August 31st. You can take your pick today as it's been a busy day over the years.
21 years ago today saw the tragic death of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed in Paris.
Richard Gere celebrates his 69th birthday. (When did you last watch An Officer and a Gentleman?)
Polish officials met with Lech Walesa and the Trade Union Solidarity in a Gdansk shipyard today in 1980. This lead to the Trade Union being recognised by the Communist Government of the day, and this in turn led in time to the end of communist control in the Eastern Block. Ironically, 41 years earlier on the same day, Hitler signed the order in 1939 to invade Poland. The invasion took place the very next day, and World War Two began. This remains the world's bloodiest conflict to date and 3% of the world's population perished.
1888 saw the first of Jack the Ripper's victims, Mary Ann Nichols, attacked and killed in London, the first internationally recognised serial killer, with news spreading through a new global media network making use of new technology to spread news faster and faster.
What's left of my 500 words today though gives a nod to a related technological invention which was patented today in 1897.
Thomas Edison, the American inventor credited with the lightbulb and the record player received his patent today for the Kinetograph. This invention is the first movie camera to receive a patent, and while there had been various attempts at creating moving pictures over the previous 20 years or so, this machine differed by using celluloid film moving through the camera with a sprocket system. It had been in design for some years, and if you click here you can see the first scene filmed. It's acted by Edison employees in a studio in New Jersey, thought to be the first ever movie studio. I think it still holds up pretty well.
This method differed from previous moving pictures which were in effect multiple pictures taken by different cameras and then flicked through quickly to give the illusion of movement. There were also some European machines which converted guns using the trigger mechanism to take multiple fast photographs from the same machine.
In another example of how little the world has changed in the last 120 years or so, Edison's assistant, a man called W.L.K Dickson was entrusted with the technology behind the patent. he left Edison's employ before the patent had been awarded and helped set up another company (American Multiscope and Biograph Pictures). Biograph immediately produced a camera of their own, remarkably similar to Edison's model.
He sued, and the courts got involved. While they acknowledged that the sprocket system should be protected, they refused to protect the overall 'movie camera' concept. This drew a sigh of relief from the French inventors Louis and August Lumiere who had been working in the late 1800's to produce the Cinematographe technology, enabling large audiences to view films created on similar technology.
Following the lawsuit, in 1909, Edison and Biograph joined forces to create the Motion Pictures Parent Company, committed to protecting patents in the moving picture arena. This kind of oligopoly caused more legal wrangling and in 1917 the Supreme Court dissolved the organisation, opening the way for other innovators to enter the field.
The rest as they say, is history. The entire motion picture industry should take a moment today to reflect on the invention patented today in 1897, an invention which started the ball rolling for todays multi-billion dollar industry.
Finally, a moment on Edison himself. He was 50 when he patented the Kinetograph (yesterday I was looking for a 50 year old, so there's a bit of kismet for you!)
The lightbulb, the record player, the movie camera...you'd think that would be enough.
How about power storage and distribution leading to the introduction of electricity as a utility, a battery for an electric car, the stock market ticker-tape to name just a few of his 1,093 patents held in the US alone.
Harvard or Yale would be proud to count him as one of their's, but he wasn't. He was self-taught and almost completely deaf. A true inspirational figure, particularly for those who didn't gel with formal education, and those with personal battles to face in addition to trying to make a mark on the world.
I think I'll watch some movies, blast out a few tunes and use up a bit of electricity in his memory today!
Edison the Man is a cracker, you can buy it here, or you'll probably find it online.
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.
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