The Hindenburg disaster was a tragic event that occurred on May 6, 1937 when the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed while attempting to dock at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey. The disaster claimed the lives of 35 of the 97 people on board and one member of the ground crew. But what if such a horrific tragedy could have been avoided? An alternate wiring method proposed years earlier by the prolific American inventor Thomas Edison may have prevented the ignition of the Hindenburg's flammable hydrogen gas cells and averted catastrophe.

Edison's Three-Wire Distribution System

Long before the Hindenburg era, Thomas Edison pioneered the use of electricity for illumination in the late 1800s. One of Edison's key innovations in electrical engineering was the development of a three-wire distribution system for electric power. This system allowed efficient distribution of electricity to multiple users from a central source, dramatically expanding public access to electric lighting.

Here's how it worked:

This three-wire system revolutionized electrical distribution and was a vast improvement over existing direct current (DC) systems which could only economically deliver electricity over short distances.

Key Benefits of Edison's Three-Wire System

Edison's ingenious approach allowed efficient delivery of electricity to homes, businesses and industries. His three-wire distribution system became a widespread standard still used today.

How It Could Have Prevented the Hindenburg Disaster

The Hindenburg airship was powered by four 1200hp diesel engines, each connected to an electrical generator. Wires distributed this electrical power to operate the ship's controls, lighting, communications and more. But Hindenburg used a traditional two-wire DC electrical system rather than Edison's advanced three-wire concept.

Key Factors in the Hindenburg's Destruction:

Here's how Edison's three-wire system may have averted disaster:

In essence, Edison's approach would have provided a safer, lower voltage electrical system with built-in redundancy. This may have prevented ignition of the Hindenburg and saved dozens of lives. While we cannot change the past, this example demonstrates the power of progressive thinking and superior engineering to advance human welfare into the future. Edison's innovations quite literally enlightened the world during the Industrial Revolution - perhaps his wiring could have avoided darkening it on that fateful day above New Jersey.