Thomson, Elihu, 1853-1937

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Electrician, inventor with 700 patents under his name; winner of many honors, prizes, and medals.

From the description of Letter to S[amuel] S[ydney] McClure, 1894 February 3. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 55132441

Thomson joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1894, served as Acting President of the Institute, 1920-1922, and was a member of the MIT Corporation for many years. He was an inventor who held nearly 700 patents, many of which were central to the development of the electrical industry. He was also director of engineering and research at the General Electric Company.

From the description of Papers. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 78623024

Elihu Thomson was an electrical engineer, inventor, business man, andentrepreneur who figured prominently in the development of early electric light and power systems in the United States. Thomson formed the Thomson-Houston Electric Company in 1882, which merged in 1892 with the Edison Electric Company to form the General Electric Company.

From the description of Papers, 1853-1955. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122624321

Elihu Thomson (1853-1937) was an electrical engineer, inventor, business man, and entrepreneur who figured prominently in the development of early electric light and power systems in the United States. During a long career which spanned the 19th and 20th centuries, Thomson acquired over 700 patents involving dynamos, three-phase generators, repulsion induction motors, electric welding, transformers, meters, lamps, railways, and steam engines. Thomson was responsible for pioneering research in alternating currents and high frequency, as well as the first safety standards for electrical work. Additional studies in astronomy, refracting telescopes, optics, and x-rays enhanced his industrial research. Besides his achievements in early electric technology, Thomson made considerable contributions to the professionalization of engineers through his active involvement in organizations such as the Franklin Institute, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and the International Electrical Congress.

Elihu Thomson was born in Manchester, England on 29 March 1853 to Daniel Thomson and Mary Ann Rhodes Thomson. In 1858, the Thomson family moved to the United States and settled in Philadelphia. At the age of thirteen, Thomson entered Philadelphia's Central High School. Upon graduation in 1870, Thomson was offered a position with the school as an instructor in physics. By 1876, he was honored with the chair in chemistry.

In 1880, Thomson resigned from his professorship to enter the electric industry. He moved to New Britain, Connecticut to accept a position as an electrician with the American Electric Company. While employed with American Electric, Thomson developed his electric lighting system and formed the Thomson-Houston Company in 1882. In 1883, the Thomson-Houston works moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, where the great development of Thomson's electric company took place throughout the 1880s. The Thomson-Houston Electric Company merged with the Edison Electric Company of Schenectady, New York to form the General Electric Company in 1892. Major off-shoots of this company grew in Germany, France, and England and helped spread throughout Europe an electric lighting system based on Thomson's patents. Thomson's work was not restricted to the electric manufacturing business; he acted as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1920 to 1923.

Thomson married his first wife, Mary Louise Peck, in 1884. They had four children: Stuart, Roland Davis, Malcolm, and Donald Thurston Thomson. His first wife died in 1916, and in 1923 he married Clarissa Hovey. Elihu Thomson died on 13 March 1937 after a long illness at his home in Swampscott, Massachusetts.

From the guide to the Elihu Thomson Papers, 1865-1944, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Walter Sydney Adams Papers, 1881-1939 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Peale-Sellers families. Correspondence, 1686-1963. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Archives. Record Group IIh, 1892-1896 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Peale-Sellers Family Collection, 1686-1963, 1686-1963 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Thomson, Elihu, 1853-1937. Papers, 1853-1955. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Walter Sydney Adams Papers, 1881-1939 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President records, Bulk, 1897-1931, 1883-1941 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections
creatorOf Elihu Thomson Papers, 1865-1944 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Thomson, Elihu, 1853-1937. Papers. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn David Peck Todd papers, 1862-1939 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, Pa.). Committee on Science and Arts. Records, 1824-1900 [microform]. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn James Wesley Cooper papers, 1787-1925, 1787-1916 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Todd, David P. (David Peck), 1855-1939. David Peck Todd papers, 1862-1939 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Todd, David P. (David Peck), 1855-1939. David Peck Todd papers, 1862-1939 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Thomson, Elihu, 1853-1937. Letters. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
referencedIn Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President, records of Karl Taylor Compton and James Rhyne Killian, 1930-1959 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Autograph File, T, 1580-1975. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Hale, George Ellery, 1868-1938. Papers, 1903-1935. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Miscellaneous correspondence, 1915-1954 Houghton Library.
referencedIn Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930. General correspondence, 1919-1930. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Cooper, James Wesley, 1842-1916. James Wesley Cooper papers, 1787-1925 (inclusive), 1787-1916 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Thomson, Elihu, 1853-1937. Letter to S[amuel] S[ydney] McClure, 1894 February 3. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Thomson, Elihu, 1853-1937. Newspaper accounts of General Electric history as collected by Elihu Thomson l892-1904. Noble, Inc
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adams, Walter S. (Walter Sydney), 1876-1956 person
associatedWith Albrecht, Emil P. person
associatedWith Albrecht, Florence C. person
associatedWith American Institute of Electrical Engineers. corporateBody
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Ayrton, William E. person
associatedWith Barker, George F. (George Frederick), 1835-1910. person
associatedWith Barringer, Daniel Moreau, 1860- person
associatedWith Bragg, William Henry, Sir, 1862-1942. person
associatedWith Brashear, John A. (John Alfred), 1840-1920. person
associatedWith Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974. person
associatedWith Central High School (Philadelphia, Pa.) corporateBody
associatedWith Coffin, Charles A. person
associatedWith Coffin, Charles A., Jr. person
associatedWith Coolidge, William David, 1873-1975. person
associatedWith Cooper, James Wesley, 1842-1916. person
associatedWith Crompton, Robert E. person
associatedWith Crompton, Robert E. person
associatedWith Cutter, George W. person
associatedWith Cutter, George Washington, 1801-1865. person
associatedWith Czapski, Siegfried, 1861-1907. person
associatedWith De Forest, Lee, 1873-1961. person
associatedWith Dercum, Francis X., 1856-1931. person
associatedWith Dibner, Bern, person
associatedWith Dunn, Gano, 1870- person
associatedWith Dunn, Gano, 1870-1953. person
associatedWith Edison Electric Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931. person
associatedWith Fleming, J. A., Sir, (John Ambrose), 1849-1945 person
associatedWith Fleming, John Adam, 1877-1956. person
associatedWith Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, Pa.). Committee on Science and Arts. corporateBody
associatedWith General Electric Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Greene, Wm. H. (William Houston), 1853-1918. person
associatedWith Hale, George Ellery, 1868-1938. person
associatedWith Hewitt, George Wattson. person
associatedWith International Electrical Congress. corporateBody
associatedWith International Electrotechnical Commission corporateBody
associatedWith Jackson, Dugald C. (Dugald Caleb), 1865- person
associatedWith Jeans, James Hopwood, Sir, 1877-1946. person
associatedWith Jeffcott, Henry Homan, d. 1937 person
associatedWith Jeffcott, H. H. person
associatedWith Johnson, Alba Boardman, 1858-1935. person
associatedWith Keen, William W. (William Williams), b. 1837. person
associatedWith Kennelly, Arthur E. (Arthur Edwin), 1861-1939. person
associatedWith Langmuir, Irving, 1881-1957. person
associatedWith Littow, J. J. person
associatedWith Lovejoy, Jesse Robert, 1863-1945. person
associatedWith Lovejoy, J. Robert person
associatedWith Mallinckrodt, Edward, 1845-1925. person
associatedWith Martin, Thomas Commerford, 1856-1924. person
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Office of the President corporateBody
associatedWith McClure, S. S. (Samuel Sidney), 1857-1949, person
associatedWith Meadowcroft, William Henry, 1853-1937. person
associatedWith Mendenhall, Thomas Corwin person
associatedWith Mendenhall, Thomas Corwin. person
associatedWith Miller, Dayton Clarence, 1866-1941. person
associatedWith Morgan, Charles person
associatedWith Morgan, Charles, Sir. person
associatedWith Mottelay, Paul Fleury, b. 1841. person
associatedWith Peale-Sellers families. family
associatedWith Peale-Sellers families. person
associatedWith Pickering, William Henry, 1858-1912 person
associatedWith Pickering, William H. (William Henry), 1858- person
associatedWith Pratt, Joseph Hyde, 1870-1942. person
associatedWith Pritchett, Henry Smith, 1857-1939. person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Rawle, Francis person
associatedWith Rice, Edwin Wilbur, 1831-1929 person
associatedWith Riche, George W. person
associatedWith Riche, George W. person
associatedWith Sarton, George, 1884-1956 person
associatedWith Schuppmann, L. person
associatedWith Shapley, Harlow, 1885-1972. person
associatedWith Snyder, Monroe Benjamin, 1848- person
associatedWith Snyder, Monroe Benjamin, 1848-1932. person
associatedWith Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930. person
associatedWith Spooner, Henry John, 1856-1940 person
associatedWith Spooner, Henry Joshua, 1839-1918. person
associatedWith Steinmetz, Charles Proteus, 1865-1923. person
associatedWith Stockley, George person
associatedWith Stockley, George. person
associatedWith Stratton, Samuel Wesley, 1861-1931. person
associatedWith Stuart, George person
associatedWith Stuart, George, 1843-1943. person
associatedWith Thompson, Maria M. person
associatedWith Thompson, Silvanus P. (Silvanus Phillips), 1851-1916. person
associatedWith Thomson-Houston Electrical Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Thomson-Houston Electric Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Thomson, Silvanus P. person
associatedWith Todd, David person
associatedWith Todd, David P. (David Peck), 1855-1939. person
associatedWith Whitney, Willis Rodney, 1868-1958. person
associatedWith Woodbury, David O. (David Oakes), 1896-1981. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Electricity
Electric currents, alternating
Electric welding
Electrical engineering
Geology
Electrical experiments
Telescopes
Electric meters
Electric transformers
Electrical equipment
Steam engines
Inventors
Machinery, Electrical
Electric motors, Repulsion-induction
X-rays
Optics
Quartz optics
Astronomy
Electric power systems
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1853-03-29

Death 1937-03-13

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