William E. Sawyer

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William Edward Sawyer (1850-May 15, 1883)[1] was an American inventor whose contribution was primarily in the field of electric engineering and electric lighting.

His primary inventions included:

  • Telegraph apparatus for cable use (March 31, 1874)
  • Automatic and autographic telegraph and circuit (February 2, 1875)
  • Electric engineering and lighting apparatus and system (August 14, 1877)
  • Device for effecting the static discharge in autographic telegraphy (November 6, 1877)
  • Electric switch (June 29, 1880)
  • Electrical safety device for elevators (July 6, 1880)

A 1920 article in The New York Times described him as best known for pioneering the development of the incandescent light.[2] In partnership with Albion Man (June 29, 1826- February 18, 1905) he founded a company to produce incandescent lamps. From 1879 thorough 1885 the company successfully defended his patents against the interests of the Edison company. Use of the Sawyer-Man 'stopper' lamps allowed Westinghouse to successfully bid for the contract to illuminate the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, a key development in the War of Currents. The Sawyer-Man company was eventually purchased by the Westinghouse Corporation and became the Westinghouse lighting division. [3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wrege, Charles D.; Greenwood, Ronald G. "William E. Sawyer and the Rise and Fall of America's First Incandescent Electric Light Company, 1878-1881" (PDF). Business and Economic History. 2 13: 31–48. 
  2. ^ "Light Inventor Honored". The New York Times. 20 July 1920. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  3. ^ F. A. Furfari, Early development of the incandescent lamp in IEEE Industry Applications Magazine, Mar-Apr 2006, page 7-9