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Edson R. Wolcott papers, 1899-1965

Description of Collection

Repository

American Institute of Physics. Niels Bohr Library & Archives.

Papers created by

Wolcott, Edson Ray, 1877-1966.

Size of collection

4 linear feet
8 manuscript box(s)

Short description of collection

This collection consists of the papers of Edson Ray Wolcott, spanning from 1899 to 1965. The collection contains materials from Wolcott's days as a student at the University of Wisconsin, teaching at the Colorado School of Mines and as the owner of a private laboratory in Los Angeles beginning in 1924. This collection includes research notebooks, personal diaries and three drafts of the manuscript Evolution of Electricity.

Language(s) of collection

English

German

Collection number:

AR247

Biographical Note

Edson Ray Wolcott (1877-1966) was a physicist, metallurgist and inventor. He developed processes in mining and metallurgy, invented a number of electrical instruments and spent many years working on a history of electricity and its applications. Born in Sharon, Wisconsin, Wolcott attended the University of Wisconsin where he graduated with special honors in physics in 1900. From 1900 to 1902 he taught physics at the University of Wisconsin as special assistant to the professor of physics, Robert Williams Wood. He spent the school year 1902-1903 at the University of Berlin doing research on electrolytic condensers under Emil Gabriel Warburg. At that time he also worked with Jacobus Hendricus Van't Hoff, Emil Fischer and Max Planck. His doctoral dissertation on a method for measuring electrolytic resistance was published in Annalen Der Physik (1903). On his return to the United States in 1903, Wolcott became professor of physics (and also later of electro-metallurgy) at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. During this period he worked with Robert Millikan and A.A. Michaelson at the University of Chicago on methods for the accumulation of electrostatic charges to obtain high voltages.

Wolcott left teaching and moved to Chicago in 1908. As a consulting engineer, he developed electric furnaces for treating gases, methods of using nitrogen oxides to treat ores and methods to control smelter fumes and smoke. From 1914 to 1922 he was employed by the Western Precipitation Company in Los Angeles as Research Engineer. He was in charge of the development of the Cottrell Process for the recovery of dust and fumes from smelters and industrial plants. He invented an electrostatic voltmeter and an air-blast rectifier, developed the Slater leaching process for ores and began research on the volatilization of metals from ores. Having sold a process for the production of anhydrous aluminum chloride to the Texas Company, Wolcott was charged in 1922-1924 with building a plant at the company's refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. In 1924 Wolcott returned to Los Angeles and set up a private laboratory. For the remainder of his career he conducted research on the volatilization of metals and on other processes and inventions and acted as a consultant for corporations. In the late 1920s he used the million-volt laboratory at California Institute of Technology to conduct tests for the oil companies on how to protect tanks from lightening. A colorful character, full of plans for future enterprises, he hoped, even at the time of this death, to reap a great profit for his pet project, a patented process for recovering gold and platinum by ion concentration from low-grade ores.

Wolcott was a fervent believer in the progress of science and civilization, the virtues of self-education and the usefulness of the historical viewpoint in teaching science. Relatively early in his career, in the Chicago period, he began the compilation if a book, Evolution of Electricity. It was intended to teach the principles of electricity, as much as possible, in the words of the great discoverers. The work traced the history of electricity and its applications from antiquity to modern times, concentrating on the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. A first draft was sent to Macmillan Publishing Company in 1912, but was presumably not accepted. Wolcott was again occupied with the work in the early 1930s revising his draft and bringing it up to date. His final version of the manuscript, containing over 650 pages of text, 415 "paragraphs" and illustrations, was left incomplete in 1933.

Scope and Contents of Collection

This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Edson Ray Wolcott. The personal papers include three diaries and two scrapbooks, which contain media clippings from newspapers documenting his scientific activities and discoveries and family member's obituaries. The professional portion of the collection includes reprints of his publications and patents related to his work; his laboratory notes on physics, radioactivity, electrometallurgy and experiments; and his unpublished manuscript relating to the history of electricity. In addition, there are subject files on corrosion, oil burners, refractors and X-ray applied to the examination of metals. The collection consists of notes, manuscripts, technical reports, reprints, laboratory notes and bibliographies.

Restrictions on Use and Access

https://www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/access-application.

Selected Search Terms

These papers have been indexed in the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences (ICOS) using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.

Persons

Wolcott family.
Wolcott, Edson Ray, 1877-1966.

Institutions

Colorado School of Mines.
University of Wisconsin -- Students.
Universität Berlin -- Students.

Subject terms

Atomic theory.
Corrosion and anti-corrosives.
Corrosion of metals.
Electricity -- History.
Geophysics.
Nuclear physics.
Petroleum mining.
Physics -- Study and teaching.
Radioactivity.
Relativity (Physics)
X-rays.

Occupation terms

Physicists.

Genre terms

Diaries
Scrapbooks.

Organization and Arrangement of Collection

This collection is organized into three series:

  • Series I: Personal records
  • Series II: Research
  • Series III: Evolution of Electricity manuscript

Each series is arranged chronologically.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Lara D'Agaro in 2007.

Preferred Citation of Collection

Box [number], Folder [number], Edson R. Wolcott papers, . American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, College Park, MD 20740, USA.

Administrative Information

Title

Finding Aid to the Edson R. Wolcott papers, 1899-1965

Publisher

American Institute of Physics Niels Bohr Library & Archives

One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 20740
USA
nbl@aip.org

2012

Encoding Information

Machine-readable finding aid encoded by Melanie J. Mueller in 2007. Any revisions made to this finding aid occurred as part of the editing and encoding process.

Series I: Personal records

Box 1 Folder 1 Notes on readings and diary, 1900-1904
Folder 2 Diary, 1902
Folder 3 "Early Personal Papers" scrapbook, 1903-1926
Folder 4 Scrapbook - photocopy, 1903-1926
Folder 5 Scrapbook - original, 1903-1926
Folder 6 Diary and notes, 1904
Folder 7 Loose pages from scrapbook, 1905-1940
Folder 8 "Personal and Physics" notebook, 1922-1929, undated
Folder 9 "Synopsis of diaries 1927 to date" and "Condensation of my diaries summary", 1927-1958
Folder 10 Loose pages from "Early Personal Papers" scrapbook, 1931-1965, undated
Folder 11 Wolcott family history, undated

Series II: Research

Box 2 Folder 1 Optics, Professor R.W. Wood, University of Wisconsin, 1899
Folder 2 "Resume of Wolcott Process of Volatilization of AU and PT metals", 1900-1959
Folder 3 "On the sensitiveness of the coherer" Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, 1901
Folder 4 Correspondence, 1901-1965
Folder 5 "Wood's lectures on heat and light/electrical engineering laboratory notes" , 1902, undated
Folder 6 "Uber die Anwendung von Gleichstrompolaisation bei Kohlrauschs Methode zur Messung elektrolytischer Leitungswiderstande" Annalen der Physik, 1903
Folder 7 Laboratory notebook IV: "Radioactivity," "General," and "Experimental", 1903-1906
Folder 8 Texas Co. reports on various subjects: corrosion, 1903-1924
Folder 9 Colorado School of Mines, biennial report, 1904
Folder 10 Colorado School of Mines, Catalogue, 1904-1905
Folder 11 Laboratory notebook 6: "Radioactivity" and "Electrometallurgy", 1904-1907
Folder 12 Apparatus catalogs, 1905-1923, undated
Folder 13 United States Patent Office, process of locating and extracting metals beneath the earth's surface, 1906
Folder 14 Laboratory notebook 5: "Experimental", 1906-1907
Folder 15 Colorado School of Mines, Quarterly, 1906-1908
Folder 16 Colorado School of Mines, Book of Views, 1907
Box 3 Folder 1 United States Patent Office, railway signal apparatus, 1907
Folder 2 Notebook titled "Fixation of Nitrogen", 1910-1920
Folder 3 Texas Co. reports on various subjects: refractories, 1912-1923
Folder 4 "Effects of dielectries on the sparking voltage" reprinted from the Physical Review, 1918
Folder 5 Various reprints, 1918-1926, undated
Folder 6 "A new crystalline form of potassium chlorate" reprinted from the Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, 1921
Folder 7 X-ray examination of metal, 1923-1924
Folder 8 Texas Co. reports on various subjects: oil burners, 1924
Folder 9 United States Patent Office, apparatus for pumping liquids, 1924
Folder 10 Quarterly Journal Science Religion Philosophy, Institute of Religious Science and School of Philosophy, 1930
Folder 11 United States Patent Office, ultrasonic transducer, 1956
Folder 12 United States Patent Office, solid separation by electrophoretic means by Kenneth A. Metcalfe and Robert J. Wright, 1959
Folder 13 United States Patent Office, process for recovering valuable rare metals by volatilization, 1959
Folder 14 Brochure for Wolcott Electrostatic Voltmeter, undated
Folder 15 Brochure for Wolcott Volatilization Unit, undated
Folder 16 Colorado School of Mines, Hall of Engineering illustration, undated
Folder 17 Miscellaneous material, undated
Folder 18 United States Patent Office, briefs on patent interference suit, undated

Series III: Evolution of Electricity manuscript

Subseries A: First draft

Box 4 Folder 1 First draft: correspondence and introduction, 1912
Folder 2 First draft: preface, introduction and content list, 1912
Folder 3 First draft: paragraphs 1-125, 1912
Folder 4 First draft: paragraphs 126-220, 1912
Folder 5 First draft: paragraphs 221-265, 1912
Folder 6 First draft: paragraphs 266-299, 1912
Folder 7 First draft: paragraphs 300-333, 1912
Folder 8 First draft: biographical notes, name index and references, 1912

Subseries B: Second draft

Box 4 Folder 9 Second draft: index to paragraphs, undated
Folder 10 Second draft: paragraphs 1-65, undated
Folder 11 Second draft: paragraphs 66-120, undated
Folder 12 Second draft: paragraphs 121-166, undated
Folder 13 Second draft: paragraphs 167-206, undated
Folder 14 Second draft: paragraphs 207-237, undated
Folder 15 Second draft: paragraphs 238-260, undated
Folder 16 Second draft: paragraphs 261-275, undated
Folder 17 Second draft: paragraphs 276-293, undated
Folder 18 Second draft: paragraphs 294-315, undated
Folder 19 Second draft: paragraphs 316-332, undated
Box 5 Folder 1 Second draft: references, undated
Folder 2 Second draft: illustrations, undated
Folder 3 Second draft: expanded index to paragraphs 1-172, undated
Folder 4 Second draft: expanded index to paragraphs 173-332, undated
Folder 5 Second draft: name index, undated
Folder 6 Second draft: subject index, undated
Folder 7 Second draft: illustrations, undated
Folder 8 Second draft: corrections, undated
Folder 9 Second draft: chronology to 1921, undated
Folder 10 Second draft: sciences and electricity subfields chronologies, undated
Folder 11 Second draft: notes and corrections, undated
Folder 12 Second draft: new sheets for text, undated
Folder 13 Second draft: explanatory footnotes, undated
Folder 14 Second draft: books of electricity, undated
Folder 15 Second draft: atomistics, undated
Folder 16 Second draft: electrical conductivity of gases, undated
Folder 17 Second draft: electricity and magnetism, undated
Folder 18 Chronology to 1928, 1932

Subseries C: Final draft

Box 5 Folder 19 Final draft: index to paragraphs, 1933
Folder 20 Final draft: preface and paragraphs 1-24, 1933
Folder 21 Final draft: paragraphs 25-56, 1933
Folder 22 Final draft: paragraphs 57-84, 1933
Box 6 Folder 1 Final draft: paragraphs 85-110, 1933
Folder 2 Final draft: paragraphs 111-134, 1933
Folder 3 Final draft: paragraphs 135-154, 1933
Folder 4 Final draft: paragraphs 155-169, 1933
Folder 5 Final draft: paragraphs 170-174, 1933
Folder 6 Final draft: paragraphs 175-182, 1933
Folder 7 Final draft: paragraphs 183-196, 1933
Folder 8 Final draft: paragraphs 197-206, 1933
Folder 9 Final draft: paragraphs 207-217, 1933
Folder 10 Final draft: paragraphs 218-230, 1933
Folder 11 Final draft: paragraphs 231-242, 1933
Folder 12 Final draft: paragraphs 243-250, 1933
Folder 13 Final draft: paragraphs 251-255, 1933
Folder 14 Final draft: paragraphs 256-266, 1933
Folder 15 Final draft: paragraphs 267-275, 1933
Folder 16 Final draft: paragraphs 276-286, 1933
Folder 17 Final draft: paragraphs 287-293, 1933
Folder 18 Final draft: paragraphs 294-306, 1933
Box 7 Folder 1 Final draft: paragraphs 307-314, 1933
Folder 2 Final draft: paragraphs 315-323, 1933
Folder 3 Final draft: paragraphs 324-328, 1933
Folder 4 Final draft: paragraphs 329-334, 1933
Folder 5 Final draft: paragraphs 335-347, 1933
Folder 6 Final draft: paragraphs 348-355, 1933
Folder 7 Final draft: paragraphs 356-361, 1933
Folder 8 Final draft: paragraphs 362-363, 1933
Folder 9 Final draft: paragraphs 364-368, 1933
Folder 10 Final draft: paragraphs 369-373, 1933
Folder 11 Final draft: paragraphs 374-376, 1933
Folder 12 Final draft: paragraphs 377-390, 1933
Box 8 Folder 1 Final draft: paragraphs 391-393, 1933
Folder 2 Final draft: paragraphs 394-398, 1933
Folder 3 Final draft: paragraph 399, 1933
Folder 4 Final draft: paragraphs 400-401, 1933
Folder 5 Final draft: paragraphs 402-403, 1933
Folder 6 Final draft: paragraphs 404-408, 1933
Folder 7 Final draft: paragraphs 409-410, 1933
Folder 8 Final draft: paragraphs 411-414, 1933
Folder 9 Final draft: chronology circa 1000 BC to 1933, 1933
Folder 10 Final draft: notes and corrections, 1933
Folder 11 Final draft: references, 1933