Updated 11-XII-2018

John William Draper

This article was written by fellow lamp engineer and collector Edward J. Covington, and originally appeared on his own website of biographical sketches of persons involved in the lamp industry. Following his passing in February 2017, and with kind permission of his family, Ed's words have been preserved here in the hope of maintaining access to his writings for the benefit of subsequent generations.

John William Draper

A biographical sketch of John W. Draper, given below, was taken from Reference 4, Vol.8, p.546:
"John William Draper (1811-1882), American scientist, was born at St. Helen's, near Liverpool, on the 5th of May 1811. He studied at Woodhouse Grove, at the University of London, and, after removing to America in 1832, at the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania in 1835-1836. In 1837 he was elected professor of chemistry in the University of the City of New York, and was a professor in its school of medicine in 1840-1850, president of that school in 1850-1873, and professor of chemistry until 1881. He died at Hastings, New York, on the 4th of January 1882."
John William Draper is considered here because of his very early investigations of the radiating properties of platinum and other metals in general1. It was he who determined that all substances begin to glow a dull red when the temperature of about 525°C is reached. His results were quantified about a half century later by Wien.

Draper's goal was:
  1. To determine the point of incandescence of platinum, and to prove that different bodies become red-hot at the same temperature.
  2. To determine the color of the rays emitted by self-luminous bodies at different temperatures. This is done by the only reliable method - analysis by the prism.
  3. To determine the relation between the brilliancy of the light emitted by a shining body and its temperature."

  1. "On the Production of Light by Heat", John William Draper, The American Journal of Sciences and Arts, Second Series, Vol.4, Nov 1847, pp.388-402.
  2. "Memoir of John William Draper, 1811-1882", George F. Barker, Read before the National Academy of Sciences, April 21, 1886.
  3. "Electricity in Daily Life", Cyrus F. Brackett and nine others, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1890, pp.119-120.
  4. "The Encyclopaedia Britannica", Eleventh Edition, University Press, Cambridge, England, 1910; Vol.8, p.546; Vol.18, p.803; Vol.21 p.484, 502.
  5. "Collier's Encyclopedia", P. F. Collier & Son Corp., New York, 1956, Vol.16, p.9.
  6. "John William Draper", Who Was Who in America, Historial Volume, The A. N. Marquis Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1967, p.225.