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Power Authority Honors Queens Inventor Lewis Latimer

Ed Birdie

June 28, 2007


FLUSHING—Lewis Latimer – the African American inventor whose carbon filament made possible the invention of the incandescent light bulb – was memorialized this month in discussions and presentations at the Latimer House Museum by employees of the New York Power Authority. 

Speaking before a group of 7th grade math and science students from Queens’ I.S. 59 public school, Ed Birdie of the Power Authority’s Community Relations Department spoke glowingly of Latimer’s contributions to the electricity industry. “He was Edison’s right hand,” Birdie said. “Without Lewis Latimer, we’d probably still be using kerosene to light up our homes.” 

Birdie was assisted in his presentation by Marko Bradica, a Power Authority engineer whose expertise is electric lighting. Bradica noted that Latimer wrote the first scientific text on electric lighting, and later supervised the installation of electric lights in buildings and factories in New York, Philadelphia, London and Montreal. 

Latimer House’s Executive Director, Katrina Miles, further illuminated the discussion with her knowledge of Lewis Latimer’s eventful life. “Latimer, the son of a slave, went on to be a member of Thomas Edison’s research team called Edison’s Pioneers,” said Miles. “While Edison’s new light bulb had drawn much attention, it was lit by an electrified filament made of paper. Naturally, it burned out quickly. Latimer experimented and created a bulb with a more durable carbon filament. He later patented a way to manufacture the filament in 1882 and even developed a threaded socket for the bulb.”

Miles cited a recent biography of Latimer by Dr. Robert Koolakian, an associate curator at the Henry Ford Museum, who paid tribute to Latimer as one who “had the courage to dream an ambitious dream and make it come true. His accomplishment, although little known, proved that a determined person can make good no matter what the odds are against him or her.” 

Since 2005, The New York Power Authority has supported a fund honoring African-American inventor Lewis Latimer and with the Queens Civic and Corporate Funding has promoted visits of area schoolchildren to Flushing’s Lewis H. Latimer House Museum, which displays exhibits on the life of the inventor. 

The museum is located at 34-41 137 St. in Flushing, Queens. For information, please call (718) 961-8585.  

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About NYPA:

 ■    NYPA uses no tax money or state credit.  It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity.  ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy-efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.

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