Glennette Tilley Turner, Lewis Howard Latimer

Article excerpt

Glennette Tilley Turner, Lewis Howard Latimer

Glennette Turner wrote a revealing biography about the least known, most unlikely, but most versatile of the pioneer-inventors of the electrical industry. The book is easy to read well-documented and of such gripping interest that it is hard to put down.

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928) was born in Chelsea Massachusetts, the son of run-away slaves. His parents, George and Margaret Latimer made a dating escape from a Virginia plantation by the unusual route of the "overground railroad." They settled in Massachusetts but only the intervention of the abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison kept them from being returned to the plantation and severe punishment. Although flee, the family of three boys and one girl suffered great poverty. As a consequence their education was cut short by the necessity for the children to work.

When the Civil War broke out all the boys went to war against the confederacy. Lewis who was the youngest of the children, and one brother served in the United States Navy, the other with a Connecticut army regiment. Lewis' gunboat served on the James River in Virginia and came under heavy fire. After the war he return to Massachusetts and taught himself to be a draftsman. He prepared the drawings and helped with the detailed descriptions for Alexander Graham Bell when the latter patented his telephone. Latimer's own first invention was an improved water closet (toilet facility) for use on trains by railroad passengers.

Latimer's most notable works were in the field of electricity. His procedures for manufacture of carbon filaments for Edison's incandescent lamp resulted in better quality control for producing a brighter longer lasting light. His invention for attaching electrical conductors to the lamp filaments without screws produced a stronger lamps allowing a better flow of current to the lamp. …