Moses Gerrish Farmer

Wednesday 9th February 1820

Born on this day, Moses Gerrish Farmer, an American electrician whose inventions made pioneer electric automobiles feasible. In 1847, Farmer constructed and exhibited in public what he called “an electro-magnetic locomotive, and with forty-eight pint cells of Grove nitric acid batteries, the locomotive drew a little car carrying two passengers on a track a foot and a half wide”. He was the inventor of over 130 inventions including the fire alarm pull box and the first electric railway car. He is also credited with inventing the dial telegraph, the thermo-electric generator, the galvanometer, the voltmeter, the duplex printing telegraph and a double transmitter with reversed currents. At the age of 39 while living in Salem, Massachusetts, he lit the parlor of his home incandescent lamps, the first house in the world to be lit by electricity. He also patented an early lightbulb (which was later bought by Thomas A. Edison). His electrical patents rivalled Edison’s. He received less fame and less profit because of his constant impulse to plunge into the unknown rather than to develop and perfect a marketable invention. Many of Farmer’s patents were purchased by the United States Electric Light Company and were later sold to Westinghouse.

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