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Thomas Edison and The Potato Farmer

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Bromine of Nitrogen Substance!

I had used ammonia and bromine at the time I was not aware of what substance I had used, as I did not know it at the time, but I had made bromide of nitrogen. I put the large bulk of it in three filters, and after it had been washed and all the water had come through the filter, I opened the three filters and laid them on a hot steam plate to dry with the stuff. While I and Mr. Sadler, one of my assistants, were working near it, there was a sudden flash of light, and a very smart explosion. I shouted to Mr. Sadler: What is that? I don't know, Sadler said. We decide to pay no attention!



But in about half a minute there was a sharp concussion, and Sadler said: "See, it is that stuff on the steam plate." I grabbed the whole thing, threw it in the sink, poured water on it. I saved a little of it and found it was  terrific explosive substance. Edison life as an inventor was often confronted with danger due to the variety chemicals in his possession. Edison reasoned that why those little initial explosions took place was that a little had spattered out on the edge of the filter paper, had dried out, then booom!

Lethal Potato Bug Killer!

Had the main body exploded there would have been nothing left of the laboratory I was working in." At Menlo Park one day, a farmer came in and asked if I knew any way to kill potato bugs. He had twenty acres of potatoes, and the vines were being destroyed. I sent men out and culled two quarts of bugs, and tried every chemical I had to destroy them. Bisulphide of carbon was found to do it instantly. I got a drum and went over to the potato farm and sprinkled it on the vines with a pot. Every bug dropped dead. Little did Edison realised the mixture was more lethal than he had expected! The next morning the farmer came in very excited and reported that the stuff had killed the vines as well. I had to pay $300 for not experimenting properly." Such incidents brought out in narration the fact that many of the men working with me had been less fortunate, particularly those who had experimented!

Experimental Incandescent Lamps

The Roentgen X-ray, whose ravages, like those of leprosy, were responsible for the mutilation! The Roentgen X-ray is responsible for the death of at least one expert assistant in the early days of work on the incandescent lamp also, there was considerable trouble with the mercury! I had a series of vacuum pumps worked by mercury that was used for exhausting experimental incandescent lamps! The main --

pipe, which was full of mercury, was about seven and one half feet from the floor. Along the length of the pipe were outlets to which thick rubber tubing was connected, each tube to a pump! One day, while experimenting with the mercury pump, my assistant, an awkward country lad from a farm on Staten Island, had adenoids in his nose and had to breathed through his mouth, which was always wide open, looking up at this pipe at a small leak of mercury, when the rubber tube came off and probably two pounds of mercury went into his mouth and down his throat, and got through his system somehow. In a short space of time this guy had become salivated, and his teeth got loose!




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