Archie Frederick Collins

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Archie Frederick Collins

Archie Frederick Collins (born South Bend, Indiana January 8, 1869. Died Nyack, New York January 3, 1952) was an early experimenter in wireless telephony and a prolific author of books and articles on a wide range of scientific and technical subjects.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Collins was the son of Captain Thomas Jefferson Collins and Margaret Ann (Roller) Collins. He attended the public schools and the Old University of Chicago, a Baptist school which preceded the present University of Chicago.[1] He was the brother of author Dr. T(homas) Byard Collins.[3][4] He began working for the Thomson-Houston Electric Company in Chicago in 1888, and gained practical knowledge of electrical technology and electrical appliances.[5]

Family life[edit]

Collins married Evelyn Bandy June 28, 1897. They were parents of one son, Virgil Dewey Collins. Collins resided at a summer home called "The Antlers" in Rockland County, New York in the hamlet of Congers, and had a second residence in Florida.[1] His winter residence was New York City.

Radio research[edit]

Frederick Collins at a radio telephone set circa 1904

Collins said he invented a wireless telephone, or radio transmitter and receiver which used voice modulated high frequency currents in 1899. He wrote in 1905 that his 1899 system was tested in Philadelphia and transmitted speech 200 feet; that in 1900 he sent speech 1 mile, across the Delaware River, and that in 1902 he transmitted speech 3 miles.[1][6] He wrote in 1922 that he was "the first to connect an arc lamp with an aerial and a ground, and to use a microphone transmitter to modulate the sustained oscillations so set up. The receiving apparatus consisted of a variable contact, known as a pill-box detector, which Sir Oliver Lodge had devised, and to this was connected an Ericsson telephone receiver, then the most sensitive made."[7] He received U.S. patent 814,942 on March 16, 1906, for his system of wireless telephony using an electric arc.[8][9]

He was the technical director for the Collins Wireless Telephone Company from 1904 to 1910.[1] By 1908 Collins was broadcasting voice and music, reportedly with an arc transmitter, from 51 Clinton Street in Newark, New Jersey, with a remote receiver through which interested parties could hear the transmissions.[10] He was able to transmit wireless telephone messages from his Newark lab to the Singer Building in New York City, 12 miles distant, on July 9, 1908. Later that year he sent voice messages from Newark to Philadelphia, a distance of 81 miles.[5][11] Guglielmo Marconi examined the Collins wireless telephone at the October 1908 New York Electrical Show and said "Wireless telephony is an accomplished fact, and to Mr. Collins is due the credit of its invention.... The clarity of the transmitted voice is marvelous." The apparatus used a Collins oscillation arc powered by 500 volts DC. Continuous high frequency oscillations were produced by inductance and capacitance shunted around the arc. A Bell telephone transmitter modulated the radio frequency waves. The receiver used inductance tuning coils and a Collins thermo-electric detector.[12] In 1909, Collins told the New York Times he had operated four separate wireless telephone links at the same time between Portland, Maine and a nearby island, creating an impression that wireless telephony was on the verge of replacing wired telephone systems.[13] He exhibited his wireless telephone in 1909 at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and was awarded a gold medal.[5]

The Collins Wireless Telephone Company became part of the Continental Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1909. Ordinary carbon telephone microphones could only carry small currents, under half an Ampere without overheating and failing. In the days before vacuum tubes, a carbon microphone was used to directly vary the transmitted radio signal. Collins developed multiple unit water-cooled microphones which could carry currents of 8 to 10 Amperes, to modulate the amplitude of the transmitted radio waves.[14]

While Collins continued experimenting with wireless telephony, demonstrations were done to advance the sale of stock, with extravagant and misleading claims for the technology. In December, 1911 Collins and other officials of the company were indicted for using the mails for stock fraud. The company had made extravagant claims for the ability of the wireless telephone equipment, given the primitive state of the art in range and selectivity.[15] Nathan Stubblefield, another early wireless telephone experimenter, had resigned in protest from the company before the exposure of the stock promotion excesses and was not prosecuted. Collins served one year of a three-year sentence.[16][17]

Author[edit]

He began writing for the technical press about wireless telegraphy and telephony and other scientific topics in 1901. He wrote articles about wireless telephony for Electrical World, Scientific American, Encyclopedia Americana, and other encyclopedias.[5] He wrote a great many technical articles and books on wireless telegraphy and wireless telephony in the first decade of the 20th century.[18] He wrote about 100 books on scientific and technical subjects, hobbies, and sports, and over 500 articles in technical and scientific magazines and journals, well into the 1940s.[1] His 1913 "Manual of Wireless Telegraphy and telephony" gives a detailed and illustrated explanation of his electric arc wireless telephone transmitter and receiver, along with a general coverage of the state of the art.[19]

He wrote scientific adventure series novels such as "Jack Heaton, Wireless Operator(1919)" which told of the training and adventures of a 15 year old wireless amateur.[20] Many of his books, such as "The Boy Scientist," (1925) had lots of illustrations and few equations, with an emphasis on "hands-on" experimentation, at a level intended for high school students. After discussing the "Einstein Theory," Collins tells his readers how to build a spectroscope, a radio, and a x-ray machine for home experimentation.[21] Collins encouraged his readers to use their home-built x-ray machine to examine their own bone structure with a fluoroscope. His failure to warn of the dangers of experimentation with x-rays was in line with popular interest in the invisible rays and lack of understanding of the dangers.[22] He was the original author of "The Radio Amateur's Hand Book," in 1922, a handbook for radio "hams" which was reprinted in at least 15 revised editions over the next 61 years. The late Alan MacDiarmid, who received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2000, said that Collins' 1924 book "The Boy Chemist" so inspired him as a boy in New Zealand that he kept renewing it from the public library for almost a full year to complete all the experiments.[23][24]

Affiliations and memberships[edit]

Collins was a Republican. He was a lecturer for the New York Board of Education. He was a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. He was a member of the Royal Aero Club and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, both of the United Kingdom.[1][25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Who was who in America, Volume 5, 1968–1973. Chicago: Marquis' Who's Who. 1973. p. 144. ISBN 0-8379-0205-3. 
  2. ^ Jenkins, John (2009). Where Discovery Sparks Imagination – A Pictorial History of Radio and Electricity. Bellingham, WA: The American Museum of Radio and Electricity. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-9794569-0-9. 
  3. ^ Collins, T(homas) Byard (1906). The New Agriculture: A Popular Outline of the Changes which are Revolutionizing the Methods of Farming and the Habits of Farm Life. Munn & Company. 
  4. ^ Collins, A. Frederick (1905). Wireless Telegraphy- Its History, Theory and Practice. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. pp. iii. 
  5. ^ a b c d "A. Frederick Collins: A biographical sketch.". Cassier's Magazine, an engineering monthly (New York: The Cassier Magazine Company). XXXVIII (2): 191–192. June 1910. 
  6. ^ Collins, A. Frederick (1905). Wireless Telegraphy- Its History, Theory and Practice. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. pp. 292–297. 
  7. ^ Collins, (A.) Frederick (1922). The Radio Amateur's handbook. A Complete, Authentic and Informative Work on Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony. Thomas Y. Crowell Company. 
  8. ^ [1] U.S. Patent 814,942, "Wireless Telephony." Filing date: August 21, 1905. Issue date: March 13, 1906. Retrieved November 1, 2008.
  9. ^ Mears, William A. (April 1908). "The wireless telephone: its commercial position and possibilities". Sunset Magazine (San Francisco, California: Southern Pacific Company Passenger Department, Southern Pacific Company) 20. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  10. ^ Jaker, Bill; Sulek, Frank; Kanze, Peter (1998). The Airwaves of New York: Illustrated Histories of 156 AM Stations in the Metropolitan Area, 1921–1996. McFarland. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-7864-0343-1. 
  11. ^ [2]"The Collins system of long-distance wireless telephony," Scientific American, September 19, 1908, pages 186–186. Retrieved November 15, 2008
  12. ^ [3] The Edison Monthly, The New York Edison Company, "The Collins wireless telephone at the Electrical Show," October 1908, Volume 1, no. 6, pages 151–152. Retrieved August 25, 2009
  13. ^ Reich, Leonard S. (2002). The Making of American Industrial Research. Cambridge University Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-521-52237-3. 
  14. ^ Fleming, J. Ambrose (1919). The Principles of Electric Wave Telegraphy and Telephony. Longmans, Green. pp. 685–687. 
  15. ^ [4] "Postal raids show vast stock frauds." The New York Times, November 22, 1910, page 1. Retrieved November 1, 2008.
  16. ^ "The Collins Wireless Telephone- A. Frederick Collins ... Tragic Genius ?". Sparkmuseum. Retrieved September 16, 2008. 
  17. ^ White, Thomas. "United States Early Radio History, Section 6:Continental Wireless prosecution.". Earlyradiohistory.us. Archived from the original on September 16, 2008. Retrieved September 16, 2008. 
  18. ^ Vries, Imar de. "Mobile Telephony: Realising the Dream of Ideal Communication?" in Hamill, L. & Lasen, A. (eds) Mobile World: Past, Present, Future. London: Springer, 2005. ISBN 978-1-85233-825-1 (print) ISBN 978-1-84628-204-1 (online)
  19. ^ Collins, A. Frederick (1906, 1909, 1913). http://books.google.com/books?id=t_VUAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA249&dq=collins+%22wireless++telephony%22&lr=&as_brr=0#PPA249,M1 |chapterurl= missing title (help). Manual of Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony (3rd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved November 4, 2008.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. ^ Molson, Francis J. (1999) [1999]. "Chapter 1: American technological fiction for youth: 1900–1940". In Charles William Sullivan. Young adult science fiction. C. W. Sullivan III. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-313-28940-8. Retrieved October 20, 2008. Told in the first person with a breeziness unusual for series fiction....With its details of a young wireless operator's training and subsequent adventures, the book is still informative and interesting. 
  21. ^ [5] Lienhard, John H. "Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins." Oxford University Press US, 2003. ISBN 978-0-19-518951-3. Pages 198, 199.
  22. ^ [6] Pevey, Aaron, From Superman to superbland: the Man of Steel's popular decline among postmodern youth. Thesis, Master of Arts, Georgia State University, 2007.Pages 33, 39–40. Retrieved September 25, 2008.
  23. ^ NZEdge.com Campbell, John "Alan MacDiarmid, Plastic fantastic." Retrieved September 25, 2008
  24. ^ "The Boy Chemist – Download a Classic Chemistry Book (with discussion of the author & his works)". about.com. February 21, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2011. 
  25. ^ Hamersly, Lewis Randolph (1907) [1907]. Who's who in New York City and State. Who's Who Publications. p. 311. Retrieved November 15, 2008. 

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