The Divisibility of the Electric Light


THE English and American, periodicals devoted to electrical science now announce, “on authority,” that the electric light discovered by Edison is a light by incandescence. If this be true there is nothing new or startling either in the discovery of the light or of its divisibility. Lighting by incandescence has been studied for a long time; indeed, it has been studied much more thoroughly than any other kind of electric lighting. Thirtythree years ago a method of producing and sub-dividing the light was patented in England by a Mr. King. The light was produced by heating to white heat in a vacuum, by means of the electric current, either platinum or carbons; and, the specification adds, “when the current is of sufficient intensity, two or a larger number of lights may be placed in the same circuit.” For some years after this discovery several improvements on King's invention were patented in America, France, and England; “but”, says M. Fontaine, “none of these appear more complete, more explicit, and more practicable than King's; it is, then, useless to continue our nomenclature.” The principle of lighting by incandescence, although not neglected or forgotten, seems to have made but little progress until 1871, when M. Lodyguine showed an experiment in the Admiralty Dockyard in St. Petersburg, when he divided the circuit into no less than two hundred lights. This naturally made a great sensation at the time—as great a sensation as that caused by Mr. Edison's telegram of the 7th ult. The Academy of Science awarded to M. Lodyguine the large Lomonossow prize of 50,000 roubles. A company was formed in St. Petersburg with a capital of 200,000 roubles, and the excitement in Europe was then almost as great as has been witnessed in England lately. It was soon found, however, that Lodyguine's discoveries, like those of his predecessors in the same field were, after all, impracticable, and that his illimitable division of the light, however ingenious, was only a fanciful experiment. Every penny subscribed to the company referred to was lost, and Lodyguine's great discovery is now, where it was then—in his laboratory.

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TRANT, W. The Divisibility of the Electric Light. Nature 19, 52 (1878).

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