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HSS presentation 2008


									     Purity vs Property?
The Patenting context of constructing “pure”
    and “applied” electricity 1880-1920”.

            Graeme Gooday &
           Stathis Arapostathis
Tensions in electrical techno-science
p   Overlap of physics & early electrical engineering
p   Cases of Henry Rowland (US), Oliver Lodge (UK)
p   Both take out patents & appeal for ‘pure’ science
p   A paradox? Historians of physics discomfort!
p   Kline: not a matter of physicists doing ‘pure
    science’ & electrical engineers doing ‘applied’.
p   How did they manage their inventive research?
p   How did they represent it? Who had access to it?
p   What did ‘pure’ science and patenting represent?
p   Not necessarily mutually opposed: institution
    building, family obligation, anti-monopolism
p   But considerable ambivalence about prerogatives
Patents held in early electro-technology
p Thomas Edison c.1093 (& 1239 non-US)
p Henry Rowland 26+
p William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) 70+
p Silvanus P.Thompson 62
p Oliver Lodge 31
p William Preece 12
p Arthur Heaviside 6
p Oliver Heaviside 1
p James Clerk Maxwell 0
Patenting – protecting knowledge?
p   Patents: a historical-legal claim to temporal priority
    in applying technical principles to artefact
p   Temporary monopoly on use/manufacture (license)
p   Potential source of income if protection not costly
p   Corporate litigation for patent infringement –
    lucrative means of enforcing knowledge monopoly!
p   But patents not necessarily at odds with
    ‘intellectual commons’ of scientific research
p   Many only patent defensively to avoid monopoly by
    others; physicists rarely bother to license or litigate
p   Problem of openness: until 1907 prior revelation in
    a scientific paper would render a UK patent invalid.
19thC ‘pure’ science: sponsored autonomy?
p   Appeal for ‘pure science’ from 1870s (Herzig)
p   Category naturalized in 20thC, untenable in 21stC?
p   ‘Purity’ of motivation? Inapplicability? Contested…
p   Contrast ‘abstract science’ and ‘basic science’
p   Non-recognition by Lord Kelvin, Lord Moulton etc
p   Request for financial sponsorship with autonomy:
    right to free research & duty of others to pay!
p   Division of labour: pure researchers and appliers
p   Justificatory appeal to historical-causal claim:
    ‘pure science’ yields practical benefits
p   Rewriting of history of science-industry nexus
    Historicizing the pure-applied nexus
p   Kant, Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
    Applied & pure sciences mutually independent
p   Mid 19thC ‘applied science’ = ‘practical’ knowledge
p   “Applied science” ≠ applied ‘pure’ science
p   Bud: Tory KCL institutionalizes industrial practice as
    ‘applied science’ – a form of academic domestication
p   Gooday: Late 19thC physicists/chemists invent causal
    myth of ‘pure science’ to claim moral priority in H.E.
p   Replacement for older Anglo-American term ‘abstract
    science’, and attack on dominance of ‘applied science’
p   Aspirational propaganda for autonomous physical
    science: Lodge & Rowland argue for pure science to
    transcend commercial culture of industry/patents.
Kelvin: contrasting posthumous views
Times obituary of Lord Kelvin December 1907:
There cannot, he once remarked, be a greater
 mistake than that of looking superciliously upon the
 practical applications which are the life and soul of
 science… his scientific enquiries were accordingly
 pursued with a keen eye for practical application.
Balfour, unveiling Kelvin statue, Oct 1913:
That a professor of pure science should have
been also the leading spirit in submarine
telegraphy and that he should have done so
much for navigation was surely one of those
felicitous coincidences which had never
occurred before and probably was never likely
to occur again.
Oliver Heaviside – unworldly patentee?
p   Left Post Office telegraph service to
    lived with parents in London, 1874
p   Oliver’s sole patent: 1880 #1407
    ‘Preventing induction between
    adjacent telegraph & telephone lines
p   1887-93 published on applying
    Maxwell to theory of inductive loading:
    minimize distortion on phone lines
p   Reward: UK government pension 1896
p   1899-1900: Michael Pupin seeks US
    patent for application of Heaviside
p   Initially rejected due to Heaviside’s
    prior publication, but later succeeds
p   Pupin wealthy - Heaviside outraged!
   Henry Rowland (1848-1901)
   First Professor of Physics, Johns Hopkins 1875

                              Trained as a civil engineer,
                              early work in
                              thermodynamics and optics
                              ‘A Plea for Pure Science’
                              AAAS 1883 – controversial.
                              26+ patents (1882-1903) e.g.
                              •Diffraction gratings
Ruling engine c.1883
                              •Electrical power engineering
Patented process: universal
product – Rowland grating     •Multiplex telegraphy
Reconciling Rowland’s patents & purity
 p   Standard account: diabetes diagnosed in 1890;
     patent income needed to support family
 p   BUT does not fit the broader pattern of career
 p   In 1868 Rowland sought patent for multiplex
     telegraph – denied support by his mother.
 p   1882 patented screw thread technique for his
     diffraction gratings (& kept machine design secret)
 p   Rebuffs Edison’s approaches to co-patent 1880-
     83… but becomes electrical engineering consultant
 p   Blood sugar diagnosis in 1890 not serious – gets
     health insurance anyway prior to marriage
 p   Does not patent again until 1893-4 – opportunistic
     encounter with Cataract Construction Co (Niagara)
 p   No debilitating illness till 1900 - cause of death
     unclear. Diary c.1900 retrospective claims…
Rowland’s knowledge management
p   Lab funded by Johns Hopkins but Rowland seeks
    financial independence to avoid university politics
p   Screw patent income pays for lab assistant
    Schneider: issues diffraction gratings free to many
p   Electrical consultancy and patents an opportunity
    to apply Maxwellian theories to new technologies
p   Birth of children Henry 1892 and Davidge 1897 are
    what prompt by intensive patenting.
p   Multiplex telegraphy 1897 brings little new profit
p   Posthumously patents bring little income to widow
                             Oliver Lodge, (1851 -1940)
                             First Professor of Physics, University
                             College Liverpool, 1881
                             Principal, University of Birmingham
                             Ether theorist & Maxwellian populariser
                             31 patents (with others)
                             Syntony (radio tuning)
                             Spark plugs
                             Lightning conductors
                             Smoke deposits
“University of Birmingham,
Vanity Fair, 1904            12 children (1878-1906)
Lodge and hi-tech Maxwellian physics
1880s Theorises mechanical ether –
tests ether characteristics by
mechanical means
Did mechanical motion carry ether?
Lodge more successful in wireless
– coherer for detecting waves
Syntony system for tuning –widely
adopted in early wireless.           ‘Whirling machine’ at
                                     Liverpool, 1893. Mather
Not monopolistic: only sued for
                                     and Platt dynamos not
infringement against Marconi 1907
                                     visible in this picture
when latter made large profits
Lodge on the researcher’s dilemma
p   The instinct of the scientific worker is to publish
    everything, to hope that any useful aspect of it
    may be as quickly as possible utilized, and to
    trust to the instinct of fair play that he shall not
    be the loser when the things becomes
    commercially profitable. To grant him a monopoly
    is to grant him a move than doubtful boon; to
    grant him the privilege of fighting for his
    monopoly is to grant him a pernicious privilege,
    which will sap his energy, was his time, and
    destroy his power of future production.
p   Oliver Lodge, Signalling Without Wires (1901),
Principal Lodge on
‘Pure Science’ Times
Feb 28 1901
The first Principal of
new University of
Birmingham tells
local IEE branch
electrical engineers
they must respect
‘pure science’.
Demarcating a
division of labour
between University
and IEE: former can
teach pure science,
defying the
‘unregenerate man’
Managing conflicting obligations
p   Rowland and Lodge caught between conflicting
    obligations to research, fellow professionals,
    laboratory co-workers, students and family.
p   Resolution: generate income from commercial
    work esp. from patents
p   Moral high ground: avoid patent litigation against
    infringers unless naked exploitation apparent.
p   Promote funded pure science for future
    practitioners to be spared such conflicts
p   But ‘Pure science’ long remains controversial as
    category of knowledge making…
‘WW1: Fletcher Moulton dissents
p   … I do not share the fear that so-called Pure
    Science is in danger of being neglected in the
    revival of industrial effort to which we all look
    forward. The distinction between Pure Science
    and Applied science is vague and artificial and, so
    far as my observation goes, it does not exists as
    a guiding principle in the minds of those classes
    to whom we must look for the force which will
    place Science in its right position in England. It is
    a distinction which is more actively present to the
    minds of those who are engaged in abstruse
    research than to the mind of the general public.

             Introduction to Science and the Nation, 1917

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