Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 23

Elihu Thomson - Biography

electric patented mit inventor

Electrical engineer and inventor, born in Manchester, Greater Manchester, NW England, UK. He emigrated to the USA with his family at age five, and attended Philadelphia schools. With the support of Edwin J Houston (1847–1914), a teacher at a Philadelphia high school where Thomson also taught (1870–6), he began experimenting with electricity. Together they invented an arc street-lighting system (patented 1881) and established a company to manufacture this and other innovations. Thomson stayed on as a consultant when in 1892 the firm merged with the Edison General Electric Co to become General Electric Co. In 1894 he became a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was acting president at MIT (1920–2). In a long and industrious life he patented some 700 inventions and designs. He was the inventor of electric welding and a centrifugal cream separator, among many other devices, and he helped to develop stereoscopic x-ray pictures.

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