The DC versus AC war and how it led to the Electric Chair

May 24, 2011 in Random Cool

The year, 1887.  The state of New York was looking to establish a new method for execution, more humane than hanging.

It was also the same period of the “War of Currents”.  Which system would come out on top for electric power distribution?

Type of electric power distribution: Direct Current (DC) versus Alternating Current (AC).

Who: Thomas Edison versus George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.

During this period (1880s), DC was more widely popular, but it was becoming evident that AC was more efficient for long-distance power transmission due to the ability to easily change voltages using a transformer.

In defense of DC, Thomas Edison carried out a campaign against the use of AC power, claiming the danger of AC, publicly killing animals, and lobbying against the use of AC in state legislatures.

And though he was against capital punishment, Thomas Edison secretly paid Harold P. Brown, who was building the first electric chair for the state of New York, to promote the idea that alternating current was deadlier than DC…

So what happened in the end?

1- AC ending up winning “the current war”.

2- The Electric Chair was born.  Only to be used in the United States.  And for a limited time, in the Philippines.  And yes, using AC.  Though I don’t think Edison’s misguided information about the danger of AC as compared to DC led to the conclusions he had hoped for….