May 30, 2013 - Loomis Day

Loomis was a dentist.
Today we are encouraged to celebrate Mahlon Loomis for “thinking outside of the box.” He came up with the idea of wireless communication—a telegraph that would harness the electrical currents in the Earth's upper atmosphere to transfer telegraph messages without the need for wires.

Loomis did not come up with a working idea of how to do this! His patent application not only had no schematic diagram about how to build a wireless telegraph, nor any theoretical backing for his concept, it was also very close to the idea and even wording of a patent application already awarded to William Henry Ward. Both patents applications were vague and impractical.

Loomis did do an experiment that seemed to demonstrate the first wireless communication in the world. He flew two kites at equal heights 14 miles away from one another; each kite was tied to a copper string, and each string was attached to a galvanometer. Loomis was able to use one kite to move the other kite's meter!
This is NOT what was happening during
the experiment!

Loomis thought that, because the two kites were flown at the same height, he was creating a closed circuit as electricity moved from a transmitter, up a wire, through a particular layer of atmosphere, and down the other wire to the meter. However, scientists now know that the atmosphere creating one leg of a closed circuit is impossible. Instead, scientists speculate, Loomis was unknowingly creating a radio signal with one apparatus, and the equal-length wire of the other kite was resonant with that signal and therefore acted as a radio receiver. Interesting, huh?

What would we do without
wireless technology today?
Loomis received his patent on this date in 1872. I personally find value in people thinking up all sorts of outlandish possibilities—artists and science fiction writers are two groups of people who often make these sorts of contributions to society—but I admire even more the scientists who work hard to discover principles of the universe and engineers who work hard to create devices that work. Loomis didn't succeed at either of these – but he did indeed think outside of the box!

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the discovery of krypton

Plan Ahead...

Check out my Pinterest boards of June holidays

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