[D8923AAR], Letter from Arthur Fraser to Thomas Alva Edison, July 11th, 1889


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[D8923AAR], Letter from Arthur Fraser to Thomas Alva Edison, July 11th, 1889

Editor's Notes

[Filed "Ideas"] I observe by the enclosed paragraph from the Inverness Courier that you are [maturing?] seeing at a distance by electricity. # This was a subject on which you may remember I addressed you long ago and was I believe to the first to broach referring to it in my pamphlet "Darkness in the Land of Egypt." # Perhaps without its hindering in any way on your manufacturing secrets you could let your secretary inform me on what lines your present invention is proceeding whether at all [----] I indicated or something entirely different. # I have not touched it practically myself since I was in London eight years ago and experimented with selenium being occupied with the theoretical side of electricity and satisfied at the time seeing was as practicable as hearing. # As far as I see, no matter is very simple, and the apparatus essentially as below. [includes handdrawn diagram] or in other words a camera at one end and a magic lantern at the other, with an electro current between. # The mechanical difficulty of course is getting both selenium slides(?), the focussing A and receiving A', identical in molecular arrangement.This was the problem I had left, upon which I had not the laboratory appliances. # The main condition to be met is that light variations are transverse, while those of sound are longitudinal. # In order to produce a uniform field in each slide, the first direction in which I would try for it would be to mount an S-shaped stick of selenium in an [another smaller hand-drawn diagram included] insulated disc rapidly revolved, the small circle showing the field of view, situated eccentrically. # From the persistence of vision for short periods, this would give a nearly equal structure to the selenium fields that was [----] influenced by light thrown on them, and I would focus the image partly by moving the lenses, and in part by varying the speed of one of the revolving discs. # That you may have other and better ways of managing it is very possible. # I went when in London, in [------] the end of 1880 or beginning of 1881, to see the late D. Nansr[-] De La Rue about this seeing by electricity. After showing him my method, he said "Oh you'll never do it that way. Why even Graham Bell has not begun to think of that yet." # However when I argued that if the particles of selenium in the receiving slide was arranged by electricity as the resultant of the forces transmitted in the current, first as a sound mark(?) as in the disc of the telephone, then we must see. # He seemed at a loss for a reply at the moment to this notion of a resultant,and now this [----]dly re[---]se is no more, and nothing done as regards seeing at a distance in his day. # There is another mode of distant seeing, by training the sense by which we reorganise objects by their electric potential, but this would require a much more elaborate investigation. # PS. You will find in the "Comptes Rendus" Paris for 9, 16, 23 Jan; 27 Feb; 5 Nov and 9 April 1888 an interesting set of papers by M. John Lucas, describing the way of solving equations of any degree graphically by electricity, the roots being traced on a circular metallic plate by the intersection of equipotential curves marked by electro-chemical means. This would be a tolerably easy invention to work out practically, with a few more particulars than one contained in what M. Lucas has written. Includes enclosure: TAE is reported, in a conversation with a reporter who solicited his ideas on the subject of the projected World's Fair in NYC, as saying that he would take an acre of space in such a fair and completely cover it with his inventions, of which he has no less than seventy now under way. "One of the most peculiar, and now promosing good results," said TAE, "is what I may call a far-sight machine." By means of this extraordinary invention, the _Electrical Review_ says, he hopes to be able to increase the range of vision by hundreds of miles, so that, for instance, "a man in NY could see the features of his friend in Boston with as much ease as he could see a performance on the stage. That," he added, "would be an invention worthy a prominent place in the World's Fair, and I hope to have it perfected long before 1892." [New name mentions: Dr. Nansr[-] De La Rue, M John Lucas]






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