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On the conversion of electric oscillations into continuous currents by means of a vacuum valve
London, 1905.

The Beginning of Electronics: Original Patent and First Paper

Fleming, John Ambrose (1849-1945). (1) No. 24,850 . . . Provisional specification. Improvements in instruments for detecting and measuring alternating electric currents. 5pp. Folding plate. [Redhill: H. M. Stationery Office, 1905.] 254 x 186 mm. Disbound. Stitching holes in left margin, library stamp on first leaf. (2) On the conversion of electric oscillations into continuous currents by means of a vacuum valve. In Proceedings of the Royal Society 74 (1905): 476-487. Whole number. 447-518pp. Text diagrams. 223 x 146 mm. Original printed wrappers, spine and margins a little chipped. Outer margins a bit frayed. Ownership stamp (“H. E. Annett”) on the front wrapper. Boxed. Together two items. Very good.

First Editions On November 16, 1904 Fleming applied for the patent on the vacuum tube (vacuum valve); he filed his complete specification on August 15, 1905. The patent (no. 1 above) also published in 1905, was granted on September 21. Between the date of filing the patent and filing the complete specification Fleming published his paper on the vacuum tube (no. 2 above) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. As the original printed patent is very rare, this is an exceptional opportunity to acquire both Fleming’s original specification in the patent, and his first published paper on the invention that created the electronic industry.

Fleming, an electrical engineer and physicist who had worked with Thomas Edison’s company in London, invented the two-electrode vacuum-tube or diode, an event that marks the beginning of the electronics age, enabling the development of radio and an exceptional range of other electronic inventions. Before the invention of the transistor, the vacuum tube was the first switch used in the earliest electronic computers. Using vacuum tubes as switches, the first general-purpose electronic computer, the ENIAC, was able to operate 10,000 times the speed of a human computer. By comparison, the Harvard Mark 1, which used electromechnical relays as switches, computed 100 times the speed of a human computer. Fleming’s invention also paved the way for Lee DeForest and others to perfect the broadcasting of wireless signals.

Fleming had been aware since 1884 of the so-called “Edison effect” of “unilateral flow of particles from negative to positive electrode, and he repeated some of the experiments, with both direct and alternating currents, beginning in 1889. . . . [In 1904] he returned to his experiments on the Edison effect, with a view to producing a rectifier that would replace the inadequate detectors then used in radiotelegraphy. He named the resulting device a ‘thermionic valve,’ for which he obtained a patent in 1904 [sic]. This was the first electron tube, the diode, ancestor of the triode and the other multielectrode tubes which have played such an important role in both telecommunications and scientific instrumentation” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). Printing and the Mind of Man 396.


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Last Found On: 2014-07-29           Check availability:      Biblio    

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