Updated 09-XII-2018

Walter Gordon Clark

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.

The subject of this writing had an illustrious career outside of the contributions he made to light sources. Before the contributions of Walter Gordon Clark (23 October 1876 - 17 Dec 1950) to incandescent development are discussed, the obituary that appeared in the New York Times14 at the time of his death will be given in full measure.
""LOS ANGELES, Dec. 18 - Walter Gordon Clark, internationally known engineer, died yesterday at his home here. His age was 74. "Mr. Clark's career carried him to major projects scattered from Alaska to Niagara Falls and from Southern California to South Africa.

"Born in Salt Lake City, he was educated at the universities of Utah and California, Columbia University and Kaiser Wilhelm University in Berlin. During the Spanish-American War he assisted in laying the submarine defenses of San Francisco Bay. At one time he was manager for the Ansonia (Conn.) Brass and Copper Company. Since 1908, he had served as a consulting engineer.

"Mr. Clark had been associated with Gen. George W. Goethals as an engineer in the Colorado River work, and in turn had worked in a confidential capacity for General Goethals checking figures and designs of Panama Canal dams.

"He was a descendant of an old English family established in America by John Clark at Jamestown, Va. The ancestor made four trips between Jamestown and England, and returned finally as first mate of the Mayflower in 1620.

"Branches of the family later included George Rogers Clark and Gen. William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Abraham Clark, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the great-grandfather of Walter Gordon Clark.

"Mr. Clark was a past president of the Pacific Coast Geographical Society and a fellow of the council of the National Geographic Society. He was a member of the Jonathan Club and the Union League Club in New York and was a thirty-second degree Mason.

"Surviving are his widow, Mrs. June Clark; two brothers, Arthur af Greeley, Col., and Spencer, of Seattle, and three sisters, Mrs. Florence Campbell and Mrs. Ethel Wimer of Spokane, Wash., and Mrs. Edith Gabriel of Honolulu."
In the time period 1907-1908 many articles appeared in the technical literature regarding an incandescent lamp called the "Helion." The workers who spent much time developing that lamp were physics Professor Herschel C. Parker and Electrical Engineer Walter G. Clark. Much of this work was performed in Professor Parker's laboratory at Columbia University. The lamp was called the Helion, from the Greek word "helios", because its spectrum was closer to that of the sun than was the spectrum of the carbon filament lamp.

The Helion lamp had a selective radiator filament which was made with a carbon filament core onto which silicon was deposited. The lamp was much more efficacious than the carbon filament lamp. Lamps were made for a short period of time13 - apparently by the Parker-Clark Electric Company. It is assumed that the lamp did not become a commonplace item because the metal filament lamps, such as tantalum, osmium and tungsten were being introduced at the same time.

Listed below are only those U. S. patents issued to Parker and Clark that pertain to incandescent lamps.

Ken Spooner kindly informed me of the New York Times article. The Public Documents & Patents Department of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was, as usual, most helpful in my research efforts.

  1. US 788,493, Incandescent Electric Lamp, Issued 25 Apr 1905
  2. US 805,316, Art of Producing Metallic Iridium, Issued 21 Nov 1905
  3. US 812,872, Incandescent Electric Lamp, Issued 20 Feb 1906
  4. US 821,056, Incandescent Electric Lamp, Issued 22 May 1906
  5. US 840,246, Art of Making Refractory Metallic Wires or Filaments, Issued 1 Jan 1907,
  6. US 876,330, Process of Making Incandescent-Lamp Filaments, Issued 14 Jan 1908
  7. US 876,331, Process of Making Electric-Lamp Filaments (for the Helion Lamp), Issued 14 Jan 1908
  8. US 876,332, Process of Making Incandescent-Lamp Filaments, Issued 14 Jan 1908
  9. US 876,390, Incandescent Electric Lamp, Issued 14 Jan 1908,
  10. US 974,812, Process of Making Incandescent Electric Lamp Filaments, Issued 8 Nov 1910,
  11. US 976,207, Filament or Resistor for Heating Units or Lamps, Issued 22 Nov 1910

References & Bibliography
  1. "Helion Filament Incandescent Lamp", H.C.Parker & W.G.Clark, Electrical World, Vol.49, 5 Jan 1907, pp.10-11.
  2. "Editorial", Electrical World, Vol.49, No.3, 19 Jan 1907, pp.129-130.
  3. "The Helion Filament Incandescent Lamp", Electrical Review, Vol.50, 19 Jan 1907, pp.111-113.
  4. "Columbia Professor Invents a Helion Filament... Promises New Era in Illumination", New York Times, 3 Feb 1907, p.5.
  5. "Helion Lamp," Electrical World, Vol.49, No.6, 9 Feb 1907, p.290.
  6. "Electric Lighting by Incandescence", William J. Hammer, Electrical Review, 9 Mar 1907.
  7. "Highlights of article by Parker and Clark", Electrical World, Vol.50, 5 Oct 1907, p.681. Article apparently in July 1907 issue of School of Mines Quarterly.
  8. "Helion Incandescent Lamp Filament Patents", Electrical World, Vol.51, 18 Jan 1908, p.133.
  9. "The Helion Incandescent Lamp", Electrical World, Vol.51, 27 Jun 1908, pp.1364-1365.
  10. "Progress in the Development of the Helion Lamp", Electrical Review, Vol.52, 27 Jun 1908, p.1039.
  11. "The Helion Lamp", H.C.Parker & W.G.Clark, Electrical World, Vol.52, No.10, 5 Sep 1908, pp.501-502.
  12. "The Helion Lamp", H.C.Parker & W.G.Clark, Electrical Review, Vol.53, 12 Sep 1908, p.397.
  13. "The Electric-Lamp Industry: Technological Change and Economic Development from 1800 to 1947", Arthur A. Bright Jr, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1949, pp199-200.
  14. "Walter Clark, 74, Engineer, is Dead", New York Times, 19 Dec 1950, p.30, col.2.