Francis Robbins Upton (1852 in Peabody, Massachusetts – March 10, 1921 in Orange, New Jersey) was an American physicist and mathematician. Upton worked alongside Thomas Edison in the development of incandescent light bulbs, electric generators, and electric power distribution. He was the first president of the Edison Pioneers.
Francis R. Upton
|Died||March 10, 1921 (aged 68–69)|
|Occupation||Physicist and mathematician|
|Known for||Smoke detector|
Francis Upton was the son of Elijah Wood Upton and Lucy Elizabeth Winchester. Elijah was well educated and after, he did European travel. Later he was forced to take over his father's glue business due to his father's illness. Francis was 16 by this time and studying at Phillips Academy in Andover, after he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1875 at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME. There he met Elizabeth F. Perry, later to become his wife.
Francis Upton also attended Berlin University and Princeton University. Francis was the first ever to officially receive his doctoral degree from Princeton University. Upton was then hired by Thomas Edison. One of Edison's biographers described the hired man thus:
Upton married Elizabeth F. Perry in September, 1879, in Brunswick, Maine. Their daughter Elizabeth Fenno Upton was born August 24, 1880. Upton's sister Sadie, a frequent visitor in Menlo Park, is described as a "smart attractive lady with a distinguished swing".: 512
Upton was hired by Edison in 1878 on the recommendation of Grosvenor Lowrey.
Edison was largely self-educated. He was brimming over with ideas but needed someone with advanced mathematical skills who could do calculations and research the scientific literature to help solve intractable problems. As Francis Jehl was also working with Edison, he needed another handle besides Francis for Upton:
The challenge of electric illumination was addressed:
Initially experiments ran currents through metals. Upton attended the 28th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and spoke "On the phenomena of heating metals in vacuo by means of electric current".: 110 Upton and Edison worked together on the incandescent lamp and in 1880 Upton reported on the history of electric lighting and Edison's lamp.
As evidence of the Upton's use of algebra, his approach to finding the appropriate cross-section S for a wire of length L carrying W amperes at V volts, was to take resistance R = L / S. Upton applied Ohm's law to obtain S = (W L) / V.: 256
Upton has been credited with helping Edison govern his Menlo Park laboratory:
When Edison's generator was evaluated, Upton published the report.
Upton contributed to other key inventions such as the watt-hour meter, the parallel circuit distribution grid and the new constant voltage dynamo. Upton was of crucial importance to Edison in the design of Edison's power plant and distribution system put into service at the Pearl Street Station in Lower Manhattan on September 4, 1882.
In 1890, Upton patented the first electric fire alarm and detector along with a Mr. Fernando J. Dibble, an accomplishment of his which is often overlooked, stemming most probably from a typographical error that labels the device a "Portable Electric Tire-Alarm".
Since 1958, the Princeton University has had Francis Upton Graduate Fellowships.
In 1894 Francis Robbins Upton left Edison's electrical business which he had managed up to his departure. Upton returned after four years. He assisted in the Edison Ore-Milling Company, extracting iron from sand, and the remaining sand Upton sold to concrete manufactures. Upton eventually left the business in 1911 but still continued to sell bricks and concrete.
Francis Robbins Upton died in Orange, New Jersey, on March 10, 1921.
Francis R. Upton of Newark,Mr. Edison's oldest associate, has been elected President of the Pioneers.
Media related to Francis Robbins Upton at Wikimedia Commons