Sir John Ambrose Flemming

Sir John Ambrose Fleming is one of the great men of radio and electronics. Although not a very commonly known engineer such as great names like Leonardo da Vinci who is known for his amazing paintings, Henry Ford who was by far the most important man in the automobile business with the invention of the first internal combustion engine, or Wilbur and Orville Wright two American inventors who built the first successful airplane in the world; Sir John Ambrose Fleming’s invention of the Vacuum tube is by far one of the most important inventions for modern day electronics. For those who do not know what a vacuum tube is, it is one of the very important components to a television, computer screen, radio, amplifier, and transmitter (  Without this invention we would not have any of these everyday tools.

Sir John Ambrose Fleming was the oldest of seven and pretty much had to look after himself for his parents were busy with six others. He was born in Lancaster but lived most of his early life in North London. He had to pay his way through a university college school on Grower Street west of east London. He main studies were in physics and mathematics; after he completed his degree in 1870 he attended graduate school at Cambridge College under Professor Maxwell who gave him a strong foundation in electricity and magnetism ( This gave Fleming the Knowledge to make the next best invention. In 1884 Sir John Ambrose Fleming took his work to America where he first worked with another well-known engineer Thomas Edison the genius inventor of the electrical age who invented the first ever light bulb and had over three hundred other patented inventions. Edison would also give Fleming knowledge for his invention, the most important thing taken from Edison’s findings was the Edison effect. Which is the flow of electrons from a metal or metal oxide surface, caused by thermal vibrational energy overcoming electrostatic forces holding electrons to the surface.(  After returning Fleming worked for the Marconi Company where he engaged in the first ever wireless transatlantic transmission (

Although this was done there would need to be more research and work applied to make the wireless transmission and even better for widespread use. The main problem was the lack of signal detection and amplification this was needed because the communication between the two was very patchy and not very understanding. Crystal rectifiers, which are electrical devices that convert alternating current to direct current, were then used to help the signal ( Although this helped Fleming wanted to create a better way this is when he first developed the electronic rectifier. He decided to name It an oscillation valve, but later was named the vacuum tube. This was thought to be the birth of electronics. Later Lee De Forest an American inventor further improved on Fleming’s vacuum tube by allowing greater control of current.

Sir John Ambrose Fleming was clearly an engineer who created a great invention that sculpted modern electronics. Although his name is not known as many of the top inventors are if it weren’t for him we would not have our big screen televisions, computers, radios, even cell phones. He is a pioneer in the electronic world and without a doubt one of the greatest engineers of all time.

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