Charles Grafton Page – The Father of the Circuit Breaker

Charles Grafton Page is considered the father of the modern circuit breaker. He was born to Captain Jere Lee Page and Lucy Lang Page in Salem, Massachusetts on January 25, 1812 and died in Washington DC on May 5, 1868. With eight siblings, four sisters and four brothers, it was a full and lively household. Although Page received his education as a medical doctor, he was fascinated with electricity from a very early age. At nine years old, he attempted to harness electricity by holding a shovel in the air during a thunderstorm while standing on his parent’s roof. At ten he made an electrostatic machine to shock his friends with. Page graduated from Harvard College in 1832 and from Harvard Medical School in 1836. Page published his first of over 40 articles at age 22 on electromagnetic devices.

Even while practicing medicine, Page never stopped experimenting with electricity. He experimented extensively with electromagnetic induction. He built a device that he thought could have a use in the medical world in an early form electroshock therapy. He continued to improve this device by heightening the tension of the low voltage battery input, and named his device ‘The Dynamic Multiplier’. In order for his device to work, the electrical current needed to be stopped and started over and over again. This led him to produce the first interrupters.

The first self-acting circuit breaker was invented by Page in 1836. On April 14, 1838 he received his first and most famous patent for “Improvement in Induction-Coil Apparatus in Circuit-Breakers”. Page continued to experiment with electricity throughout his lifetime. His work won him the respect of the scientific community both during and after his life. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006. The Hall of Fame is located in Alexandria, Virginia on the grounds of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which seems most appropriate for Page, since he was not only an inventor, but also both a patent agent and a patent examiner during his lifetime.

Page first became a patent examiner in 1842. He became the senior patent examiner during this period, but left his post in 1852 to pursue a career as a patent agent, helping other inventors secure patents for their inventions. In 1861 he once again returned to the Patent Office as a patent examiner at the beginning of Abraham Lincoln’s new administration. He continued at the Patent Office until his death in 1868.

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