Journal of American Institute of Electrical Engineers, January 1925:Edison Medal Awarded to John White Howell The Edison Medal for the year 1924 has been awarded by the Edison Medal Committee of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers to John White Howell of Newark, New Jersey, "for his contributions toward the development of the incandescent lamp."
The Edison Medal was founded by the Edison Medal Association, composed of associates and friends of Mr. Thomas A. Edison, and is awarded annually by a committee consisting of twenty-four members of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers for "meritorious achievement in electrical science, electrical engineering, or the electrical arts."
The following men have been recipients of the medal: Elihu Thomson, 1909; Frank J. Sprague, 1910; George Westinghouse, 1911; William Stanley, 1912; Charles F. Brush, 1913; Alexander Graham Bell, 1914; Nikola Tesla, 1916; John J. Carty, 1917; Benjamin G. Lamme, 1918; W. L. R. Emmet, 1919; Michael I. Pupin, 1920; Cummings C. Chesney, 1921; Robert A. Millikan, 1922; John W. Lieb, 1923.
Mr. Howell, engineer and inventor, was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on December 22, 1857. After leaving school he went to the College of the City of New York, where he took an academic course for a year and a half. He then went to Rutgers, where he studied engineering for a year, and finally to Stevens Institute where be finished a special engineering course, in 1881. Later, in 1898, he was given the honorary degree of Electrical Engineer by Stevens Institute.
On July 6, 1881, be entered the employ of the Edison Lamp Company at Menlo Park, New Jersey. At that time the lamp industry was in its infancy, without machinery and without methods. For several years the technical work at the factory was supervised by Mr. Edison. Then he gradually withdrew, and eventually left the work in Mr. Howell's charge. In the fortv-three years that have passed since 1881, Mr. Howell has remained with the Edison Lamp Works, and his numerous important inventions and many written contributions have been vitally constructive factors in the improvement and enlargement of incandescent lamp production.
Two of his earliest achievements were his development of a successful, portable voltmeter and a Wheatstone Bridge type of potential indicator, which compensated for temperature, and which was widely used in central stations and electric light plants. At a later date, Mr. Howell originated the comparative indicator, a novel system which gave the voltage at each feeder end by comparison with one standard indicator.
In 1886 he determined for the first time the relation between the life and the candle-power of incandescent lamps, which applies to all forms of incandescent lamps made since that time. The next year he introduced a carbonaceous paste clamp which greatly decreased clamping and filament costs and greatly increased the quality of the lamp. When, in 1890, he was appointed Technical Advisor to Manager of Works, he made certain changes in the exhaust which increased the speed of exhaust and improved the quality of the lamp.
In 1892, the year the Edison Lamp Works became part of the General Electric Company, Mr. Howell was appointed Engineer and Assistant Manager of the Lamp Works. His experimental investigations continued. He organized the Edison Lamp Works Engineering Department. He improved the Thomson-Houston method of treating carbon filaments and developed a treating machine which entirely revolutionized the most important process in lamp making. He introduced the squirted cellulose filament which reduced the number of operators in the filament department from 350 to 12.
As an inventor and an engineer and a manager, Mr. Howell was ever a moving force in the direction and development of the then new industry of lamp manufacture. His influence and his many technical achievements can not easily be catalogued. His patents, numbering forty in all, cover a wide variety of inventions of parts, processes and machinery used in the evolution of the electric lamp.
He resigned as Assistant Manager in 1895, as the engineering duties were more congenial and demanded all of his time. In that same year he investigated, reported favorably upon, and introduced the Malignani methods of exhaust, whereby production was enormously increased. With Mr. W. R. Burrows he designed and patented the first stem-making machine, which revolutionized that process and which is still in use today. He tested and investigated various filament inventions, and assisted Dr. W. R. Whitney in the development of the metallized filaments. In 1906 much of his time was spent in Europe for the purpose of studying the invention of the Tungsten lamp and for the acquiring of their American rights.
Today he is the most distinguished of our pioneer incandescent lamp engineers. In the evolution and development of that lamp he has rendered invaluable services. For forty-three years he has carried on an enormous amount of research work which has given the incandescent lamp its present universal usefulness. The general public, as well as the entire electrical industry, have enjoyed the results of his labors; and, as the lighting branch was for many years the foundation, the parent, of the light and power industry as we know it today, it is certain that Mr. Howell has played a most important and distinguished part in the scientific progress of his day.
Mr. Howell is a Fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers; member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, National Electric Light Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, Illuminating Engineering Society, Franklin Institute and past President of the Edison Pioneers.
The medal will be presented to Mr. Howell at an evening session during the Midwinter Convention, New York, February 9-12, 1925.