Person: Upton, Francis Robbins
Francis Upton was an American physicist and mathematician who worked with Thomas Edison in the development of incandescent light bulbs, electric generators, and electric power distribution.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Elijah Wood Upton received a good academic education followed by a period of European travel.
- At this stage Francis Upton was sixteen years old and studying at Phillips Academy in Andover, founded as a boarding school for boys in 1778 by Samuel Phillips (later president of the state senate of Massachusetts).
- Upton graduated from the Academy in 1870.
- Upton became the very first student to officially earn, by examination, a graduate degree from Princeton.
- Upton worked with Thomas Edison on mathematical problems associated with devices such as the incandescent lamp, the watt-hour meter and large dynamos.
- Reasoning and sparrings between Edison and Upton often led to new experiments ...
- Upton went to Menlo Park, New Jersey, the laboratory that Edison had set up.
- The laboratory was a remarkable research environment for Upton to undertake his research in.
- About twenty skilled machinists, in addition to the mathematical physicist Upton, staffed what was the first ever industrial research laboratory.
- It was Upton's home in Menlo Park which was the first private house in the world to be lit by electricity, the lamps being powered by a station in Menlo Park capable of lighting 30 bulbs.
- Upton became a partner and the general manager of the Edison Lamp Works which was established in 1880.
- The Uptons occupied a fine old residence opposite the stairs leading down to the railroad station, and facing the old Post Road to Philadelphia.
- While at Meno Park, Mrs Upton often attended Mrs Edison's informal parties, since she was a sociable and agreeable person whose pleasant demureness made friends everywhere.
- Mrs Edison frequently visited the Upton home; it seemed to me that these two were more friends than 'just neighbors'.
- There is an often-told anecdote relating to Upton calculating the volume of a flask.
- It was the kind we were going to use for our lamp experiments; and Mr Edison asked Mr Upton to please calculate its cubical content in centimetres.
- Now Mr Upton was a very able mathematician, who after he finished his studies at Princeton went to Germany and got his final gloss under the great master Helmholtz.
- We noted that Upton became general manager of the Edison Lamp Company, first in 1880 at Menlo Park, then later in Harrison, New Jersey.
- Upton went to inspect these European factories and while he was there he saw a transformer which was being used to deliver alternating currents.
- Of course, Upton was quite correct in his assessment and alternating currents were to become the norm.
- This is certainly a case where Upton's deep scientific understanding showed itself superior to Edison's intuitive approach.
- Ore milling produced sand as a by-product which Upton very successfully sold to cement manufacturers.
- Edison saw the chance to make money and entered the cement business and, when Upton's ore milling business collapsed, he went to work for Edison's Portland Cement Company.
- One of the honours bestowed on Upton was the presidency of the Edison Pioneers.
- Upton is also honoured by Princeton University, which now has the Francis Robbins Upton Fellowships named in his memory.
Born 26 July 1852, Peabody, Massachusetts, USA. Died 10 March 1921, Orange, New Jersey, USA.
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Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive