Updated 16-XII-2018

(Mary) Adelaide Easley

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.

Adelaide Easley - testing Photoflash lamps at left1, and preparing to measure electron temperatures at right2

Adelaide Easley was born on 18 December 1902 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 1924 she obtained an A.B. degree from Colorado College, which is located in Colorado Springs. From 1925 to 1926 she served in the capacity of Fellow at Northwestern University. She earned an M.A. degree from Northwestern in 1926 and from 1926 to 1928 was an instructor in physics at that same institution. Her scientific brilliance would have assured her of a prestigious career rising to the top of academia - but in 1928 she was persuaded to apply her skills for the benefit of industry, and began her long and impressive career at General Electric. She started as a research physicist in the Lamp Development Laboratory, and was one of the first women to enter the field of Lamp Research.

Miss Easley worked with many of the noted researchers of the past. Included in this group were W. E. Forsythe and B. T. Barnes. A review of some of her published works shows that she worked on the new Sunlamp, the spectrum of the tungsten arc, the photoflash lamp, a falling plate flashometer, a method of measuring the maximum intensity from the photoflash lamp1, a rotating flashometer1 as well as ultraviolet sources and their radiation. She later became an expert on the measurement of electron temperatures which greatly facilitated the development of the fluorescent lamp2,3.

The NELA report system shows that she studied rhenium filaments, the thermionic characteristics of fluorescent lamp electrodes, getters in incandescent lamps, as well as the characteristics of tungsten filaments and the relationship of parameters.

Adelaide Easley was a key witness in court litigations between GE and the Munder Electrical Company. These litigations were carried out in the 1930s and concerned the photoflash lamp (see U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. October Term, 1938, No. 3441 and District Court of the U. S. District of Massachusetts, In Equity No. 4155).

Miss Easley retired in 1961 due to illness; she passed away on 8 October 1975.

  1. "She Fired 300,000 Flashbulbs", John Price, Popular Photography, Nov 1939, pp.36-37,108-110.
  2. "Five Feminine Researchers have Share in GE Lamp Development", The GE Lamp Maker, Vol.1 No.5, December 1948, pp.13-15.
  3. "Allis in Wonderland - Physics for Profit and Fun", John F. Wamouth, Physics Today, Vol.54 No.2, Jun 2000, pp.38-42.