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Pavel Yablochkov - Let it be Light!
January 15, 2008 19:59

Pavel Yablochkov

Yablochkov Pavel Nikolayevich, Russian electric engineer, inventor and entrepreneur, is born on September 2, 1847 in Zhadovka village of Saratov region. His father is a nobleman, whose family got bankrupt and lost almost all money. Since childhood Pavel is fond of building – he invents an angular instrument for land measuring and a counting device for wagon distance, when he’s a boy. Pavel’s parents want their child to be well-educated, that’s why they send him to the second grade of Saratov public school in 1859. However, Yablochkov leaves the school three years later, spends several months at pre-university courses and enters Nikolayevskoye Engineering College in Saint Petersburg following autumn. This College is famous for its teaching system and graduating military engineers. After graduation form the College in 1866 Pavel Nikolayevich is distributed to Kiev garrison for military officer service. Unfortunately weak health makes Pavel retire during first year of his service. In 1868 Pavel Yablochkov returns to active service and enters Technical Galvanic Institution in Kronshtadt, graduating from it in 1869. At that time this Institution is the only educational establishment in Russia, which trains military professionals in electrical engineering.

In 1871 Yablochkov finishes his military service and moves to Moscow, where finds a position of an assistant of Moscow-Kursk railway telegraph head. At that time Moscow Polytechnic Museum hosts a society of electrical experts, inventors and amateur electric engineers, who like sharing their experience in this new field. These enthusiasts of science tell Yablochkov about experiments of A.N. Lodygin, who tried to illuminate streets and dark rooms with electric lamps. These brave experiments encourage Yablochkov to improve existing arc lamps.

In 1874 Yablochkov quits his telegraph position and opens a workshop of physical devices in Moscow. His contemporaries describe his workshop as a “centre of courageous and sophisticated electrotechnic events, which shine with novelty and are twenty years ahead his time”. In 1875, during an experiment with table salt electrolysis by means of coal electrodes, Pavel Nikolayevich comes up with an idea of improved arc lamp – without regulating distance between electrodes – future “Yablochkov candle”.


In the end of 1875 his workshop hardly survives a financial crisis, and Pavel Yablochkov moves to Paris, where he’s offered a position in workshops of famous academician L. Breguet, eminent French expert in telegraphy. Yablochkov deals with electric illumination, and in 1876 he receives a patent for his electric candle. Yablochkov candle is made of two stems, separated with an isolating padding. Each stem is fixed in a separate chandelier terminal. Upper ends carry an arc, and arc flame shines bright, slowly burning coal stems and evaporating isolation material. Success of Yablochkov candle exceeds all expectations – mass media all around the world write about invention of a Russian physicist. During 1876 Yablochkov develops and introduces a system of electric illumination, based on single-phase alternating current, which unlike direct current provides steady burning of coal stems without regulators. Moreover, Pavel Nikolayevich develops a technique for “splitting” electric light (i.e. feeding many candles from one current generator), suggesting three solutions for this problem, including first ever application of transformer and condenser. Yablochkov’s light system (“Russian lights”), exhibited during World Fair, taking place in Paris in 1878, is extremely popular all over the world. Yablochkov sells rights for his invention to French “General Electric Company with Yablochkov’s patents” and works as a head of its technical department, making his system better for more than modest salary.

In 1878 Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov decides to return to Russia and deal with a problem of electric light distribution. His fellow countrymen meet the inventor with delight. In 1879 Pavel Yablochkov establishes “Electric light partnership P.N. Yablochkov and Co” and opens an electric engineering works in Saint Petersburg, which produce light systems for military ships and plants. Despite commercial success of his activities Yablochkov feels discontent. The physicist sees that Russian lacks facilities for realization of new technical ideas, electric machines, in particular. Moreover, in 1879 American inventor Thomas Edison presents nearly perfect incadescent lamp, which totally replaces arc lamps.

Pavel Yablochkov returns to Paris in 1880 and starts preparations for the First Electrotechnic Fair, which is scheduled for 1881. The Jury of the Fair recognizes Yablochkov’s inventions, but the Fair becomes the triumph of incadescent lamp. Since that time Yablochkov devotes himself to energy generation issues – he works with dynamo machines and galvanic elements.

In the end of 1893 health of Pavel Nikolayevich becomes poorer, and inventor returns to Russia after 13-year absence. Several months later Russian scientist dies of heart attack and is buried in his family tomb in Saratov region.


Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian scientists Russian science    

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