John PERRY and W.E. AYRTON, 
"Seeing by Electricity", 
Nature,
April 22, 1880, p.589.


Notice : les propositions de Perry et Ayrton

    We hear that a sealed account of an invention for seeing by telegraphy has been deposited by the inventor of the telephone. Whilst we are still quite in ignorance of the nature of this invention, it may be well to intimate that complete means for seeing by telegraphy have been known for some time by scientific men. The following plan has often been discussed by us with our friends, and, no doubt, has suggested itself to others acquainted with the physical discoveries of the last four years. It has not been varried out because of its elaborate nature, and on account of its expensive character, nor should we recommend its being carried out in this form. But if the new American invention, to which reference has been made, should turn out to be some plan of this kind, then this letter may do good in preventing monopoly in an invention which really is the joint property of Willoughby Smith, Sabine, and other scientific men, rather than of a particular man who has had sufficient money and leisure to carry ont the idea. 

The plan, which was suggested to us some three years ago more immediately by a picture in Punch, and governed by Willoughby Smith's experiments, was this : 

    - Our transmitter at A consisted of a large surface made up of very small separate squares of selenium.One end of each piece was connected by an insulated wire with the distant place, B, and the other end of each piece connected with the ground, in accordance with the plan commonly employed with telegraph instruments. The object whose image was to be sent by telegraph was illuminated very strongly, and, by means of a lens, a very large image thrown on the surface of the transmitter. Now it is well known that if each little piece of selenium forms part of a circuit in which there is a constant electromotive force, say of a Voltaic battery, the current passing, through each piece will depend on its illumination. Hence the strength. of electric current in each telegraph line would depend on the illumination of its extremity.

    Our receiver at the distant place, B, was, in our original plan, a collection of magnetic needles, the position of each of which (as in the ordinary needle telegraph) was controlled by the electric current passing through the particular telegraph wire with which it was connected. Each magnet, by its movement, closed or opened an aperture through which light passed to illuminate the back of a small square of frosted gIass. There were, of course, as many of these illuminated squares at B as of selenium squares at A, and it is quite evident that since the illumination of each square depends on the strength of the current in its circuit, and this current depends on the illumination of the selenium at the other end of the wire, the image of a distant object would in this way be transmitted as a mosaic by electricity.

    A more promising arrangement, suggested by Prof. Kerr's experiments, consisted in having each little square at B made of silvered soft iron, and forming the end of the core round which the corresponding current passed. The surface formed by these squares at B was to be illuminated by a great beam of light polarised by reflection from glass, and received again by an analyser. It is evident that, since the intensity of the analysed light depends on the rotation of the plane of polarisation by each little square of iron, and since this depends on the strength of the current, and that again on the illumination of the selenium, we have another method of receiving at B the illumination of the little square at A. It is probable that Prof. Graham Bell's description may relate to some plan of a much simpler kind than either of ours ; but in any case it is well to show that the discovery of the light effect on selenium carries with it the principle of a plan for seeing by electricity.

    Scientific Club, April 21.

    JOHN PERRY     W.E. AYRTON

 

 

 

 

 

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