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Inquiry Question

Historical Context



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Table of

Visual Evidence

Photo 1a: Edison at his West Orange lab with an electric car powered by Edison batteries, 1910.

[Graphic] Photo 1a with link to higher quality photo.
(Photo: Edison National Historic Site)
Photo 1b: Edison holding one of his miner safety lamps, 1923.
[Graphic] Photo 1b with link to higher quality photo.
(Photo: Edison National Historic Site)

Edison did not invent the first storage battery, but combined new materials to create a storage battery suitable for practical use. By the time he perfected the alkaline storage battery, electric-powered cars had lost out in the competition with gas-powered cars that could be driven far greater distances. A failure as the motive force for automobiles, the alkaline storage battery was ultimately a great commercial success as the power source for train lights, marine appliances, and miners' lamps. Prior to this invention, miners used candles or small oil lamps attached to their hard hats as their light source.

1. Why do you think miners' lamps would have been an important application of the alkaline storage battery invention?

2. How does Edison's invention of the alkaline storage battery continue to affect our lives today?

3. List all the things you use that are operated by batteries. How would life be different if practical storage batteries had not been invented?

4. How do you think the "invention factory" might have affected Edison's ability to turn a commercial failure into a success?

* The images on the screen have a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain high resolution versions of Photo 1a and Photo 1b, but be aware that they will take about 90 seconds and 28 seconds, respectively, to load with a 28.8K modem.




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