[D8905ADB], Letter from Cornell University, Robert Henry Thurston to Thomas Alva Edison, May 6th, 1889


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[D8905ADB], Letter from Cornell University, Robert Henry Thurston to Thomas Alva Edison, May 6th, 1889

Editor's Notes

My dear Mr. Edison## Our Electrical Engineering Department has grown so rapidly and so embarrassingly, and has already attained such proportions, that its operations must be very seriously impeded, and its usefulness greatly; impaired, unless we can give it a place by itself where it can be well accommodated, where the lectures can be given, the apparatus housed and the work of experimental demonstration, and of investigation, can be carried on without interference, and without causing difficulties in the working of other departments, themselves important to the proper operation of the scientific side of the University. We have come to a point at which the Trustees must either put up a Laboratory of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, for, Sibley College, or must let some one do it for them, or, must see a great opportunity of usefulness to the profession and to the country in part lost.##I write to get your ideas about the best course. You have always taken so much interest in our success that I feel less embarrassment in telling you about it than anyone else specially interested in the work.##My idea is to get the Trustees, instead of undertaking to put up the laboratory themselves, to let the electricians do it.##I think it would be best, if it were practicable, to get the best, and the most successful, among them to put it up in common; but it is possible that some one would prefer to do himself, giving it his name. The former course would leave it open for any one to do as much more, later, as he may desire while the latter would give it a more definite title, and would make it the means of doing honor to a benefactor of the profession and of the University. Which would you think the best and most practicable? I don't know but that your inclination to do things on a grander, and more perfect, scheme than most men are quite large enough to attain, may make the latter plan an attractive one to you; but I do not care to do more in that direction, than to let the suggestion stand before you for mature thought, and later discussion, should it strike you favorably. In that case, you would have to come up and make your long promised visit, and see what the opportunities are, in all ways, for yourself. But you may be able to give me an impersonal judgement of the general proposition. I should feel more confidence in your verdict than in that of anyone else that I know. ##The laboratory, if made what it should be, good for the next twenty years, at least, would be a simple but solid structure, of stone, probably (perhaps of brick with stone trimmings) 150 or 200 feet long, three stories high, with a basement. Engines, and boilers and one or two heavy dynamos of the principal best types each, in the basement; lighter machines and the apparatus of exact measurement on the first floor, and collections and lecture rooms on the other floors, including the laboratory of applied mechanics; that of steam engineering -which can be combined without additional expense, except for a single experimental engine and drawing-rooms for designing and drawing, blue-printing, etc., etc., etc.##The building would cost from $40,000 to $80,000, according to style and finish. If a memorial and named building, it should be rather fine in finish and indestructible in material. The fitting up would cost about, I should say, $20,000, and the apparatus and machinery, in addition to that already in hand, amounting to perhaps $20,000 worth, would, if all put in at the start, would cost about $50,000. The job would not be a very heavy one if two or three were to chip in; but it would be such an undertaking, if done by a single donor, as would justify the Trustees in giving it his name and in seeing that provisions were made to have the benefactor of the University suitably honored in the records and library, per the chapel - many years later, we should hope - of the University. If endowed, $100,00 would provide salary of professor and assistant. If we could get ten of the foremost men of the profession to share the work, it would be a very nice thing. ##Please think the matter over at your liesure, and tell me how it strikes you. It is my impression that the Trustees would listen kindly to any suggestions that I may have to make in the matter, and I shall report to them on the subject sometime within the month. Very sincerely yours Robert H. Thurston [P.S.] Would it be practicable for us to get a complete line of your inventions to put in Museum for the benefit of the University and of prosperity? Very sincerely yours, Robert H. Thurston##[Ans May 17/89] [TAE marg: Tate-- My impression is that it would benefit the world at large more for the College to get the money out of the plutocrats who acquired it easily & don’t deserve it & have no other means of perpetuating themselves-- It would not be a gain for me to do such a thing because I already spend what I make in experimenting etc]





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