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Charles Francis Brush is a well-known inventor from Euclid, Ohio. He
lived from 1849-1929. Throughout his life he invented many electrical
machines and gadgets. These inventions included the electric arc light
(which is his most famous invention), a storage battery, and the
electric wind turbine (also known as an electric windmill).
Charles Brush was born on his parents' farm in Euclid, Ohio on March
17, 1849. His childhood was mostly spent on the Walnut Hills Farm,
which is just east of Cleveland. Unlike most farm-boys, Brush was
uninterested in the farm and instead found an interest in science.
When he was twelve, Brush built his first static electric machine with
materials he found on the farm. He continued making small machines
with basically everything he could find, until he was enrolled in
Cleveland Central High School. He graduated from Cleveland Central in
1867 with highest honors.
After high school, Brush went off to college at the University of
Michigan. There, he chose mining engineering as his major and he
graduated from the college two years later. After, graduation he
returned to Cleveland and became a chemist. He made very little money
doing this, so he quit his job and started to market iron ore.
In 1877, Charles Brush quit the iron business and concentrated
entirely on his electric generator, also known as a dynamo. The year
before he had quit the iron business, he had created a dynamo with a
horse-drawn treadmill. He was able to generate electricity with this.
It provided an efficient and not to mention economic source of
electricity for his most famous invention, the arc light.
Brush did not invent the first arc light. But, the arc lights that
were used at the time were very inefficient and impractical. When an
arc light is used, carbon electrodes are
consumed at the point where the electric arc is made. The Arc lights
before Brush's arc light did not have a regulating system for the
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Brush's light was different from these older, inefficient designs. His
arc light electrical and mechanical means to regulate the light. His
design was surprisingly simple. He used an electromagnet and a ring
clutch to move the upper carbon electrode. Other arc lights had
electromagnets, but it was Brush's use of the ring clutch to limit the
movement of the magnet that made his design much more superior to the
Brush's first commercial arc lamp was installed on the balcony of a
doctor's home in Cincinnati. Many indoor installations followed this.
He began to create more arc lamps, and they were soon installed
outdoors to eventually replace the gas lamps that were used for public
Brush decided he had to "advertise" his invention. So, on April 29,
1879 he put twelve arc lamps in Monumental Park (today known as
Cleveland Public Square). The people at the time didn't know much
about electricity, so when the lamps were lit, the crowd stood in awe.
Brush's arc lights were a success. Eventually, they were illuminating
the streets of most major cities in the U.S. The Brush Electric
Company of Cleveland was founded in 1880 and is still operating today
under the name General Electric.
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