The work of Edison on incandescent lamps did not stop at this fundamental invention, but extended through more than eighteen years of a most intense portion of his busy life. During that period he was granted one hundred and forty-nine other patents on the lamp and its manufacture. Although very many of these inventions were of the utmost importance and value, we cannot attempt to offer a detailed exposition of them in this necessarily brief article, but must refer the reader, if interested, to the patents themselves, a full list being given at the end of this Appendix. The outline sketch will indicate the principal patents covering the basic features of the lamp.
The litigation on the Edison lamp patents was one of the most determined and stubbornly fought contests in the history of modern jurisprudence. Vast interests were at stake. All of the technical, expert, and professional skill and knowledge that money could procure or experience devise were availed of in the bitter fights that raged in the courts for many years. And although the Edison interests had spent from first to last nearly $2,000,000, and had only about three years left in the life of the fundamental patent, Edison was thoroughly sustained as to priority by the decisions in the various suits. We shall offer a few brief extracts from some of these decisions.
In a suit against the United States Electric Lighting Company, United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, July 14, 1891, Judge Wallace said, in his opinion: "The futility of hoping to maintain a burner in vacuo with any permanency had discouraged prior inventors, and Mr. Edison is entitled to the credit of obviating the mechanical difficulties which disheartened them.... He was the first to make a carbon of materials, and by a process which was especially designed to impart high specific resistance to it; the first to make a carbon in the special form for the special purpose of imparting to it high total resistance; and the first to combine such a burner with the necessary adjuncts of lamp construction to prevent its disintegration and give it sufficiently long life. By doing these things he made a lamp which was practically operative and successful, the embryo of the best lamps now in commercial use, and but for which the subdivision of the electric light by incandescence would still be nothing but the ignis fatuus which it was proclaimed to be in 1879 by some of the reamed experts who are now witnesses to belittle his achievement and show that it did not rise to the dignity of an invention.... It is impossible to resist the conclusion that the invention of the slender thread of carbon as a substitute for the burners previously employed opened the path to the practical subdivision of the electric light."
An appeal was taken in the above suit to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, and on October 4, 1892, the decree of the lower court was affirmed. The judges (Lacombe and Shipman), in a long opinion reviewed the facts and the art, and said, inter alia: "Edison's invention was practically made when he ascertained the theretofore unknown fact that carbon would stand high temperature, even when very at- tenuated, if operated in a high vacuum, without the phenomenon of disintegration. This fact he utilized by the means which he has described, a lamp having a filamentary carbon burner in a nearly perfect vacuum."
In a suit against the Boston Incandescent Lamp Company et al., in the United States Circuit Court for the District of Massachusetts, decided in favor of Edison on June 11, 1894, Judge Colt, in his opinion, said, among other things: "Edison made an important invention; he produced the first practical incandescent electric lamp; the patent is a pioneer in the sense of the patent law; it may be said that his invention created the art of incandescent electric lighting."
Opinions of other courts, similar in tenor to the foregoing, might be cited, but it would be merely in the nature of reiteration. The above are sufficient to illustrate the direct clearness of judicial decision on Edison's position as the founder of the art of electric lighting by incandescence.
AT the present writing, when, after the phenomenally rapid electrical development of thirty years, we find on the market a great variety of modern forms of efficient current generators advertised under the names of different inventors (none, however, bearing the name of Edison), a young electrical engineer of the present generation might well inquire whether the great inventor had ever contributed anything to the art beyond a mere TYPE of machine formerly made and bearing his name, but not now marketed except second hand.
For adequate information he might search in vain the books usually regarded as authorities on the subject of dynamo-electric machinery, for with slight exceptions there has been a singular unanimity in the omission of writers to give Edison credit for his great and basic contributions to heavy-current technics, although they have been universally acknowledged by scientific and practical men to have laid the foundation for the efficiency of, and to be embodied in all modern generators of current.