved machinery, possesses every prospect of not only being successfully laid in the first instance, but may reasonably be relied upon to continue for many years in an efficient state for the transmission of signals."

Taking his stand upon this endorsement, Mr. Field now addressed himself to the task of raising the large sum needed to make and lay a new cable which should be so much better than the old ones as to reward its owners with triumph. He found his English friends willing to venture the capital required, and without further delay the manufacture of a new cable was taken in hand. In every detail the recommendations of the Scientific Committee were carried out to the letter, so that the cable of 1865 was incomparably superior to that of 1858. First, the central copper wire, which was the nerve along which the lightning was to run, was nearly three times larger than before. The old conductor was a strand consisting of seven fine wires, six laid around one, and weighed but 107 pounds to the mile. The new was composed of the same number of wires, but weighed 300 pounds to the mile. It was made of the finest copper obtainable.

To secure insulation, this conductor was first embedded in Chatterton's compound, a preparation impervious to water, and then covered with four layers of gutta-percha, which were laid on alternately with four thin layers of Chatterton's compound. The old cable had but three coatings of gutta-percha, with nothing between. Its entire insulation weighed but 261 pounds to the mile, while that of the new weighed 400 pounds.[1] The exterior wires, ten in number, were of Bessemer steel, each separately wound in pitch-soaked hemp yarn, the shore ends specially protected by thirty-six wires girdling the whole. Here was a combination of the tenacity of steel with much of the flexibility of rope. The insulation of the copper was so excellent as to exceed by a hundredfold that of the core of 1858—which, faulty though it was, had, nevertheless, sufficed for signals. So much inconvenience and risk had been encountered in dividing the task of cable-laying between two ships that this time it was decided to charter a single vessel, the Great Eastern, which, fortunately, was large enough to accommodate the cable in an unbroken length. Foilhommerum Bay, about six miles from Valentia, was selected as the new Irish terminus by the company. Although the most anxious care was exercised in every detail, yet, when 1,186 miles had been laid, the cable parted in 11,000 feet of water, and although thrice it was grappled and brought toward the surface, thrice it slipped off the grappling hooks and escaped to the ocean floor. Mr. Field was obliged to return to England and face as best he might the men whose capital lay at the bottom of the sea—perchance as worthless as so much Atlantic ooze. With heroic persistence he argued that all difficulties would yield to a renewed attack. There must be redoubled precautions and vigilance never for a moment relaxed. Everything that deep-sea telegraphy has since accomplished was at that moment daylight clear to his prophetic view. Never has there been a more signal example of the power of enthusiasm to stir cold-blooded men of business; never has there been a more striking illustration of how much science may depend for success upon the intelligence and the courage of capital. Electricians might have gone on perfecting exquisite apparatus for ocean telegraphy, or indicated the weak points in the comparatively rude machinery which made and laid the cable, yet their exertions would have been wasted if men of wealth had not responded to Mr. Field's renewed appeal for help. Thrice these men had invested largely, and thrice disaster had pursued their ventures; nevertheless they had faith surviving all misfortunes for a fourth attempt.

In 1866 a new company was organized, for two objects: first, to recover the cable lost the previous year and complete it to the American shore; second, to lay another beside it in a parallel course. The Great Eastern was again put in commission, and remodelled in accordance with the experience of her preceding voyage. This time the exterior wires of the cable were of galvanized iron, the better to resist corrosion. The paying-out machinery was reconstructed and greatly improved. On July 13, 1866, the huge steamer began running out her cable twenty-five miles north of the line struck out during the expedition of 1865; she arrived without mishap in Newfoundland on July 27, and electrical communication was re-established between America and Europe. The steamer now returned to the spot where she had lost the cable a few months before; after eighteen days' search it was brought to the deck in good order. Union was effected with the cable stowed in the tanks below, and the prow of the vessel was once more turned to Newfoundland. On September 8th this second cable was safely landed at Trinity Bay. Misfortunes now were at an end; the courage of Mr. Field knew victory at last; the highest honors of two continents were showered upon him.

'Tis not the grapes of Canaan that repay, But the high faith that failed not by the way.

What at first was as much a daring adventure as a business enterprise has now taken its place as a task no more out of the common than building a steamship, or rearing a cantilever bridge. Given its price, which will include too moderate a profit to betray any expectation of failure, and a responsible firm will contract to lay a cable across the Pacific itself. In the Atlantic lines the uniformly low temperature of the ocean floor (about 4 deg. C.), and the great pressure of the superincumbent sea, co-operate in effecting an enormous enhancement both in the insulation and in the carrying capacity of the wire. As an example of recent work in ocean telegraphy let us glance at the cable laid in 1894, by the Commercial Cable Company of New York. It unites Cape Canso, on the northeastern coast of Nova Scotia, to Waterville, on the southwestern coast of Ireland. The central portion of this cable much resembles that of its predecessor in 1866. Its exterior armour of steel wires is much more elaborate. The first part of Fig. 59 shows the details of manufacture: the central copper core is covered with gutta-percha, then with jute, upon which the steel wires are spirally wound, followed by a strong outer covering. For the greatest depths at sea, type A is employed for a total length of 1,420 miles; the diameter of this part of the cable is seven-eighths of an inch. As the water lessens in depth the sheathing increases in size until the diameter of the cable becomes one and one-sixteenth inches for 152 miles, as type B. The cable now undergoes a third enlargement, and then its fourth and last proportions are presented as it touches the shore, for a distance of one and three-quarter miles, where type C has a diameter of two and one-half inches. The weights of material used in this cable are: copper wire, 495 tons; gutta-percha, 315 tons; jute yarn, 575 tons; steel wire, 3,000 tons; compound and tar, 1,075 tons; total, 5,460 tons. The telegraph-ship Faraday, specially designed for cable-laying, accomplished the work without mishap.

Electrical science owes much to the Atlantic cables, in particular to the first of them. At the very beginning it banished the idea that electricity as it passes through metallic conductors has anything like its velocity through free space. It was soon found, as Professor Mendenhall says, "that it is no more correct to assign a definite velocity to electricity than to a river. As the rate of flow of a river is determined by the character of its bed, its gradient, and other circumstances, so the velocity of an electric current is found to depend on the conditions under which the flow takes place."[2] Mile for mile the original Atlantic cable had twenty times the retarding effect of a good aerial line; the best recent cables reduce this figure by nearly one-half.

In an extreme form, this slowing down reminds us of the obstruction of light as it enters the atmosphere of the earth, of the further impediment which the rays encounter if they pass from the air into the sea. In the main the causes which hinder a pulse committed to a cable are two: induction, and the electrostatic capacity of the wire, that is, the capacity of the wire to take up a charge of its own, just as if it were the metal of a Leyden jar.

Let us first consider induction. As a current takes its way through the copper core it induces in its surroundings a second and opposing current. For this the remedy is one too costly to be applied. Were a cable manufactured in a double line, as in the best telephonic circuits, induction, with its retarding and quenching effects, would be neutralized. Here the steel wire armour which encircles the cable plays an unwelcome part. Induction is always proportioned to the conductivity of the mass in which it appears; as steel is an excellent conductor, the armour of an ocean cable, close as it is to the copper core, has induced in it a current much stronger, and therefore more retarding, than if the steel wire were absent.

A word now as to the second difficulty in working beneath the sea—that due to the absorbing power of the line itself. An Atlantic cable, like any other extended conductor, is virtually a long, cylindrical Leyden jar, the copper wire forming the inner coat, and its surroundings the outer coat. Before a signal can be received at the distant terminus the wire must first be charged. The effect is somewhat like transmitting a signal through water which fills a rubber tube; first of all the tube is distended, and its compression, or secondary effect, really transmits the impulse. A remedy for this is a condenser formed of alternate sheets of tin-foil and mica, C, connected with the battery, B, so as to balance the electric charge of the cable wire (Fig. 60). In the first Atlantic line an impulse demanded one-seventh of a second for its journey. This was reduced when Mr. Whitehouse made the capital discovery that the speed of a signal is increased threefold when the wire is alternately connected with the zinc and copper poles of the battery. Sir William Thomson ascertained that these successive pulses are most effective when of proportioned lengths. He accordingly devised an automatic transmitter which draws a duly perforated slip of paper under a metallic spring connected with the cable. To-day 250 to 300 letters are sent per minute instead of fifteen, as at first.

In many ways a deep-sea cable exaggerates in an instructive manner the phenomena of telegraphy over long aerial lines. The two ends of a cable may be in regions of widely diverse electrical potential, or pressure, just as the readings of the barometer at these two places may differ much. If a copper wire were allowed to offer itself as a gateless conductor it would equalize these variations of potential with serious injury to itself. Accordingly the rule is adopted of working the cable not directly, as if it were a land line, but indirectly through condensers. As the throb sent through such apparatus is but momentary, the cable is in no risk from the strong currents which would course through it if it were permitted to be an open channel.

A serious error in working the first cables was in supposing that they required strong currents as in land lines of considerable length. The very reverse is the fact. Mr. Charles Bright, in Submarine Telegraphs, says:

"Mr. Latimer Clark had the conductor of the 1865 and 1866 lines joined together at the Newfoundland end, thus forming an unbroken length of 3,700 miles in circuit. He then placed some sulphuric acid in a very small silver thimble, with a fragment of zinc weighing a grain or two. By this primitive agency he succeeded in conveying signals through twice the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean in little more than a second of time after making contact. The deflections were not of a dubious character, but full and strong, from which it was manifest than an even smaller battery would suffice to produce somewhat similar effects."

At first in operating the Atlantic cable a mirror galvanometer was employed as a receiver. The principle of this receiver has often been illustrated by a mischievous boy as, with a slight and almost imperceptible motion of his hand, he has used a bit of looking-glass to dart a ray of reflected sunlight across a wide street or a large room. On the same plan, the extremely minute motion of a galvanometer, as it receives the successive pulsations of a message, is magnified by a weightless lever of light so that the words are easily read by an operator (Fig. 61). This beautiful invention comes from the hands of Sir William Thomson [now Lord Kelvin], who, more than any other electrician, has made ocean telegraphy an established success.

In another receiver, also of his design, the siphon recorder, he began by taking advantage of the fact, observed long before by Bose, that a charge of electricity stimulates the flow of a liquid. In its original form the ink-well into which the siphon dipped was insulated and charged to a high voltage by an influence-machine; the ink, powerfully repelled, was spurted from the siphon point to a moving strip of paper beneath (Fig. 62). It was afterward found better to use a delicate mechanical shaker which throws out the ink in minute drops as the cable current gently sways the siphon back and forth (Fig. 63).

Minute as the current is which suffices for cable telegraphy, it is essential that the metallic circuit be not only unbroken, but unimpaired throughout. No part of his duty has more severely taxed the resources of the electrician than to discover the breaks and leaks in his ocean cables. One of his methods is to pour electricity as it were, into a broken wire, much as if it were a narrow tube, and estimate the length of the wire (and consequently the distance from shore to the defect or break) by the quantity of current required to fill it.


[1] Henry M. Field, "History of the Atlantic Telegraph." New York: Scribner, 1866.

[2] "A Century of Electricity." Boston, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1887.


[From "Bell's Electric Speaking Telephones," by George B. Prescott, copyright by D Appleton & Co., New York, 1884]

In a lecture delivered before the Society of Telegraph Engineers, in London, October 31, 1877, Prof. A. G. Bell gave a history of his researches in telephony, together with the experiments that he was led to undertake in his endeavours to produce a practical system of multiple telegraphy, and to realize also the transmission of articulate speech. After the usual introduction, Professor Bell said in part:

It is to-night my pleasure, as well as duty, to give you some account of the telephonic researches in which I have been so long engaged. Many years ago my attention was directed to the mechanism of speech by my father, Alexander Melville Bell, of Edinburgh, who has made a life-long study of the subject. Many of those present may recollect the invention by my father of a means of representing, in a wonderfully accurate manner, the positions of the vocal organs in forming sounds. Together we carried on quite a number of experiments, seeking to discover the correct mechanism of English and foreign elements of speech, and I remember especially an investigation in which we were engaged concerning the musical relations of vowel sounds. When vocal sounds are whispered, each vowel seems to possess a particular pitch of its own, and by whispering certain vowels in succession a musical scale can be distinctly perceived. Our aim was to determine the natural pitch of each vowel; but unexpected difficulties made their appearance, for many of the vowels seemed to possess a double pitch—one due, probably, to the resonance of the air in the mouth, and the other to the resonance of the air contained in the cavity behind the tongue, comprehending the pharynx and larynx.

I hit upon an expedient for determining the pitch, which, at that time, I thought to be original with myself. It consisted in vibrating a tuning fork in front of the mouth while the positions of the vocal organs for the various vowels were silently taken. It was found that each vowel position caused the reinforcement of some particular fork or forks.

I wrote an account of these researches to Mr. Alex. J. Ellis, of London. In reply, he informed me that the experiments related had already been performed by Helmholtz, and in a much more perfect manner than I had done. Indeed, he said that Helmholtz had not only analyzed the vowel sounds into their constituent musical elements, but had actually performed the synthesis of them.

He had succeeded in producing, artificially, certain of the vowel sounds by causing tuning forks of different pitch to vibrate simultaneously by means of an electric current. Mr. Ellis was kind enough to grant me an interview for the purpose of explaining the apparatus employed by Helmholtz in producing these extraordinary effects, and I spent the greater part of a delightful day with him in investigating the subject. At that time, however, I was too slightly acquainted with the laws of electricity fully to understand the explanations given; but the interview had the effect of arousing my interest in the subjects of sound and electricity, and I did not rest until I had obtained possession of a copy of Helmholtz's great work "The Theory of Tone," and had attempted, in a crude and imperfect manner, it is true, to reproduce his results. While reflecting upon the possibilities of the production of sound by electrical means, it struck me that the principle of vibrating a tuning fork by the intermittent attraction of an electro-magnet might be applied to the electrical production of music.

I imagined to myself a series of tuning forks of different pitches, arranged to vibrate automatically in the manner shown by Helmholtz—each fork interrupting, at every vibration, a voltaic current—and the thought occurred, Why should not the depression of a key like that of a piano direct the interrupted current from any one of these forks, through a telegraph wire, to a series of electro-magnets operating the strings of a piano or other musical instrument, in which case a person might play the tuning fork piano in one place and the music be audible from the electro-magnetic piano in a distant city.

The more I reflected upon this arrangement the more feasible did it seem to me; indeed, I saw no reason why the depression of a number of keys at the tuning fork end of the circuit should not be followed by the audible production of a full chord from the piano in the distant city, each tuning fork affecting at the receiving end that string of the piano with which it was in unison. At this time the interest which I felt in electricity led me to study the various systems of telegraphy in use in this country and in America. I was much struck with the simplicity of the Morse alphabet, and with the fact that it could be read by sound. Instead of having the dots and dashes recorded on paper, the operators were in the habit of observing the duration of the click of the instruments, and in this way were enabled to distinguish by ear the various signals.

It struck me that in a similar manner the duration of a musical note might be made to represent the dot or dash of the telegraph code, so that a person might operate one of the keys of the tuning fork piano referred to above, and the duration of the sound proceeding from the corresponding string of the distant piano be observed by an operator stationed there. It seemed to me that in this way a number of distinct telegraph messages might be sent simultaneously from the tuning fork piano to the other end of the circuit by operators, each manipulating a different key of the instrument. These messages would be read by operators stationed at the distant piano, each receiving operator listening for signals for a certain definite pitch, and ignoring all others. In this way could be accomplished the simultaneous transmission of a number of telegraphic messages along a single wire, the number being limited only by the delicacy of the listener's ear. The idea of increasing the carrying power of a telegraph wire in this way took complete possession of my mind, and it was this practical end that I had in view when I commenced my researches in electric telephony.

In the progress of science it is universally found that complexity leads to simplicity, and in narrating the history of scientific research it is often advisable to begin at the end.

In glancing back over my own researches, I find it necessary to designate, by distinct names, a variety of electrical currents by means of which sounds can be produced, and I shall direct your attention to several distinct species of what may be termed telephonic currents of electricity. In order that the peculiarities of these currents may be clearly understood, I shall project upon the screen a graphical illustration of the different varieties.

The graphical method of representing electrical currents shown in Fig. 1 is the best means I have been able to devise of studying, in an accurate manner, the effects produced by various forms of telephonic apparatus, and it has led me to the conception of that peculiar species of telephonic current, here designated as undulatory, which has rendered feasible the artificial production of articulate speech by electrical means.

A horizontal line (g g') is taken as the zero of current, and impulses of positive electricity are represented above the zero line, and negative impulses below it, or vice versa.

The vertical thickness of any electrical impulse (b or d), measured from the zero line, indicates the intensity of the electrical current at the point observed; and the horizontal extension of the electric line (b or d) indicates the duration of the impulse.

Nine varieties of telephonic currents may be distinguished, but it will only be necessary to show you six of these. The three primary varieties designated as intermittent, pulsatory and undulatory, are represented in lines 1, 2 and 3.

Sub-varieties of these can be distinguished as direct or reversed currents, according as the electrical impulses are all of one kind or are alternately positive and negative. Direct currents may still further be distinguished as positive or negative, according as the impulses are of one kind or of the other.

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