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DAVENPORT, Thomas [1802-1851] -- American inventor (first electric motor)

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A blacksmith by trade, he became interested in electricity and magnetism, and purchased an early electromagnet from mine operator Allen Penfield, who was using them to sort iron ores. Carefully disassembling it and recording the details of its construction, he fashioned two replicas -- his wife contributing a silk petticoat from which insulation was fashioned for the bare wire that was the only kind available in those days.

He soon developed a true DC electric motor, inventing the idea of brushes and commutator along the way. The motor was used to power the first electric locomotive (1835) and sundry devices in his shop. Power to the locomotive was delivered by running the current through the rails.

So far ahead of its time was this that Davenport's first patent application was rejected. It seems that patents must advance the state of the art, but not too far!

The world was not yet ready for electric motors and he had no commercial success. His choice of business partners contributed to his failure; They ran off with the money!

Had he realized that his motor could be used in reverse as an electric dynamo to generate electricity, the course of history would have been far, far different.  -30-
 

Chronology

1834
Invents the first electric motor
1835
First electric locomotive train
1837-02-25
Patent #132 granted for his motor

Selected Works

  • Electro-Magnet and Mechanics Intelligencer (c. 1840-43 newsletter)
  • Bookmarks (off-site links)

    Bookmarks:2003-09-24 17:07:52

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