Format: video with audio
Running time: 2 min 36 sec.
Summary: The 'War of Currents' and Thomas Edison's hatred of cats.
Lots of people know Thomas Edison as the father of the modern light bulb. But do you know how electricity gets to your light bulb?
Well, back in the late 1880's, there was a so-called "current war" fought in order to decide exactly what kind of system would become the standard means of piping electricity from one place to another.
Along with holding patents on a whole bunch of other stuff, Thomas Edison also held a patent on a system of distributing electricity utilizing DC or Direct Current.
George Westinghouse, his adversary in the struggle for electricity distribution supremacy, advocated a system that used AC or Alternating Current.
Edison stood to make LOTS of money by getting his DC system to become the standard means of distributing electricity. So, in an attempt to turn the public against AC, Edison began an intense propaganda campaign that insisted that AC was far more dangerous than DC. And, to demonstrate this point, he used AC electricity at public demonstrations to electrocute cats and dogs to death. His animal executions culminated in the public execution of Topsy the elephant in 1903. I'm not making this up.
Oh, here's another thing. During the campaign against AC, Edison also secretly funded the development of the world's first electric chair, which naturally led to the world's first execution via electrocution - using AC current of course. So, in a way, I guess you could say that Thomas Edison is not only the father of the modern light bulb, he's also the father of modern capital punishment.
Oh, by the way, AC eventually won out over DC; the light bulbs in your home, they run on AC current.
Executioner's Current: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and the Invention of the Electric Chair. Richard Moran. Random House (Alfred A. Knopf), 2002.
The Electric Chair: An Unnatural American History. Craig Brandon. McFarland & Company, 1999.narration: Pinky video: light bulb by Pinky (switch) & Bunny (camera)
drawings & illustrations: Pinky
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