Thomas Alva, inventor, born in Alva, Ohio, 11 February 1847 died
mother, who had been a teacher, gave him the little schooling he received,
and at the age of twelve he became a newsboy on the Grand Trunk line running
into Detroit. While thus engaged he acquired the habit of reading. He also
studied qualitative analysis, and conducted chemical experiments on the train
till an accident caused the prohibition of further work of the kind. Afterward
he obtained the exclusive right of selling newspapers on the road, and, with the
aid of four assistants, he set in type and printed the "Grand Trunk
Herald," which he sold with his other papers, The operations of the
telegraph, which he constantly witnessed in the stations along the road,
awakened his interest, and he improvised rude means of transmitting messages
between his father's home in Port Huron and the house of a neighbor. Finally a
stationmaster, whose child he had rescued in front of a coming train at the risk
of his own life, taught him telegraph operating, and he wandered for several
years over the United States and Canada, acquiring great skill in this art, but
frequently neglected his practical duties for studies and experiments in
electric science. At this time he invented an automatic repeater, by means of
which a message could be transferred from one wire to another without the aid of
an operator, and in 1864 conceived the idea of sending two messages at once over
the same wire, which led to his experiments in duplex-telegraphy.
he was called to Boston and placed in charge of the "crack" New York
wire. While in that City he continued his experiments, and perfected his duplex
telegraph, but it did not succeed till 1872. He came to New York in 1871, and
soon afterward became superintendent of the gold and stock company, inventing
the printing telegraphs for gold and stock quotations. For the manufacture of
this appliance he established a large workshop at Newark, New Jersey, and
continued there till 1876, when he removed to Menlo Park, New Jersey, and
thenceforth devoted his whole attention to inventing. Among his principal
inventions are his system of duplex telegraphy, which he subsequently developed
into quadruplex and sextuplex transmission; the carbon telephone transmitter,
now used by nearly all telephones throughout the world, in which the variation
in the current is produced by the variable resistance of a solid conductor
subjected to pressure, rendering more faithfully than any other telephone the
inflections and changes in the intensity of the vocal sounds to be transmitted;
the micro-taximeter, used for the detection, on the same principle, of small
variations in temperature, and successfully employed during the total eclipse of
1878 to demonstrate the presence of heat in the sun's corona ; the earphone,
which may be used to amplify sound without impairing the distinctness of
articulation; and the megaphone, which, when inserted in the ear, so magnifies
sounds that faint whispers may he heard at a distance of 1,000 feet.
phonograph, which records sound in such a manner that it may be reproduced at
will, and the phono-meter and apparatus for measuring the force of sound waves
produced by the human voice, are inventions of this period. His attention then
became absorbed in the problem of electric lighting. He believed that the
process of lighting by the voltaic arc, in which Charles F. Brush had already
achieved great results, would never answer for general illumination, and so
devoted him to the perfection of the incandescent lamp.
Edison (1847 - 1931)
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