Poul la Cour

The Danish Edison

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The phonic wheel motor 1878.

 The phonic wheel motor invented by Poul la Cour in 1878.
By using the phonic wheel motor up to 100 telegrams
could be sent simultaneously on the same wire.
      It was no coincidence that Poul la Cour got the byname ”The Danish Edison”. Apart from his job as deputy director at the Danish Meteorological Institute, he worked with many inventions e.g. the telegraph system which at the time was undergoing a rapid development. At that stage, only one message could be sent at the time and often the line was busy. This was a great disadvantage especially within the field of meteorology where fast communication over long distances was important.
     Poul la Cour worked on a method to let several telegraphists use the same wire simultaneously and in 1874 he was awarded the gold medal from the Danish Scientific Society for his work on the phonic telegraph system. By using this system each telegraphist could send the Morse code through an electric tuning fork and thereby use his own frequency on the same wire.  
     In 1878, he developed the method into the phonic wheel motor that made it possible to send up to 100 telegrams at the same time. He was in fierce competition with the famous American inventor Thomas A. Edison who only managed to send 4 telegrams simultaneously. The many inventions quickly gave Poul la Cour the byname ”The Danish Edison”.
     Poul la Cour possessed an amazing urge for research and development and he invented many different things.
     In 1891, he invented the cratostat a mechanical device that totally evens out uneven movement. This invention became extremely useful when he later tested blade models in a wind tunnel. The cratostat was also used in cream separators in dairies and in steam turbines in ships.
     Another invention was the ”Poul la Cour key”, an electrical instrument used to control the electricity from the wind turbines.
     His research in storing energy by using hydrogen helped him invent autogenous welding. In this connection, he unsuccessfully tried to open a factory producing oxygen and hydrogen.
     During his hydrogen experiments, he discovered a way to make soda ash by using electrolysis. He believed that a small scale production of this product would be beneficial for those farms which had their own wind power units.
     As a result of the experiments with the production and storing of hydrogen, he invented the ideal hydrogen lamp which lit the rooms of Askov Folk High School for many years. It is also worth mentioning his invention of a compressor and a combustion engine using hydrogen.
     Poul la Cour invented many other things but he never became a wealthy man as he never gave much thought to business matters. Poul la Cour was an inventor and he primarily thought of how his inventions could benefit the rural population. On several occasions, he sold the patents outside of Denmark for a small sum of money - with the only condition that the invention could be freely produced and sold in Denmark.

The drive belt tensioner mounted on the test wind turbine.

The engine room was equipped with the
drive belt tensioner of the test turbine. The
drive belt tensioner was a mechanical device
which evened out the uneven pulling force
of the wind turbine.

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