Edward Weston (chemist)

Edward Weston

Edward Weston scientist and inventor
Born May 9, 1850
Oswestry, Shropshire, England
Died August 20, 1936 (1936-08-21) (aged 86)
Montclair, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation Chemist
Electrical engineer
Business Owner
Known for Weston cell
Awards Elliott Cresson Medal (1910)
Perkin Medal (1915)
Franklin Medal (1924)
5th Lamme Medal[1]

Edward Weston (May 9, 1850 – August 20, 1936) was an English-born American chemist noted for his achievements in electroplating and his development of the electrochemical cell, named the Weston cell, for the voltage standard.[2][3] Weston was a competitor of Thomas Edison in the early days of electricity generation and distribution.[4]


Born in Oswestry, Shropshire, England, in 1850 to a merchant family, Weston originally studied medicine but soon became interested in chemistry.[4] He emigrated to the United States after receiving his medical diploma in 1870, where he found a job in the electroplating industry. Realizing the need for a constant source of current, he developed an interest in power generation and invented several dynamos and generators. He eventually co-founded the Weston Electric Light Company in Newark, New Jersey and later won the contract to illuminate the Brooklyn Bridge.[2] Weston was a founding member of the board of trustees of what later became the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Some of his inventions, instruments, and writings are maintained at the university's library and the Weston Museum[5] Weston was president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers from 1888-89.[6]

He invented two alloys, constantan and manganin.[2] Weston developed measurement instruments for electric current—the modern foundation for the voltmeter, ammeter and wattmeter. In 1888 he formed the Weston Electrical Instrument Corporation which would become famous for its voltmeters, ammeters, wattmeters, ohmmeters, frequency meters, transformers, and transducers. Weston developed a method for producing a "true" permanent magnet.[3] Weston conceived of and built a magnetic speedometer. Weston also developed the dashboard ammeter for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Also in 1888, Weston became president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) until 1889.[7]

Weston invented and patented the saturated cadmium cell in 1893.[4] The cathode in the cell is an amalgam of cadmium with mercury, the anode is of pure mercury, and the electrolyte is a solution of cadmium sulphate. The Weston cell is a wet-chemical cell that produces a highly stable voltage suitable as a laboratory standard for calibration of voltmeters. The temperature coefficient was reduced by shifting to an unsaturated design, the predominant type today.[3] When the Weston cell became the International Standard for EMF in 1911, Weston waived his patent rights.

Weston died in Montclair, New Jersey in 1936, having attained 334 United States patents during his life.[2][8]


Weston's saturated cadmium cell

Weston's son Edward Faraday Weston (1878–1971) received several patents regarding exposure meters, also manufactured by the Weston Electrical Instrument Corporation and widely distributed since the 1930s, and established the system of the Weston film speed ratings for the measurement of film speeds.

See also


  1. "IEEE Lamme Medal". IEEE Global History Network. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 History of Weston Aerospace, Weston – the Man (1850-1936)
  3. 1 2 3 Weston Electrical Instrument Corporation
  4. 1 2 3 Edward Weston (1850-1936). Corrosion Doctors
  5. New Jersey Institute of Technology Weston Museum website
  6. "Edward Weston". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  7. "Edward Weston". IEEE Global History Network. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  8. "Dr. Edward Weston Is 85.". New York Times. May 10, 1935.

Further reading

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Wikisource has the text of a 1900 Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography article about Edward Weston.
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