Charles George Page
Nineteenth Century Music
Public Health 19th Century
1857 the Bonn Lecture
Born 1812 Died 1868
C.G. Page was to become one of Americas finest 19th century electro scientists. The son of Jere Lee Page (a sea captain) and Ms. Lucy Lang Charles George expressed his interest in electricity at an early age. By the age of ten he had designed an electrostatic machine. By twenty-two, while finishing his work at Harvard Medical School, he published his first paper in Benjamin Sillmans American Journal of Science. Completing his residency at Mass. General in 1836, Charles moved back to Salem and opened a practice.
While practicing medicine in Salem he continued to pursue his work in the science of electricity. Throughout the 1830s. His work in this field began to gain recognition and was widely discussed overseas. Mr. William Sturgeon of London remarks in a journal," I know of no other philosopher more capable of close reasoning on electro-magnetic and magnetic electrical physics than Professor Page."
Its during this period that C.G. Page accidentally discovers the electronic tuning fork (Galvanic Music). While experimenting with horseshoe magnets and a coil attached to a battery, he noticed that when one or both poles of the magnet were placed by the coil, but not making contact with it, a ringing in the magnet is heard. This ringing occurs when one of the coils is connected or disconnected to the battery. Thinking that the sound was produced by the reverberation made when the connection was broken, Page tested his theory. He moved the battery to a further distance and repeated his experiment. The results were the same. Page says, "The ringing is heard both when the contact is made and broken; when the contact is made, the sound is very feeble; when broken it may be heard at two or three feet distance. " p.307 Benjamin Sillimans Journal April 5 1837. Page tried this experiment varying the size of the magnets. He noticed that for each magnet a different pitch was heard. He also noticed that the pitch emitted from the magnet is the octave above its fundamental tone.
In 1838 Page and his immediate family move from Salem to Fairfax Virginia. Here he spends the remaining 30 years of his life in or near Washington D.C. By 1842 he gives up the practice of medicine altogether and for the next ten years 1842-1852 he works as an examiner at the U.S. Patent Office. In addition to this he was a professor at Columbia College (now George Washington University). He also served as a consultant for inventors like Samuel Morse was a close friend Joseph Henry, the head of the Smithsonian In 1844 he marries Pricilla Seawall Webster and one might think that the stage is set for a long carrier as a scientist. Unfortunately, he became involved in the first of several ventures that would ruin his reputation in the American Science scene.
For the following seven years he worked at developing a means to propel vehicles by electrical power. This results in the battery-powered railroad locomotive that completes a run from Washington to Bladensburg Maryland, in 1851. The problem was that the idea of using wet-cell batteries was technically unsound. (To be cont.) This created quite a ruckus among the scientific community because it was thought that he should have known in advance the unfeasibility of this idea.
During the 1860s, Page finds himself in another situation that would further disenfranchise him from the American Scientific Community. He convinced Congress to authorize him to obtain a patent for the induction coil. Though his claim to having invented the induction coil is defensible, it had already been in use for several years prior to his claim and Patent Office employees were not permitted to hold patents. It is probably do to this incident that Page became involved in, and played a central role in a movement for the liberalization of Patent Examinations. He argued for establishing standards that were less rigorous regarding the novelty of inventions. In order to defend this position Page began to co-edit a journal that supported these views, The American Polytechnic journal. In addition to this he resigned his post at the Patent Office and started a business as a patent agent.
Unfortunately, due to incidents like the aforementioned C.G. Page contributions to the science of electricity went largely unnoticed.
Charles George Page