Joseph Wilson SWAN
Joseph Wilson SWAN 973
• Joseph Wilson Swan was a chemist, physicist, and inventor, who is most famous for his important role in the development of electric lighting. In 1860 Swan developed a carbon-filament incandescent lamp (some twenty years before Edison!!) and in 1878, produced an all-glass hermetically sealed bulb. He also invented a dry photographic process. This invention lead to a huge improvement in photography and progress toward the development of modern photographic film.
• Made from an arc-lamp element, Swan's carbon rod gave off light but did not last very long. Gasses trapped in the rod were released when the lamp was activated, and a dark deposit of soot quickly built up on the inner surface of the glass. So while Swan's lamp worked well enough for him in a demonstration, it was impractical in actual use. By the mid-1870s better pumps became available, and Swan returned to his experiments.
• By late 1878, Swan reported success to the Newcastle Chemical Society and in February 1879 demonstrated a working lamp in a lecture in Newcastle. The most significant feature of Swan's lamp was that it lacked enough residual oxygen in the vacuum tube to ignite the filament, thus allowing the tungsten could glow almost white-hot without catching fire. His lamps contained the major elements seen in Edison's lamps that October: an enclosed glass bulb from which all air had been removed, platinum lead wires, and a light-emitting element made from carbon. Like other early inventors, Swan used a carbon rod with low electrical resistance in his lamp. Due to the relationship between resistance and current, a low resistance element required lots of current in order to become hot and glow. This meant that the conductors bringing electricity to the lamp would have to be relatively short (or impossibly thick), acceptable for an experiment or demonstration, but not for a commercial electrical system.
• Swan had experimented with carbonized paper filaments for some years, however. Once he learned that a high resistance filament was needed, he quickly adapted it to his own lamps and established the Swan Electric Light Company. It should be noted that Swan had been granted several patents for various lamp features before Edison's breakthrough. Indeed Swan's patent position in England was strong enough that in mid-1882 a merger was arranged and the Edison & Swan United Company was formed. Known commonly as "Ediswan" the company sold lamps made with a cellulose filament that Swan had invented in 1881. Variations of the cellulose filament became an industry standard, except with the Edison Company. Edison continued using bamboo filaments until the 1892 merger that created General Electric - and that company then shifted to cellulose.
• He worked as a 5. Invention of a dry photographic process
• In July 1867, Mawson, then sheriff of Newcastle, was killed while supervising the disposal of a quantity of dumped nitroglycerin. Swan's wife died shortly after. Swan therefore had sole responsibility for the business and his three small children. He made Mawson's widow, his sister Elizabeth, a partner in the business, which continued as Mawson and Swan. He later remarried, even though a law to legalise second marriages had not yet been passed by Parliament. His second wife was his deceased wife's sister. In 1883, they moved to Bromley, Kent. He later lived in Kensington in London, but moved back to the country because of heart trouble, settling in Warlingham, Surrey.
• Swan added a stationery and bookselling arm to the business in Newcastle, established an extensive trade in Dutch yeast, and set up an art gallery in the city centre. He also sold scientific apparatus. As a result of his inventions, he was also in demand as a lecturer, and he took students in electricity. He took on managers to help him run the business. One was George Weddell, who ran the pharmacy business from 1891, and became a partner in 1912. Mawson, Swan and Weddell were amalgamated with Proctor, Son and Clague, and traded under the name Mawson and Proctor.
• Swan was elected to the Royal Society in 1894 and was president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers from 1898 to 1899. He also served as president of the Society of Chemical Industry in 1901, the same year he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Durham University. In 1904, Swan was knighted, awarded the Royal Society's Hughes Medal, and was made an honorary member of the Pharmaceutical Society. He had already received the Legion of Honour when he visited an international exhibition in Paris in 1881. The exhibition included exhibits of his inventions, and the city was lit with electric light, thanks to Swan's invention.
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