Peter Hewitt, US electrical engineer

Peter Hewitt, US electrical engineer

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Credit: MIRIAM AND IRA D. WALLACH DIVISION OF ART, PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS/NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY/ SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Peter Cooper Hewitt (1861-1921), US electrical engineer. Hewitt invented a mercury-vapour lamp (patented 1901) and built the first mercury arc rectifier (1902). Early models of the lamp were a thin tube with a pool of mercury filling the lamp with mercury vapour. Current flowing between electrodes and through the mercury vapour discharged a bluish-green light. The mercury arc rectifier, used to convert alternating current to direct current, was used in industry and on the railways. This signed 1918 photograph is from a collection of unpublished images obtained for 'The Pageant of America: A Pictorial History of the United States' (1925-1929).

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