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Edison Etheroscope

      Inventive American scientist Thomas A. Edison (1847–1931) designed an etheroscope in 1875 (Fig. 1). The device detected etheric forces that were serendipitously radiating wirelessly from his cable-requiring telegraph devices. Edison coined his ether-based terms because the word ether had long designated the light-carrying fabric of space (that is, the luminiferous ether). The word similarly designated volatile chemical substances that tended to fly off into space, such as the celebrated ether championed by American anesthesia pioneer William TG Morton (1819-1868). There was initial skepticism of Edison's new force. For instance, The New York Times playfully proposed, “He might as well call it the chloral-hydrate or the nitrous-oxide force.”
      • Anonymous
      New York Times.
      The phenomenon was verified by German physicist Heinrich R. Hertz (1857-1894) in 1886 and is now called radio.
      • Gardiol F.E.
      About the beginnings of wireless.
      Edison collaborated with American neurologist George M. Beard (1839-1883) in hopes of medical applications of etheric force.
      • Simon L.
      Chapter 5. Sparks.
      Edison's radiofrequency electrical work constituted a basic scientific step toward radiofrequency medical devices such as those of electrocautery, ultrasonography, and magnetic resonance imaging.
      Fig. 1
      Fig. 1Thomas Edison peering through his etheroscope in 1918. The Wizard of Menlo Park probably had dark hair when he announced his discovery of etheric force in 1875. The scope detected wireless pulses of etheric force by means of visible sparks across a gap between two carbon electrodes that were joined by a loop of wire acting as an antenna. That wire is seen coiled in Edison's hand and is attached to the scope at two posts. The wooden housing blocked ambient light but not radio waves, as did the face rest. Other models had increased range by means of a microscope for viewing faint sparks. This image is preserved by the Thomas Edison National Historical Park of the US National Park Service (Leonard DeGraaf, Archivist).

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      References

        • Anonymous
        New York Times.
        December 3, 1875: 4
        • Gardiol F.E.
        About the beginnings of wireless.
        Int J Microw Wirel Technol. 2011; 3: 391-398https://doi.org/10.1017/S1759078711000444
        • Simon L.
        Chapter 5. Sparks.
        in: Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray. Harcourt, Orlando, FL2004: 123-142