Photographs and a Description of a Surviving Healthmaster Carbon Arc Therapeutic Lamp
(From the arc light collection of Larry Brian Radka)
An early twentieth-century carbon arc therapeutic lamp is illustrated above. When its carbon rods are touched together and removed with a short gap left between them, a dazzling light, almost as brilliant as the sun, blazes forth for several minutes. Its fire emits an abundance of infrared, visible, and ultra-violet rays that have great therapeutic value. Priests and physicians realized the healing qualities of ultra-violet rays in antiquity, but more recently, doctors rediscovered their value in the nineteenth century after the reintroduction of carbon arc lamps to our modern world.
Evidence of the popularity of the carbon arc lights for heliotherapy and other therapeutic purposes by 1928 is provided in the following advertisement in Vol. XLVII, No. 1 of Physical Therapeutics magazine, dated January 1929:
G E L B W I S H E S T H E R E A D E R S
A Very Happy New Year
As a seasonal offering GELB presents his twin arc lamp operating at 80-90 volts across the arc and twenty amperes from a 110 volt circuit direct or alternating current.
The GELB LAMP is automatic or with five minute adjustment. It has an adequate and attractively modeled reflector, a safety spark screen, a filter and four applicators for limiting and directing the beam of radiation to areas or orifices. It is supported by a handsome adjustment stand. By a proper selection of electrodes, ACTINOTHERAPY, ARTIFICIAL HELIOTHERAPY, and PHOTOTHERMAL BATHS may be given. It may be used for FLUORESCOPY.
WITH THIS LAMP GELB GIVES A TWO YEAR GUARANTEE!!
With eight models to choose from, priced from $85.00 up, this is a bargain and there is an experience of twenty years of lamp making behind the guarantee.
OVER 500 GELB LAMPS SOLD DURING PAST YEAR
Write the Joseph Gelb Co. 250 West 54th Street, N. Y. City for descriptive literature.
A similar but less complicated type of carbon arc health lamp popular at the time is illustrated above, and a variety of larger versions, beside the Gelb products, were then used to cure a variety of ailments, including tuberculosis, psoriasis, and unnatural hair loss. Modern studies show that ultra-violet light has many more beneficial effects. It lowers blood pressure, increases the efficiency of the heart, reduces cholesterol, assists in weight loss, to name a few; and is effective in the treatment of many other health issues.
Above, we see a vintage sample of the type of carbons used with the Healthmaster and protective eyewear commonly used to prevent any burning of the eyes by the emission of its invisible ultra-violet rays. Staring at its brilliant blaze without protective goggles will make one feel a few hours later like there is sand in the eyes. The ailment is commonly called "Welder's Eye." It is quite uncomfortable, but not life threatening, and usually clears up within 48 hours.
Here we see the Healthmaster connected to a Robinair volt/wattmeter, one of many fine pieces of test equipment in my possession. When one pushes down on the black plunger on top of the lamp, the top two carbons are released, and they momentarily drop down to touch the lower two. They "strike the arcs" when they spring back up. The arcs of light will maintain themselves for several minutes while their carbons are vaporizing and maintaining two streams of burning particles reaching 6,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Eventually, however, the gaps between the ever diminishing carbons will become great enough to allow the ambient air (and resistance thereof) to dilute the electric currents in the arcs enough to extinguish their flames of light.
Above are the electrical guts I removed from behind the lamp's reflector, for demonstration purposes. When I restore it and the arc is struck, alternating current will surge through the springs or ballasts and their resistance (3.5 ohms each) and inductive reactance will limit the current available at the carbon tips. Without them, the alternating current in the arc streams or flames across the gaps between the sets of carbons would increase so much that the power supply wiring would quickly burn in two and break the circuit, thereby shutting off the light. It is noteworthy to point out here that the Healthmaster's carbon rods are wired in series. Therefore, both sets of carbons must touch simultaneously to complete the circuit and initiate the two arcs
The meters above are indicating the actual voltage and power being consumed by this arc light. On the left, we are reading about 1100 watts and the meter on the right shows about 110 volts. Ohm's law tells us that it must be drawing about 10 amperes, which is within its acceptable electrical rating, indicated on its nameplate illustrated above, 110 to 120 volts and 12 amperes.
Here we see the arc light blazing away again. Note the light mist rising above the Healthmaster, toward the right. It contains vaporized carbon, a fine, white powdery dust of which a little sometimes settles by condensation and can be detected inside its aluminum reflector, if one inspects it carefully. This type of white powder blended in well with the white painted walls of ancient Egyptian tombs. So this may be why most, if not all, modern archaeologists have not yet realized that carbon arc lights were used by their painters, instead of smoke-belching torches, dirty oil lights, and dim candles. These would have left some noticeable residue—evidence not discovered by nineteenth-century authorities who explored freshly-opened tombs.
The lack of evidence for the use of these dirty types of illumination reminds us of what the renowned astronomer Sir J. Norman Lockyer, who studied ancient Egyptian temples and tombs in depth, reported in 1894. In his Dawn of Astronomy, he pointed out an enigma—at the time—when he wrote: “In all freshly-opened tombs there are no traces whatever of any kind of combustion having taken place, even in the inner-most recesses. So strikingly evident is this that my friend M. Bouriant, while we were discussing this matter at Thebes, laughingly suggested the possibility that the electric light was known to the ancient Egyptians.”
That “possibility” has become reality. Now we know the ancient Egyptians did, indeed, know all about “the electric light” and used it to illuminate the night sky as well as temples and tombs—and it is no longer a laughing matter.
Verifying the cleanliness of one particular ancient Egyptian tomb, Dr. F. L. Griffith, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford, in an article entitled “The Religious Revolution in Egypt,” wrote: “There are few examples of rock architecture in Egypt more pleasing than this admirably proportioned, spotlessly white sepulcher of one who as governor of Akhetaton ranked as head of the notables. I t is cut in the limestone cliffs that form a semicircle round the plain of Tell el-Amarna.”
Tombs like that one would have certainly required an electric light* to illuminate them enough for ancient artisans to have placed intricate images on their walls. They could not have succeeded with the light from dim candles, sloppy oil lamps, or smoky torches that would have starved industrious workers of essential oxygen and left unsightly soot marks clinging all over the spotlessly white tomb walls and ceilings.
Reflecting the remnants of sunlight from many light-absorbing mirrors was also not a good option for pressing and complex projects demanding more than the Sun’s periodic appearance—in cloudless, dust-free daylight skies. Beside this, the maze of rooms in some tombs would have caused insurmountable problems for a large number of critically aligned mirrors continuously tracking one another as they tried to catch and bounce around light from a moving sun. Moreover, some artisan confined in a complex tomb would have eventually stepped in front of one of the mirrors and have broken the intricate chain of light—abruptly leaving others down the line struggling in total darkness.
These artisans using standard lights could not have completely removed the soot from the ceilings and walls after finishing their tasks because they would have had to clean up the smudge with the same smoke-belching devices that produced it. So how else, other than with the use of clean burning electric lamps, could they have so elaborately decorated about 400 underground grave systems with no trace of any smoke residue? Of course, some tombs now show soot marks left from the dirty lights of grave robbers who had previously opened and plundered them—but Lockyer spoke of “freshly-opened tombs.”
Lockyer and his French friend were probably not familiar with the small quantities of fine white powder that carbon arc lights occasionally leave, so they probably did not carefully search for it. For much more on carbon arc lights, not posted by me on the Web, read The Electric Mirror on the Pharos Lighthouse and Other Ancient Lighting.
This page was last modified on Tuesday, January 19, 2016