Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Electrocuting an Elephant

I watched the grisly footage of Edison's electrocuting an elephant to prove that AC electricity was dangerous last night on TV.

(Poor Topsy!)

Edison was single-minded in his contention that only DC electricity would work. It reminded me of a talk I'd attended earlier in the day where an entrepreneur read some lines from W.H. Murray, a mountain climber during World War 2. He wrote:

... but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

The entrepreneur's point was that you have to be fully committed to your idea, and after that point, you can do great things. But I'm sure he didn't mean be so sure of your idea that you electrocute an elephant to prove it.


brenda said...

POOR SWEET TOPSY! Damn Edison! That was terribly cruel. I'd boycott his invention starting right now, but then I wouldn't be able to post this comment...oh, well. I suppose refusing to purchase cosmetics and skincare that have been tested on animals is about all one can reasonably do...:(:(

Virginia R. said...

Some years ago I read a lot about Edison and the war of the currents, how he wanted his electricity model to prevail on Tesla's alternating current: he went into a fry animal mad spread. From that, he moved to founding the invention of the electric chair (he was against capital punishment, yet thought of electric chair as more human than hanging).
I am fascinated by character like Edison, with huge, larger-than-life persona, as they show how complex human nature can be.

mel said...

Topsy's electrocution is one of the low points in the history of the human race.

It's not like Edison was even right. If he really believed Tesla was wrong, he showed lack of vision at best. If he realised Tesla was right, but arranged this anyway, disgraceful is an inadequate description.

BTW Bren, Edison didn't invent electricity and his DC system became obsolete as a result of Tesla's and Westinghouse's efforts. So no need to boycott anything!