[LM111065], Letter from Arthur Edwin Kennelly to Frank Seymour Hastings, September 6th, 1888


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[LM111065], Letter from Arthur Edwin Kennelly to Frank Seymour Hastings, September 6th, 1888

Editor's Notes

Many thanks for your kind letter of yesterdays date. As regards the figures given in the cutting you enclose you will have observed that the voltage necessary to kill a dog is stated to be between 300 & 700 volts for continuous currents within 30 secs####100 & 250 - -alternating - - -####and 900 & 2100 - - continuous - - 2 secs####300 & 750 - - alternating - - - -####Now none of us know I think what it takes to certainly kill a man, and consequently to state any voltage that will do so is to go "out of the [wood?]" as the lawyers say. I am inclined to think that an alternating voltage of 300 with good contact would kill a man, but I certainly do not think it would do so instantly. It would I imagine torture him first. I wanted to express a safe opinion and one which if carried out would produce painless because unconscious death to a criminal. I was not touching on the danger question from electric lighting at all in that paragraph. I think it would hardly be in good taste to alter the statement as it stands, but I can always state what I --- have the####honor to mention to you, if so doing would help you in any way. We are continuing the experiments for Mr Edison, and can kill a dog now more swiftly than a rifle bullet when desired.####I see Mr [barcher Weyde?] says in the Chemical World that we must have used 82,000 volts at Columbia College by mathematical calculation, not quite, he says but thinks 82,000 may be exaggerated but thereabouts. I am glad to think that a Siemens machine built for 100 volt lamps and a converter of 3 to 1 ratio can give a voltage of 80,000 or so but I am still more glad that I didn't know it at the time as I might have been nervous. I am sorry I wasn't present when Mr. Van der Weyde who doesn't recognize a voltmeter read his paper. PS Dr. Lodin of Columbis College for whom you are having a voltmeter made said his wires were still much entangled since the experiments there. Maybe, as he is a very quick fellow, you will let the man who takes the voltmeter fix him up as the Dr. is a chemist not an electrician."




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