Elisha Gray Biography & Facts
Elisha Gray (August 2, 1835 – January 21, 1901) was an American electrical engineer who co-founded the Western Electric Manufacturing Company. Gray is best known for his development of a telephone prototype in 1876 in Highland Park, Illinois. Some recent authors have argued that Gray should be considered the true inventor of the telephone because Alexander Graham Bell allegedly stole the idea of the liquid transmitter from him. Although Gray had been using liquid transmitters in his telephone experiments for more than two years previously, Bell's telephone patent was upheld in numerous court decisions.
Gray is also considered to be the father of the modern music synthesizer, and was granted over 70 patents for his inventions. He was one of the founders of Graybar, purchasing a controlling interest in the company shortly after its inception.
Biography and early inventions
Gray was born in Barnesville, Ohio, the son of Christiana (Edgerton) and David Gray. His family were Quakers. He was brought up on a farm. He spent several years at Oberlin College where he experimented with electrical devices. Although Gray did not graduate, he taught electricity and science there and built laboratory equipment for its science departments.
In 1862, while at Oberlin, Gray met and married Delia Minerva Shepard.
In 1865, Gray invented a self-adjusting telegraph relay that automatically adapted to varying insulation of the telegraph line. In 1867 Gray received a patent for the invention, the first of more than seventy.
In 1869, Elisha Gray and his partner Enos M. Barton founded Gray & Barton Co. in Cleveland, Ohio to supply telegraph equipment to the giant Western Union Telegraph Company. The electrical distribution business was later spun off and organized into a separate company, Graybar Electric Company, Inc. Barton was employed by Western Union to examine and test new products.
In 1870, financing for Gray & Barton Co. was arranged by General Anson Stager, a superintendent of the Western Union Telegraph Company. Stager became an active partner in Gray & Barton Co. and remained on the board of directors. The company moved to Chicago near Highland Park. Gray later gave up his administrative position as chief engineer to focus on inventions that could benefit the telegraph industry. Gray's inventions and patent costs were financed by a dentist, Dr. Samuel S. White of Philadelphia, who had made a fortune producing porcelain teeth. White wanted Gray to focus on the acoustic telegraph which promised huge profits instead of what appeared to be unpromising competing inventions such as the telephone. White made the decision in 1876 to redirect Gray's interest in the telephone.
In 1870, Gray developed a needle annunciator for hotels and another for elevators. He also developed a microphone printer which had a typewriter keyboard and printed messages on paper tape.In 1871 Great Chicago Fire destroyed the city and it's telegraph infrastructure, Gray & Barton was hired to rebuild it. In 1872, Western Union, then financed by the Vanderbilts and J. P. Morgan, bought one-third of Gray and Barton Co. and changed the name to Western Electric Manufacturing Company of Chicago. Gray continued to invent for Western Electric.
In 1874, Gray retired to do independent research and development. Gray applied for a patent on a harmonic telegraph which consisted of multi-tone transmitters, that controlled each tone with a separate telegraph key. Gray gave several private demonstrations of this invention in New York and Washington, D.C. in May and June 1874.
Gray was a charter member of the Presbyterian Church in Highland Park, Illinois. At the church, on December 29, 1874, Gray gave the first public demonstration of his invention for transmitting musical tones and transmitted "familiar melodies through telegraph wire" according to a newspaper announcement. This was one of the earliest electric musical instruments using vibrating electromagnetic circuits that were single-note oscillators operated by a two-octave piano keyboard. The "Musical Telegraph" used steel reeds whose oscillations were created by electromagnets and transmitted over a telegraph wire. Gray also built a simple loudspeaker in later models consisting of a vibrating diaphragm in a magnetic field to make the oscillator tones audible and louder at the receiving end. In 1900 Gray worked on an underwater signaling device. After his death in 1901 officials gave the invention to Oberlin College. A few years later he was recognized as the inventor of the underwater signaling device.
On July 27, 1875, Gray was granted U.S. Patent 166,095 for "Electric Telegraph for Transmitting Musical Tones" (acoustic telegraphy). His experiments with transmitting musical tones went further, and on February 15, 1876 Elisha Grey was granted US Patent for electro-harmonic telegraph with piano keyboard.He was elected as a member to the American Philosophical Society in 1878.
Because of Samuel White's opposition to Gray working on the telephone, Gray did not tell anybody about his invention for transmitting voice sounds until February 11, 1876 (Friday). The only remaining proof is a drawing he made on that day. Gray requested that his patent lawyer William D. Baldwin prepare a "caveat" for filing at the US Patent Office. A caveat was like a provisional patent application with drawings and description but without a request for examination.
On Monday morning February 14, 1876, Gray signed and had notarized the caveat that described a telephone that used a liquid transmitter. Baldwin then submitted the caveat to the US Patent Office. That same morning a lawyer for Alexander Graham Bell submitted Bell's patent application. Which application arrived first is hotly disputed, although Gray believed that his caveat arrived a few hours before Bell's application. Bell's lawyers in Washington, DC, had been waiting with Bell's patent application for months, under instructions not to file it in the USA until it had been filed in Britain first. (At the time, Britain would only issue patents on discoveries not previously patented elsewhere.)
According to Evenson, during the weekend of February 12–14, 1876, before either caveat or application had been filed in the patent office, Bell's lawyer learned about the liquid transmitter idea in Gray's caveat that would be filed early Monday morning February 14. Bell's lawyer then added seven sentences describing the liquid transmitter and a variable resistance claim to Bell's draft application. After the lawyer's clerk recopied the draft as a finished patent application, Bell's lawyer hand-delivered the finished application to the patent office just before noon Monday, a few hours after Gray's caveat was delivered by Gray's lawyer. Bell's lawyer requested that Bell's application be immediately recorded and hand-delivered to the examiner on Monday so that later Bell could claim it had arrived first. Bell.... Discover the Elisha Gray popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Elisha Gray books.