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Summer 1994 | Volume 10 |  Issue 1

Wright Or Wrong?

In reading “Made In America,” Nicholas Delbanco’s article about Henry Ford Museum (Winter 1994), I was surprised to find what appeared to be a technical error on page 11. A device shown there was described as “a fan from the Wright brothers’ wind tunnel.” It seems obvious to me that you erred in assuming that the power output of the device was at the fan end. The machine appears to be a wind-driven grinding wheel. Note the abrasive stone and tool rests.

The editors reply: We asked John Bowditch, Curator of Industry at Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, to explain, and he wrote: “The prop is mounted on one end of a belt-operated grinding head. This grinder would originally have been driven from an overhead lineshaft, with two grinding wheels on the unit, one at each end. The Wrights simply removed one wheel, placed the prop in its place and drove this rather dangerous affair from the lineshaft they used to drive their machinery. One can only imagine the racket and vibration this unit must have made as it ran at about four times its intended speed with an unbalanced wooden propeller whirling at one end. I guess inventors had more nerve back then.”

Neel B. Ackerman
Savannah, Ga.

Mortal Woes

I always enjoy reading I&T from cover to cover when it comes, and I imagine a lot of other engineers feel the same way about your magazine. It’s got real class.

In the article on electrocution in the Spring 1994 issue (“Inventing Electrocution,” by James F. Penrose), I was surprised the author didn’t mention the work done by F. A. Leuchter, Jr., in recent years to modernize the electric chair for several states. Mr. Leuchter was until recently the only “expert” in capital-punishment equipment. Unfortunately he used his knowledge to question the number of victims of the gas chambers of the Holocaust. This stirred up the ire of organizations that then dug into his background and found that he had no engineering degree and was practicing without a license in his home state.

The history of invention and technology is certainly full of surprising tales. Keep up the good work!

R. G. Elmendorf
Bairdford, Pa.

Mortal Woes

The photograph you published of Ruth Snyder’s instant of death in Sing Sing’s electric chair was interesting to me, but for all the wrong reasons, I’m afraid. Your caption noting that the New York Daily News exhibited sensationalism in publishing it was no more true for the News in 1928 than it is for you today. For whatever the woman did, I would hope her payment of the maximum penalty would have been sufficient to let her be and not have the grisly moment of her agony published more than sixty years later.

Ted Eckman
Hartland, Mich.

Chip As Clip

Paul Ceruzzi, writing about the IBM 7090 mainframe (“A Few Words About This Picture,” Spring 1994), remarks that “today each cabinet would correspond to a corner of a microprocessor chip whose total area might be less than a square inch.” Is there any microprocessor whose area is as much as a square inch? The largest one I know of is Intel’s Pentium, at less than half a square inch. My old Apple II CPU chip (a 65020), which I wear as a tie clip, is less than a fiftieth of a square inch.

Seymour Haber
Merion, Pa.

Gunning For The Moon

Reading about Jules Verne’s novel in your Spring 1994 issue (“A Manned Moon Shot—in 1865,” by Jack Gieck), I was startled. Thirty years ago or so, Bill Rowand, vice president of Babcock and Wilcox, and Art (Jules) Gram and some others proposed a scheme to replace the first stage of rockets with a two-mile-long cannon built into a mountain. The second and third stages would be placed on an expendable plug in the bottom of the cannon. High-pressure boilers would supply steam to large chambers built into the rock, and when the proper steam pressure was obtained, valves would be opened to pressurize the area under the plug, thereby launching the rocket.

NASA ultimately rejected the idea because an appropriate mountain was not available and the second and third stages of the rockets weren’t designed to withstand the gravitational forces that would have been created.

Two guys named Jules, with similar projects, a hundred years apart. I’m reasonably sure Rowand and Gram were not aware of Verne’s idea.

Paul C. Williams
Medina, Ohio

Lucy In The Sky

Stratovision (“Postfix,” by Lynn Hinds, Spring 1994) was used in Vietnam in the early sixties to transmit I Love Lucy , among other shows, to the Saigon area. Because the aircraft flew a square pattern, Lucy faded out every few minutes as they banked for their turns. I have always wondered what the Vietcong, who were undoubtedly monitoring U.S. propaganda, made of Lucy. The show may even have assured them of their eventual victory.

Paul Wankowicz
Winchester, Mass.

We hope you enjoyed this essay.

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