Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Edward H. Johnson
(4 Jan 1846 - 9 Sep 1917)
American electrical engineer and inventor who spent many years in various business projects with Thomas Edison, including being the vice-president of the Edison Electric Light Company.
The First Electric Christmas Tree Lights
from the Detroit Post and Tribune (1882)
[Background: The long-standing tradition of using candles on a Christmas tree was both sentimentally popular but also dangerous as many house fires resulted. Thus, the use of a string of light bulbs to illuminate a Christmas tree had an important side benefit of increasing safety. Yet the idea was captivating, not because of safety, but because of the novelty of electric light when Thomas Edison's business associate, Edward H. Johnson, in 1882 decorated a Christmas tree in his own home with small electric light bulbs. When Johnson first used them on 22 Dec 1882, it was just three years after Edison had invented a practical way to manufacture them.
Photo taken on 25 Dec 1882 showing Edward H. Johnson's Christmas tree with strings of electric lamps. (source)
Johnson's glowing Christmas tree was visible through his home's windows, and caused a stream of people to pass by his house, intrigued by this new use of electricity. It was described in an article by William Augustus Croffut, a Michigan newspaper reporter.]
“Last evening I walked over beyond Fifth Avenue and called at the residence of Edward H. Johnson, vice-president of Edison's electric company. There, at the rear of the beautiful parlors, was a large Christmas tree, presenting a most picturesque and uncanny aspect. It was brilliantly lighted with many colored globes about as large as an English walnut and was turning some six times a minute on a little pine box. There were eighty lights in all encased in these dainty glass eggs, and about equally divided between white, red and blue. As the tree turned, the colors alternated, all the lamps going out and being relit at every revolution. The result was a continuous twinkling of dancing colors, red, white and blue, all evening.
I need not tell you that the scintillating evergreen was a pretty sight - one can hardly imagine anything prettier. The ceiling was crossed obliquely with two wires on which hung 28 more of the tiny lights; and all the lights and the fantastic tree itself with its starry fruit were kept going by the slight electric current brought from the main office on a filmy wire. The tree was kept revolving by a little hidden crank below the floor which was turned by electricity. It was a superb exhibition.”
Photo (not in original article) from source shown above. Text from Detroit Post and Tribune (1882) newspaper, as reprinted in Ace Collins, Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas (2003), 120.
Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston
, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan) Albert Einstein
: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein) Richard Feynman
: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)