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Edwin J. Houston

Edwin J. Houston
Edwin James Houston

(1847-07-09)July 9, 1847
DiedMarch 1, 1914 (1914-04) (aged 66)
Resting placeLaurel Hill Cemetery
  • electrical engineer
  • academic
  • businessman
  • inventor
  • writer

Edwin James Houston (July 9, 1847 – March 1, 1914) was an American author, electrical engineer, academic, businessman, and inventor.

Early life

Houston was born July 9, 1847, to John Mason and Mary (Lamour) Houston in Alexandria, Virginia. He graduated from Central High School of Philadelphia (a degree-granting institution rather than an ordinary high school) in 1864.[1] He received both his Bachelor of Arts and master's degree from the same Central High School.


Houston then became a professor of civil engineering at Central High School for a short period before holding its chair of Natural Philosophy and Physical Geography.

While teaching physics at Central High School in Philadelphia, he helped design an arc light generator with his former student colleague Elihu Thomson. Together, they created the Thomson-Houston Electric Company in 1882 which soon after moved to Lynn, Massachusetts.[2] He served as chief electrician of Philadelphia's International Electrical Exhibition in 1884.

In 1892, Thomson-Houston merged with the Edison General Electric Company to form General Electric, with management from Thomson-Houston largely running the new company. In 1894, Houston formed a consulting firm in electrical engineering with Arthur Kennelly. He and Kennelly had also jointly published a series called "Primers of Electricity" in 1884.

He also served as emeritus professor of physics at the Franklin Institute and professor of physics at the Medico-Chirurgical College.[3]

Houston was twice president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (1893–1895).[4] He was a member of the United States Electrical Commission, the American Institute of Mining Engineers, the American Philosophical Society and many others.[3] He also authored books for a series called The Wonder Books of Science.[5]

Awards and honors

Princeton University awarded him an honorary doctoral degree.

Personal life

He died from heart failure in Philadelphia on March 1, 1914.[1]

Selected publications


Children's books

  • Houston's Outlines of Natural Philosophy. Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 1878.
  • Houston's Easy Lessons in Natural Philosophy. Philadelphia: Eldredge and Brother, 1879.
  • The Boy Geologist: at School and in Camp. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus Company, 1907.
  • The Boy Electrician, or The Secret Society of the Jolly Philosophers. Philadelphia; London, J. B. Lippincott, 1907.
  • The Wonder Book of Volcanoes and Earthquakes. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1907.
  • The Wonder Book of the Atmosphere. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1907.
  • The Wonder Book of the Light. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1908.
  • The Wonder Book of the Magnetism. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1908.
  • A Chip of the Old Block; or, At the Bottom of the Ladder (The Young Mineralogist Series). Philadelphia: The Griffith & Rowland Press, 1910.
  • The Land of Drought; or, Across the Great American Desert. (The Young Mineralogist Series) Philadelphia: The Griffith & Rowland Press,1910.
  • The Jaws of Death; or, In and Around the Cañons of the Colorado. (The Young Mineralogist Series) Philadelphia: The Griffith & Rowland Press, 1911.
  • The Yellow Magnet; or, Attracted by Gold. (The Young Mineralogist Series) Philadelphia: The Griffith & Rowland Press, 1911
  • Once a Volcano; or, Adventures Among the Extinct Volcanoes of the United States. (The Young Mineralogist Series) Philadelphia: The Griffith & Rowland Press, 1912
  • The Land of Ice and Snow or, Adventures in Alaska. (The Young Mineralogist Series) Philadelphia: The Griffith & Rowland Press, 1912.
  • Our Boy Scouts in Camp. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1912.

Journal articles

See also


  1. ^ a b "Edwin J. Houston Dead" (PDF). The New York Times. March 2, 1914. p. 9. Retrieved April 25, 2022.
  2. ^ "Elihu Thomson Papers". Retrieved October 19, 2019. Thomson ... in 1882, founded one of the early electrical corporations in the United States, the Thomson-Houston Company Elihu Thomson Papers at the American Philosophical Society
  3. ^ a b "Edwin James Houston" (PDF). Electrical Review and Western Electrician: 125. January 21, 1911. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  4. ^ "Edwin Houston". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  5. ^ Edwin James Houston, The Wonder Book of Magnetism Frederick A. Stokes Company (1908)
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Edwin J. Houston
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