[D8704ADJ], Letter from John Alfred Brashear to Thomas Alva Edison, October 9th, 1887


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[D8704ADJ], Letter from John Alfred Brashear to Thomas Alva Edison, October 9th, 1887

Editor's Notes

Have had TAE's letter with generous offer for "some days" but have delayed responding because don't know how to reply; from the nature of the case, the construction of high-class physical apparatus can never be remunerative; have furnished the world's leading scientists with apparatus but my wife and I still have trouble making ends meet; scientific men have limited means; most are "cooped up in universitites" with limited endowment; observatories are the same; a second problem is training men to do the work to a high standard of accuracy; often this requires suffering loss or making the instrument over twice; inferior work is not allowed to leave my shop; this has bought reputation "at the expense of the pocketbook", but thinks it unjust to pass cost of mistakes on to customer###Langley usually adds 20 to 100 percent to the bills I send him.###Our optical work pays and has kept me afloat; to give an idea of the work demanded, I copy an order from Prof. Michelson, "whom you remember having measured the velocity of Light with more accuracy than any living physicist"; his two goals were to measure the earth's motion relative to luminiferous ether and to find the absolute value of a wavelength of sodium light as a standard of measurement; [a list of the instruments and surfaces Michelson required follows]; prefers that Michelson inform TAE directly of his satisfaction with the instruments; wonders whether he [Brashear] is "not enough of a businessman"; trustees of Alleghany Chemistry induced him to come and set up shop with $8,000-$10,000 worth of equipment; the availability of natural gas heat is a plus in making optical surfaces due to the absence of dust, and shop is far enough from railroad not to be affected by jarring; will send a photograph of the great Lick Spectroscope when finished; am building one for Mexican lab, and parts of others for Ecole Polytechnique Paris, University of Vienna, and Royal University of Florence, Italy. [see D8704ACY]###P.S. "I spent three delightfull days with Dr. Mayer at South Orange a year ago. You have a grand country to live in."




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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
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