Joe Biden’s long and winding road takes another turn

A few decades ago, American archaeologists found a piece of copper wire under the sandy hills somewhere in the Nevada desert. They summoned journalists to a news conference to announce that their ancestors millennia ago used telephones.

Not to be outdone, Russian archaeologists dug through the sands of the Kara-Kum desert. They found nothing. So, they summoned journalists to a news conference: their ancestors millennia ago used wireless communications.

Sounds just like the account describing ex-U.S. vice-president and now Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden’s visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Here’s what he said: “a black guy invented the lightbulb, not a white guy named Edison.”

So far as Joe Biden is concerned, teaching of history lacks representation.

Something to it, actually. But not in the sense Joe Biden considers important.

In Joe Biden’s view, here’s what’s happening: “Why in God’s name don’t we teach history in history classes? A black man invented the light bulb. Not a white guy named Edison. … There’s so much. Did anybody know?”

And, he added, American history classes are silent on events such as a massacre that happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921, as well as the destruction of the Black Wall Street in Greenwood, Oklahoma.

That’s Joe Biden’s view. So long as he remembers it, he stands by it.

Facts first

Black American inventor Lewis Howard Latimer worked on the development of both the light bulb and the telephone.

According to his official biography, Latimer, while a member of Thomas Edison’s elite research team, improved the light bulb his employer had patented in 1880.

The original prototype for the light bulb was lit by a glowing electrified filament made of paper. That, alas, would burn out with all speed.

Latimer’s filament was made of carbon, a much more durable material. He sold the patent for the Incandescent Electric Light Bulb with Carbon Filament to the United States Electric Company in 1881.

Latimer’s patents include a process to make the carbon filament production not only efficient, but effective, too. He also developed the threaded socket for the improved bulb.

In 1890, he would publish the first book on electric lighting, titled Incandescent Electric Lighting, as well as supervising the installation of public electric lights throughout New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, and London.

No mean achievements, those, but they still fall short of Joe Biden’s proclamations.

Propaganda wars

Just as Joe Biden’s preaching about the authorship of the electrical bulb, the Russians had their hero who, they claimed, outran the Americans by a country mile. The backward Tsarist regime, the Russian propaganda line insists, prevented their countryman’s well-deserved victory.

They have been lying through their teeth, just as Joe Biden has.

Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov (Павел Николаевич Яблочков), a Russian electrical engineer and businessman, invented a contraption a.k.a. the Yablochkov candle (some kind of an electric carbon arc lamp) and the transformer.

(Traditional Soviet propaganda used to paint Yablochkov as a poor serf, whose life depended on his owner’s largesse.)

The Yablochkov candle eliminated the mechanical complexity of competing lights that required a regulator to manage the voltaic arc.

Yablochkov would build an industrial sample of the “electric candle” while in Paris, and he had it patented there in 1876.

Both Latimer and Yablochkov were multi-talented men.

In addition to his success in the field of electricity and telecommunications, Lewis Howard Latimer invented the first toilet for railroad carriages (don’t use it while the train is stopped at the station) and what would later become the air conditioner.

Stretching the truth

There were some who claimed that Latimer, while working as a draftsman and assistant for Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, was the guy who had actually invented the telephone. Latimer himself went to court to confirm for the record that Bell’s authorship had been unassailable, much to the chagrin of those who put the colour of Latimer’s skin on the pedestal, disregarding facts.

Biden seems to have hopped into the same boat Al Gore, his U.S. vice-presidential predecessor and forerunner in presidential candidacy used to sail (both in the Democratic Party colours).

Losing candidate Gore used to claim he had invented the Internet. Who cares about the Arpanet? A forerunner of the Internet, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network was the first wide-area packet-switching network with distributed control and one of the first networks to implement the TCP/IP protocol. (Short for transmission control protocol/Internet protocol, TCP/IP is a set of rules – protocols – governing communications among all computers on the Internet.) That’s what would become the technical foundation of the Internet. It was the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the United States Department of Defence that had come up with the idea in the late 1960s.

And one wonders whether Al Gore remembers the name Tim Berners-Lee, a British mathematician who came up with what is now known as the world-wide web, and the HTML (hyper-text markup language).

Today’s Democratic Party candidate has had his facts mixed up a tad: Latimer’s improvements made the use of Edison’s light bulb available to all and sundry.

That, in and of itself, would guarantee Lewis Howard Latimer his immortality.

He didn’t need Joe Biden’s twisted account to pump his tires.

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