Gramme Dynamo and DC Motor No. 575 by Breguet, Paris.
Gramme Dynamo and DC Motor No. 575 by Breguet, Paris, date 1878/9. Base 14.5" (37 cm) x 13" (33 cm) Height 18.5" (47 cm) Output - depending on how fast one cranks the handle - at least 15 volts possibly more.
In 1871 Zénobe Gramme had demonstrated his new machine, the first generator to produce power on a commercial scale, to the Academy of Sciences in Paris. The Technische Hochschule - today it is the Graz University of Technology in southern Austria - was well resourced and although Gramme machines were still a rarity Professor Poeschl obtained one in 1876 and demonstrated it to his second year class which included the twenty year old student Nikola Tesla. The machine could act either as a source of power or a motor. This latter fact was a new revelation. Gramme had only recently discovered that his machine, if supplied with a constant voltage, could work as an electric motor. Today this design is still the basis for nearly all direct current electric motors. (See picture – supplied with 16 volts D.C. the commutator is revolving very fast, but I have attached a white sticker to one of the spokes of the large brass wheel for additional clarity).
Until the invention of the Gramme dynamo by Z. T. Gramme in the 1870s existing dynamos were only useful for laboratory experiments. The Gramme dynamo was the first dynamo that could be "scaled up" and its importance and development were critical to Edison and his invention of the electric light - and subsequently to all other uses of direct current power distribution. Edison had been experimenting with making electric lights (using batteries) but stopped work on them in 1877 because it would be one thing to invent an electric light which worked in his laboratory, but quite another to succeed in putting them in homes and businesses. To achieve this he would need to generate electricity in a "power station" and then distribute it. Instead he turned his attention to sound reproduction and invented the phonograph in December 1877. "On Edison's return from the West at the end of August 1878, he found a file of papers sent to him by Governor P. Lowrey, general council to Western Union, reporting on the Paris Exposition that summer and especially on the new electric candles of Jablockoff. By now a half mile of the Avenue de l'Opéra had been illuminated by those big arc lights; they were said to be the finest artificial light ever seen. According to the testimony of the American physicist, Professor Benjamin Silliman, Jr., new dynamos invented by Z. T. Gramme were used to provide a source of constant current..."
Now he had "found" his power source at the urging of Lowrey and Barker, Edison dropped the phonograph and recommenced his experiments on the electric light. Early in September Edison agreed to go with Professor Barker to Ansonia, Connecticut, to visit the brass-manufacturing shops of William Wallace, partner of Moses Farmer and coinventor of the first American electric dynamo. Wallace eight brilliant arc lights of 500 candlepower each powered by the Wallace-Farmer dynamo of 8 horsepower. Essentially the Wallace-Framer dynamo was the Gramme dynamo with the permanent magnet replaced by electromagnets.
The Gramme dynamo was as important to the initial development of the electricity industry as James Watt's steam engine was to the Industrial Revolution. It was the “breakthrough” technology development.
Only a handful of early Gramme dynamos apparently survive today (see Google images etc.). The Breguet Gramme dynamo No. 696 in the Teyler Museum, Netherlands is dated 1881 - the date they purchased it - so I estimate No 575 as 1878/9
This is a very serious dynamo and electric motor in excellent original condition. It would be a "star piece" in any important technology collection or museum.Price £14650
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