Category Archives: December
By 1879, thanks to the notoriety he gained as the inventor of the phonograph, Thomas Edison was known worldwide as the “Wizard of Menlo Park.” With the fame and fortune he raked in from the phonograph, Edison set to improving and outfitting his lab to develop an efficient and sustainable way of capturing incandescent (or, derived from heat) light. Incandescent light had actually been “discovered” about 40 years prior, but it was Edison who had found a way of capturing it in a carbon thread filament of high resistance… in other words, a light bulb! When Edison demonstrated his new light source, he introduced to the world an incandescent light that could be run for hours, along with a generator he had built that could supply a large lighting system with enough electricity to do so. Wow-ing the world once more, Edison was commissioned America for a new, modern, electric age, charged with designing power plants and electrical distribution systems that would make his illuminating inventions accessible for the masses. By the time of his death in 1931, Edison held over 1,000 patents, having established one of the most reputable research facilities on Earth in West Orange, New Jersey.
How does electric lighting make our lives easier? Can you imagine what your life would be like if your home ran on gas lighting or firelight? How would your schedule change? What would you do differently?
No man has ever proven as definitively as Edwin Hubble how big our universe really is. Hubble, an avid athlete, gifted student, and celebrated war Major, started and ended his illustrious career in astronomy at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Southern California. Focusing on his unwavering curiosity in nebulae (strange, cloudy images in the sky visible from a basic telescope), he effectively defined the infinite limits of the earth, space, and beyond. During his time at Mount Wilson, his Harvard-based contemporary Harlow Shapley tried to prove that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, was 30,000 light years large and held within it all the universe that exists. Refusing to believe it, Hubble followed Shapley’s “measuring” technique to prove that nebulae were actually other galaxies almost 50,000 light years from our own! This discovery forever changed society’s perception of the universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere, as Hubble explained that the expanding universe is comprised of many galaxies like our own Milky Way, systemized by his Hubble Sequence. Today, the Hubble Space Telescope orbits the Earth to continue Hubble’s initial research, having sent back gorgeous images of far away nebulae for the past two decades. It will soon decommission and be replaced by the Webb Space Telescope.
What do you think Edwin Hubble and Christopher Columbus had in common? How do you think society reacted to their different discoveries?