Electronatom, later Seversky Electronatom during the 'Ionocraft' years, seems to have been into the electrostatic air cleaner game since 1952 and of course it's right in Townsend's neck of the woods. I chased the company and product names via patent records and other open-source Google-accessible docs. But possibly I've jumped the gun in thinking that the Electronatom device was his original idea or that there's a strict line continuity between these inventions. Unless he was a very bright two-year-old, the technology which shows up later in the Fluid Ionic Systems smelter unit has been around since 1907.
But! Again, look at the company it (citation required) keeps!The first use of corona to remove particles from an aerosol was by Hohlfeld in 1824. However, it was not commercialized until almost a century later. In 1907 Dr. Frederick G. Cottrell applied for a patent on a device for charging particles and then collecting them through electrostatic attraction — the first electrostatic precipitator. He was then a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. Cottrell first applied the device to the collection of sulfuric acid mist emitted from various acid-making and smelting activities.
Research Corporation, huh? Private funding for rockets and nukes? Hmmmmm.Cottrell used proceeds from his invention to fund scientific research through the creation of a foundation called Research Corporation in 1912 to which he assigned the patents. Research Corporation has provided vital funding to many scientific projects: Goddard's rocketry experiments, Lawrence's cyclotron, production methods for vitamins A and B1, among many others. The organization continues to be active to this day
Townsend was seven when this was set up. He was a bright seven-year-old, but not quite *that* bright. But did their paths ever cross later?During the 1920s and 1930s, many scientists took out patents on their developments and assigned them to the Research Corporation in order to guarantee that any profits made from their work would be used for further scientific research (one notable example is Ernest O. Lawrence, who assigned his cyclotron patent to the company). The Research Corporation played a major role in the minds of many scientists of the period in formulating ideal policies about the role of intellectual property in science. It was one of the first foundations in the United States.
Seems like it would have been hard not to if it was this big. Maybe not so much a bite as a big smelly whale.
It's a big smelly fish, but here's a faint hint of a link between electrostatics and mining... much earlier than Brown, of course, and fifty years before Lear gets to Reno.A native of Oakland, California, Frederick Gardner Cottrell (1877-1948) early revealed the intense scientific curiosity and drive toward achievement that was to characterize his life and make him one of the outstanding, widely honored figures of his era.
At the age of 16, Frederick Cottrell was admitted to the University of California after four semesters of high school where, one acquaintance recalled, "he read textbooks like novels." Telescoping four years of college into three, he received a bachelor’s degree in 1896 and was awarded a fellowship—only to have to resign it for economic reasons. Combining study with high school teaching, he worked toward the day when he could continue his formal education. He pursued graduate work in Germany, qualifying for an advanced degree from the University of Berlin in 1901, and a Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig in 1902.
Returning to the University of California as a professor of physical chemistry, Dr. Cottrell—again laboring under economic necessity as well as interest—began experimenting with electrostatic precipitation as a means of collecting sulfuric acid mists. The result was the precipitator, a device which could collect fly ash, dust and fumes, acid mists and fogs that belched from turn-of-the century plants, and which became a primary means for controlling industrial air pollution. Cottrell made it work by developing a reliable high-voltage power supply and electrodes that permitted electrical energy to leak across a gas-filled chamber from many small points. In 1906 electric current was applied to a small laboratory device emitting sulfuric acid mist, and the idea became a reality. The first patent, No. 895.729, was issued on August 11, 1908.
Well acquainted with the frustrations of young scientists lacking the resources to carry out their ideas, Dr. Cottrell, at the age of 34, resolved that science would be the principal beneficiary of his invention. Those associated with him in developing electrostatic precipitation agreed with this highly unusual suggestion, and in 1912 Research Corporation, a unique institution devoted to philanthropy in science, was born.
Holding a high ideal of public service, Dr. Cottrell guided the U.S. Bureau of Mines in several capacities, including that of director, and played a vital role in making possible helium production during World War I. Following his decade with the Bureau which ended in 1921, he was called upon to fill posts with the National Research Council, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fixed Nitrogen Laboratory.
As a science consultant, Dr. Cottrell was highly regarded in national and international circles, in industry and the academic community. He traveled widely, was acquainted with scientists in the U.S. and abroad, and was especially well known for his ability to spark new ideas. His awards ranged from the Le Conte fellowship and an honorary degree from the University of California to the highest awards of a variety of professional societies. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1939.
Those who honored him spoke not only of his contributions to scientific knowledge, but of his dedicated efforts to enlist science in the service of society. "There is," Frederick Cottrell once told an audience of engineers, "the crying need and splendid opportunity for the young engineer of creative imagination and moral courage to join forces with his brother specialists from the humanitarian side and thus insure a really comprehensive picture of what Homo sapiens should be driving at as the immediate and conscious goal for the species."
Frederick Gardner Cottrell was proclaimed a "samaritan of science" by his biographer, Frank Cameron. "Dr. Cottrell benefited mankind in more than one way," explains former John P. Schaefer, Research Corporation president. "In addition to inventing an important device to control air pollution, he dedicated it to science by creating an organization to develop inventions and help fund academic research." By capitalizing on Cottrell’s patents and those contributed by other scientists, Research Corporation has been able to make grants of over $150 million to support projects independently proposed by academic scientists.