Moses G. Farmer

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Moses Gerrish Farmer

Death: May 25, 1893 (73)
Immediate Family:

Son of Col. John Farmer and Sally Farmer
Husband of Hannah Farmer
Father of Sarah Jane Farmer and Clarence Farmer
Brother of Page French Farmer; Jennie Gerrish Little; Sally R Coffin; Joel Farmer; John Farmer, Jr. and 1 other

Managed by: Private User
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About Moses G. Farmer

Moses Gerrish Farmer (February 9, 1820 – May 25, 1893) was an electrical engineer and inventor. Farmer was a member to the AIEE, later known as the IEEE.


He was born at Boscawen, New Hampshire. He received his schooling at Philips Academy and Dartmouth College. He was a pioneer telegraph operator. He constructed and maintained the telegraph lines of Massachusetts. He later became a superintendent of a telegraph company. Farmer investigated multiple telegraphy. He successfully demonstrated duplex telegraphy between New York and Philadelphia in 1856 (Conot, p29). Farmer also investigated telluric currents.

In 1847, Farmer constructed and exhibited in public what he called “an electro-magnetic locomotive, and with forty-eight pint cup cells of Grove nitric acid battery drew a little car carrying two passengers on a track a foot and a half wide". Farmer later fabricated a process for electroplating aluminum. At Boston in 1851, he constructed an electric fire-alarm service. He invented several forms of the incandescent electric light.

Farmer, in competition with Charles Wheatstone (1867); Carl Wilhelm Siemens; Ernst Werner von Siemens; and Carl Heinrich von Siemens (1867); Ladd (1867); and Zénobe Gramme (1871), co-conceived the self-exciting dynamo in 1859, and constructed one in 1860. He built a platinum filament incandescent light in 1859 (Conot, p120). At the age of 39 while living in Salem, Massachusetts, he lit the parlor of his home at 11 Pearl St with incandescent lamps, the first house in the world to be lit by electricity. He was a co-inventor of the self-exciting dynamo, an electric generator using electromagnets for the field which are energized by the generator output, in 1866 (Derry & Williams, p614). In 1868, with the Farmer dynamo, Farmer lit a house in Massachusetts. He also patented an early lightbulb (which was later bought by Thomas Edison).

With his partner William Wallace, he invented the an early dynamo which powered a system of arc lights he exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, and which inspired Thomas Edison to work on an improved incandescent light. Edison used the Wallace-Farmer 8 horsepower (6.0 kW) dynamo to power his early electric light demonstrations (Jonnes, p47,54, Josephson 176-186). Farmer served as a teacher for a time. Farmer died at the World's Columbian Exposition. Farmer was a pioneer of many aspects of 19th century electrical invention, but, because he and his wife were spiritualists,they felt that their talents were God-given,and he felt that they shouldn't take credit for any of his inventions. As a result he failed to carry his ideas to commercial success. Inventor; fire alarm, electric trolley, incandescent electric lamps Moses Farmer was a prolific but modest inventor whose religious beliefs held that he should not seek wealth, so his name never became synonymous with a corporation, and his accomplishments have been largely forgotten. After Samuel Morse's invention of the telegraph, Farmer worked as a wire examiner for the telegraph industry, and devised the sickle-shaped climber and iron rods that allowed linemen to climb telegraph poles. He established the feasibility of duplex and quadruplex systems, allowing multiple telegraphs to be sent simultaneously over the same wire. In 1847, a time when the steam engine was still "state of the art", he constructed a working model for an electric passenger trolley, and showed it to prospective investors, but it garnered no interest. With his friend William Channing, Farmer invented the first electric fire alarm system, and oversaw its 1852 installation on the sidewalks of Boston.

Farmer designed and built incandescent electric lamps twenty years before Thomas Edison's bulb was patented. In 1859, every bedroom in Farmer's house was illuminated by his lamps, and in 1868 he lit a home in Salem, Massachusetts, with power from a dynamo of his own invention. Edison used one of Farmer's dynamos to power his experimental light bulbs (which were of a completely different design). Farmer also conducted experiments to discern the approximate speed of sound, developed a method for electroplating aluminum, improved the design of military torpedoes, and invented a machine to print paper window shades. He died at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, where he was preparing an exhibit of his inventions.

His wife, Hannah Tobey Shapleigh Farmer, was an outspoken suffragette who operated the Rosemary Cottage, a rural retreat for urban unwed mothers and their children, which was a forerunner of the Fresh Air Fund. The Farmers' home was a way station on the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape the South. Their daughter, Sarah Jane Farmer, helped establish the Baha'i faith in America, and founded the Green Acre Baha'i School, where Abdu'l-Bahá visited in 1912. Farmer's brother-in-law, Charles Carleton Coffin, was a war correspondent, famed for his coverage of the American Civil and Prusso-Austrian wars.

Born: 9-Feb-1820 Birthplace: Boscawen, NH Died: 25-May-1893 Location of death: Chicago, IL Cause of death: unspecified Remains: Buried, Family Cemetery, Eliot, NH

Gender: Male Religion: See Note Race or Ethnicity: White Sexual orientation: Straight Occupation: Inventor, Educator

Nationality: United States

Father: John Farmer (farmer, b. 11-Dec-1791, d. 17-Jul-1836) Mother: Sally Gerrish Farmer (m. 11-Feb-1819) Sister: Page French Farmer (b. 28-Jun-1821, d. 27-Jul-1822) Brother: John Page Farmer (b. 24-Sep-1823) Sister: Sallie Russell Farmer Coffin (b. 30-Aug-1826, d. 20-Jun-1910) Sister: Jane Gray Farmer Little (b. 7-Jun-1828 twin, d. 27-Jun-1867) Brother: Jeremiah Otis Farmer (b. 7-Jun-1828 twin; d. 6-Dec-1828) Wife: Hannah Tobey Shapleigh (activist, m. 25-Dec-1844) Daughter: Sarah Jane Farmer (founded Green Acre Bahá'í School, b. 1844, d. 1916) Son: Clarence Farmer (b. 26-May-1860; d. 27-May-1860)

   High School: Phillips Academy Andover (1838)
   University: Dartmouth College (dropped out)
   Teacher: Eliot Academy, Eliot, ME
   Administrator: Principal, Dover Girls' School, Dover, NH
   National Inventors Hall of Fame 2006 (posthumous)
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Moses G. Farmer's Timeline

February 9, 1820
May 25, 1893
Age 73