Thomas Edison Typed Letter Signed – Great Content Concerning Simultaneous Interpreting


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American inventor (1847-1931); invented or perfected many of the 20th century’s most ubiquitous devices, including the light bulb, the phonograph, and moving pictures.

Typed letter signed “Thos A. Edison”, December 13, 1924, “From The Laboratory of Thomas A. Edison Orange, NJ” stationery, to William A. Filene in Boston, Massachusetts, in full:

I have been giving some consideration to the problems presented in your letter of December 8th.

I am wondering whether it is impracticable to prepare an address, in advance, before the delivery of such address by any of the delegates. For instance; suppose the Prime Minister of England or the French Premier read an address to the conference, could not copies of this address be prepared previously and given to the translators who could have it typed as fast as they translated it? Copies could be made for all delegates by modern, rapid processes, and each delegate could be given a copy in his own language.

 Thus, if a delegate addressed the meeting, he could read from his original copy, made on a typewriter, and at the same time the other delegates would be reading their translations which had previously been supplied to them.

 By modern, rapid process methods, the copies could be printed within an hour from the time the Prime Minister or Premier had finished the dictation. All this could easily be done, as it only means a sufficient number of typewriters and mimeographed duplication.

 As to debates, I do not at the present time see any practicable way to accomplish the objectives stated in your letter.

Accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity from PSA/DNA.  Lightly and evenly toned, else fine.

Edward A. Filene, when not involved in his family’s department store or in advocacy of credit unions, spent time engaging world leaders and officials in maintaining a peaceful existence with other countries.  He was interested in developing a simultaneous translating system into one or more languages for speeches given at assemblies, which was spurred from his following the League of Nations and other international conferences.  Filene did not have the technical knowledge needed so he turned to men with the abilities to enact his intended processes – such as Thomas Edison as shown in this most insightful letter.

However, Filene would have to turn to others to move his project forward.  Together with Alan Gordon Finlay, they co-designed the “Filene-Finlay simultaneous translator.” They later patented and commercialized the device with success and sold it to IBM. It was Filene who originally thought of the concept of simultaneous interpreting equipment. However, he was not an engineer, which is why he called upon the help of British electrical engineer Alan Gordon Finlay.