Edwin J. Houston

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Edwin J. Houston
Edwin James Houston

(1847-07-09)July 9, 1847
DiedMarch 1, 1914 (1914-04) (aged 66)
Resting placeLaurel Hill Cemetery
  • electrical engineer
  • academic
  • businessman
  • inventor
  • writer

Edwin James Houston (July 9, 1847 – March 1, 1914) was an American electrical engineer, academic, businessman, inventor and writer.


Houston was born July 9, 1847, to John Mason and Mary (Lamour) Houston in Alexandria, Virginia. He graduated from Central High School of Philadelphia (a degree-granting institution rather than an ordinary high school) in 1864.[1] He received both his Bachelor of Arts and master's degree from the same Central High School, where he then became professor of civil engineering for a short period before holding its chair of Natural Philosophy and Physical Geography. Princeton University awarded him an honorary doctoral degree. He also served as emeritus professor of physics at the Franklin Institute and professor of physics at the Medico-Chirurgical College.[2]

While teaching physics at Central High School in Philadelphia, he helped design an arc light generator with his former student colleague Elihu Thomson. Together, they created the Thomson-Houston Electric Company in 1882 which soon after moved to Lynn, Massachusetts.[3] He served as chief electrician of Philadelphia's International Electrical Exhibition in 1884.

In 1892, Thomson-Houston merged with the Edison General Electric Company to form General Electric, with management from Thomson-Houston largely running the new company. In 1894, Houston formed a consulting firm in electrical engineering with Arthur Kennelly. He and Kennelly had also jointly published a series called "Primers of Electricity" in 1884.

Houston was twice president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (1893–1895).[4] He was a member of the United States Electrical Commission, the American Institute of Mining Engineers, the American Philosophical Society and many others.[2] He also authored books for a series called "The Wonder Books of Science" to include The Wonder Book of Volcanoes and Earthquakes, The Wonder Book of the Atmosphere, The Wonder Book of Light, and the Wonder Book of Magnetism.[5] He died from heart failure in Philadelphia on March 1, 1914.[1]


Works by Houston[edit]

(Edited list, drawn from January 21, 1911 Electrical Review and Western Electrician p. 125)[2]

Works by Houston & Kennelly[edit]

Works with other collaborators[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Edwin J. Houston Dead" (PDF). The New York Times. March 2, 1914. p. 9. Retrieved April 25, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "Edwin James Houston" (PDF). Electrical Review and Western Electrician: 125. January 21, 1911. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  3. ^ "Elihu Thomson Papers". Retrieved October 19, 2019. Thomson ... in 1882, founded one of the early electrical corporations in the United States, the Thomson-Houston Company Elihu Thomson Papers at the American Philosophical Society
  4. ^ "Edwin Houston". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  5. ^ Edwin James Houston, The Wonder Book of Magnetism Frederick A. Stokes Company (1908)

External links[edit]