HPS202H1 Lecture Notes - Wireless Power Transfer

History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Course Code

of 3
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Domesticating Technology
tech need to be symbolically and practically tamed before they can be assimilated into
innovation only gain permanent footing in home if its role is made meaning and
unthreatening to household economy and values
need to ask how and why tech is adapted and why
Histories of tech have tendency to take adoption of new tech as inevitable but not that
simple, to create demand for electricity need to overcome
existence of gas as sensible, cheap and established system
public concern over dangers of electricity
need to develop complete tech system
adoption of electric lights depended as much on ability of promoters to redirect fears
about innate dangers, represent gas as dirty and dangerous, and use gender specific
authority to reach both household gender managers as it did on system building and
cost efficiency
aesthetics of home increasingly feminine domain, women have to also be
In U.K.
dealing with public is messy, some people adopt tech early, some don’t
experience and perception of tech vary greatly depending on context and personal
process of domesticating electricity long and slow
in US experience much more mediated by awe than fear but significant public concern
over dangers; Edison plays on this fear in antiAC campaign
systems actually not too different, power potential
Constructing Fear
lack of scientific consensus on what electricity is and exactly how it behaves
fires in Pearl St Station, 1881 Paris exposition
electrocution of Lord Salisbury’s servant 1882, first innocent bystander killed by
electricity in home
gas promoters represent electricity as dangerous, poorly understood and even more
poorly managed, too unpredictable and threatening to allow into home, metaphors of of
wild, untamed lightening
Death of William Dimmock (1881)
Thursday, October 6, 2011
gardener to Marquis of Salisbury, celeb figure for enthusiastic adoption of electricity,
ran off with generator installed in basement
first domestic electrocution, status as innocent bystander universalizes fear, can
happen to anyone (vs another industrial accident of electricians in workplaces)
gas companies represent death as example of innate danger of electricity
electric company’s try to focus on coroner’s inquest report blaming human error and
accidental fall
Making Electricity Safe
redirect fears
blame human error, carelessness, inexperience to direct attention away from rep
electricity itself/management as dangerous
tech innovations to answer concerns: creation of fuse, increased insulation on wires,
stricter regulation on installation
public safety displays
represent gas as dangerous, focus on potential for fire to consume oxygen or for unlit
lamp to leak gas and poison air; neither problems of electric lighting, stay away from
pointing to fire hazards since too close to home
use of actresses and engineers’ wives as authorities to speak to female safety;
Victorian households strongly gendered authority (contact with female body, considered
weaker than men)
Westinghouse competing with Edison GE for American Market
companies run on different tech systems (Edison direct current, Westinghouse
alternating current)
Edison ignores Westinghouse until 1888 when Telsa provides robust AC system
representing serious threat to Edison’s dominance, starts negative publicity campaign
against Westinghouse, dangers of AC, representing DC as domesticating and AC as
technical difference
AC developed alongside DC 1850
DC produce at roughly same voltage at dynamo as used by consumer, limit
effective transmission distance to 1-2 miles (so Edison to make electric stations at
every town and rake in money)
AC could use transformer to step down power for local dist, power produced at
much higher voltage at source then stepped down at consumer end; permitted
efficient transmission of greater distances
Nikola Telsa 1856-1943
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Serbian engineer, began working for Edison Paris firm 1882
1884 moves to US begins working for Edison redesigning dynamos, resigned over pay
1886 own company Telsa Electric
1888 granted patents for full AC system, merges with Westinghouse (larger corp
based on AC)
massively productive, develop wireless energy transmission 1891
Edison’s Campaign
1888 period of heightened popular concern over danger of electricity after downed
telegraph lines kills (poor) child (although few deaths inc concern)
competition of Westinghouse increasing with addition of Tesla’s patents
uses publishing pamphlet on dangers of electricity, stress high voltage of AC and refer
to gentler direct current (obscure fact that both same at user end)
1888 contacted about using electricity as humane method of execution, convinces only
AC generator can kill
sends out showmen to hold public demo with animals given low voltage shock with
Edison generator then electrocuted with Westinghouse
Westinghouse and Telsa arrange own public lecture but largely dominance of AC in
Euro market speaking for safety of AC
Why Fight AC?
Euro Edison franchises adopted AC generations to compliment DC
before Telsa no AC electric engine so make DC more versatile product
market being met through DC
issue of distance transmission not as important to Edison, thinks needs can be met by
est power station in every town (profits if convince)
patent rights, vast amount of his own DC, if company switch lose all patent... by the
time AC is practical alt to DC Telsa holds system patents
possible did not see efficiency of AC current because didn’t have math/physics