Elihu Thomson

Infobox Scientist
name = Elihu Thomson

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birth_date = birth date|1853|3|29
birth_place = Manchester, England
death_date = death date and age|1937|3|13|1853|3|29
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residence = United States
citizenship =
nationality = English
ethnicity =
fields = Electrical engineering
workplaces =
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Elihu Thomson (March 29, 1853March 13, 1937) was an engineer and inventor who was instrumental in the founding of major electrical companies in the United States, United Kingdom and France.


He was born in Manchester (England) on 29 March 1853, but his family moved to Philadelphia in 1858.citation|title=PDFlink| [http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/76002002.pdf National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Elihu Thomson House / Elihu Thomson Administration Building] |32 KB|date=1975-07-30 |author=James Sheire |publisher=National Park Service and PDFlink| [http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Photos/76002002.pdf "Accompanying one photo, exterior, from 1975"] |32 KB] By 1880 he established, with Edwin J. Houston, the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. In 1892 this merged with the Edison General Electric Company to become the General Electric Company. Thomson's name is further commemorated by the British Thomson-Houston Company (BTH), and the French companies Thomson and Alstom. His early companies are also involved in the history of The General Electric Company Limited (GEC) in Britain and the Compagnie Générale d'Electricité in France.

Thomson was a prolific inventor, being awarded over 700 patents. For example, he invented the induction wattmeter mechanism used in electric meters. He was the first recipient of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers AIEE (now Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)) Edison Medal, bestowed upon him in 1909 "For meritorious achievement in electrical science, engineering and arts as exemplified in his contributions thereto during the past thirty years." Ironically, Thomson and Houston had been involved in a very public and acrimonious dispute with Edison in 1877-78 over etheric force.

He served as acting president of MIT from 1920-1923. [http://www.amphilsoc.org/library/mole/t/thomson.htm] Elihu Thomson Papers at the American Philosophical Society] .

Thomson died in his estate in Swampscott, Massachusetts.

The Elihu Thomson House in Swampscott was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1976.

X-Ray Safety

Thomson was one of the few pioneering physicists who were convinced of the dangers of X-Rays and radiation in a period where the subject was treated as a novelty in both science and popular culture, in blithe ignorance of health hazards. In 1896, Thomson deliberately exposed the little finger of his left hand to an x-ray tube for several days, half an hour per day. The resultant effects — pain, swelling, stiffness, erythema and blistering — were convincing for Thomson and others, but not for all. Many prominent physicians still denied that x-rays were in any way harmful, although ofttimes the denial was tempered by a qualification that the effects noted were attributable to misuse of the x-ray.


Thomson held more than 700 patents. Thomson used his patent in his company, Thomson-Houston Company, and later in General Electric.

* Electric-Arc Lamp
* Electric Lamp
* Electric-Arc Lamp
* Regulator For Dynamo-Electric Machines
* System Of Electric Distribution
* Automatic Compensator For Magnets
* System Of Electric Distribution
* System Of Electric Distribution
* Process Of Electric Soldering
* Method Of Electric Welding
* Electric-Arc Lamp
* Mode Of Making Tools
* Electric-Arc Lamp
* Electric-Arc Lamp
* Electric Switch
* Electric-Lighting System
* Lightning-Arrester
* Regulator For Electric Generators
* Mode Of Cooling Electric Motors
* Electrostatic Motor
* Electrical Welding Of Sheet Metal

ee also

* Elihu Thomson House, Swampscott, Massachusetts


*Carlson, W. Bernard. "Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
*Woodbury, David O. "Elihu Thomson, Beloved Scientist" (Boston: Museum of Science, 1944)
*Haney, John L. "The Elihu Thomson Collection" American Philosophical Society Yearbook 1944.
*Thomson, Elihu. [http://books.google.com/books?id=IC4LAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA75&dq=Elihu+Thomson&lr= Address by Elihu Thomson on Physics] in the "Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science" 48th Meeting August, 1899.

External links

* [http://www.ieee.org/organizations/history_center/legacies/thomson.html IEEE Legacies]
* [http://www.amphilsoc.org/library/mole/t/thomson.htm Elihu Thomson Papers]

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  • Elihu Thomson — noun United States electrical engineer (born in England) who in 1892 formed a company with Thomas Edison (1853 1937) • Syn: ↑Thomson • Instance Hypernyms: ↑electrical engineer …   Useful english dictionary

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