Staite, William Edwards

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b. 19 April 1809 Bristol, England
d. 26 September 1854 Caen, France
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English inventor who did much to popularize electric lighting in early Victorian England and demonstrated the first self-regulating arc lamp.
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Before devoting the whole of his attention to the electric light, Staite was a partner in a business of iron merchants and patented a method of obtaining extracts and essences. From 1834 he attempted to produce a continuous light by electricity. The first public exhibition of Staite's arc lamp incorporating a fixed-rate clockwork mechanism was given in 1847 to the Sunderland Literary and Philosophical Society. He also demonstrated an incandescent lamp with an iridioplatinum filament. Sir Joseph Wilson Swan recorded that it was attending lectures by Staite in Sunderland, Newcastle and Carlisle that started him on the quest which many years later was to lead to his incandescent lamp.
In association with William Petrie (1821–1904), Staite made an important advance in the development of arc lamps by introducing automatic regulation of the carbon rods by way of an electromagnet. This was the first of many self-regulating arc lamps that were invented during the nineteenth century employing this principle. A contributory factor in the success of Staite's lamp was the semi enclosure of the arc in a transparent vessel that reduced the consumption of carbons, a feature not used again until the 1890s. His patents included processes for preparing carbons and the construction of primary cells for arc lighting. An improved lamp used by Staite in a theatrical production at Her Majesty's Theatre, London, in April 1849 may be considered the first commercial success of the electric light in England. In spite of the limitations imposed by the use of primary cells as the only available source of power, serious interest in this system of electric lighting was shown by railway companies and dock authorities. However, after he had developed a satisfactory arc lamp, an end to these early experiments was brought about by Staite's death.
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Bibliography
July 1847, British patent no. 1,1783 (electromagnetic regulation of an arc lamp).
His manuscript "History of electric light" is in the Institution of Electrical Engineers archives.
Further Reading
J.J.Fahie, 1902, "Staite and Petrie's electric light 1846–1853", Electrical Engineer 30:297–301, 337–40, 374–6 (a detailed reliable account).
G.Woodward, 1989, "Staite and Petrie: pioneers of electric lighting", Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical Engineers 136 (Part A): 290–6 GW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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