Achilles Matveevitch (de) Khotinsky

—The above picture appears opposite page 63, National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. XXV, 1936—

Collectors of early incandescent lamps may or may not come across a lamp that was manufactured by a gentleman who achieved great success as an inventor but nevertheless remains little known today in incandescent lamp history. He was Achilles M. (de) Khotinsky (Jan 6, 1850 - Mar 28, 1933), who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. He graduated from the Imperial Naval Academy in 1869 and then later attended the graduate school of naval architecture and mechanics and studied physics at the University of St. Petersburg.

The writer became especially interested in the name Khotinsky after obtaining one of his "separable" incandescent lamps. This particular design was manufactured starting in the year 1894 in an attempt to avoid infringing an Edison patent. The lifetime of the separable lamp was destined to be short, however, because the Edison patent was due to expire in Nov 1894. A brief outline of Khotinsky's lamp activities in the United States follows.

In the latter part of 1891 the Germania Electric Company of Boston began to manufacture their direct incandescent dynamo. In addition, they manufactured transformers, incandescent lamps, sockets and other electrical items. One installation, a 350-light dynamo, was sold for a new hotel in Boston and a 110-light dynamo was sold to a New Jersey firm, complete with Schaefer lamps and sockets. At this same time, Captain Khotinsky, the inventor of the Khotinsky system of lighting in Europe, arrived from the Electriciteits Maatschappij Company of Rotterdam, Netherlands to join Germania. The Germania Company secured the lamp patents of Khotinsky for exploitation in the United States. He was to install a factory in Marlborough, Massachusetts for the manufacture of the Khotinsky lamp, which, as it happened, was the only lamp used to light the 1891 Frankfurt-on-Main International Electrical Exhibition. Khotinsky felt rather elated at that time because of the favorable outcome of a legal decision in France brought against his Rotterdam company by the Edison and Swan companies.

The non-separable Khotinsky lamp had been developed in Europe and was manufactured in Russia, Germany, Austria, England, France and Holland. The lamp ranged from 5 to 200 volts, 4 to 300 candlepower and from 1.5 to 5 watts efficacy.

As early as 1872 Khotinsky designed a platinum filament vacuum lamp. In the same year he designed and installed the first searchlight placed on a warship; this he did while serving as flag officer of the Russian-Baltic fleet.

The patent litigation situation in the early 1890s was such that an injunction was brought against the Germania Company and all the Khotinsky patents reverted back to him. Khotinsky then designed a "separable" lamp which he felt would not infringe upon the Edison patent. He started to develop a factory that would manufacture this new lamp. However, it took considerable time to achieve this so in the meantime he decided to manufacture the Pollard lamp (perhaps under license) which was being manufactured at that time by the Boston Incandescent Lamp Company. However, in Jun 1894 an injunction was brought against the Boston company because the court concluded that the Pollard lamp infringed the Edison patent. The Pollard lamp utilized films of silver as leading-in wires instead of the solid platinum wires used by Edison.

The separable lamp was described in the Electrical Review on Dec 20, 1893. A sketch of the lamp that appeared in that article is shown below.

The bulb was ground flat just above the location of the base. Quoting directly from the Electrical Review article:

"The general appearance of the lamp is the same as all other makes, with the exception that the globe or bulb is somewhat smaller than the average. As will be seen by the accompanying illustration, which, by the way, is full size, the neck of the bulb is open, and the flat surface of its entire circumference rests on one side of the glass cap through which the leading-in wires pass. This cap is sealed to the neck of the bulb by means of a chemically prepared organic compound, or species of cement, which fills all inequalities between the two surfaces and makes them practically one piece.

"The leading in wires are of platinum, fused into the glass cap, and as this cap is more liable to be broken and can be readily removed from the bulb, it can be used over and over again in renewing lamps which have burned out. This feature makes them very economical to use, as all the parts are interchangeable, and any cover will fit any globe.

"The cement used for uniting the cap to the bulb has several peculiar properties which are worthy of mention. In the first place it can be readily melted from the outside by holding the neck of the lamp in the flame of a match, and when slightly softened is very elastic. In demonstrating this quality to your correspondent the other day the inventor separated the two pieces gradually for a distance of an inch and a half, the cement adhering to both surfaces and forming a transparent film between. In the case of a broken or burned out lamp being removed, the cement can be softened and the cap removed with a quick lateral motion so that enough cement will remain to fasten the cap to a new bulb."

The writer surmises that the cement used in the separable Khotinsky lamp had been developed by him in England and was later sold by the Central Scientific Company (known as De Khotinsky Cement). It consisted of shellac and 20-40% wood tar and was used for making semipermanent seals in vacuum systems. It stuck well to clean hot (150 degrees centigrade) surfaces. It had a fairly low vapor pressure.

The separable lamp that was once in the writer's collection had a similar etching of "DEKHOTINSKY, U.S.***" on the bulb, in a circle of about 9/16-inch diameter. A round paper label was on the bulb indicating that the lamp was designed for 52 volts and 16 candlepower. The seal portion of the lamp is shown below.

After the experiences encountered by Khotinsky in Massachusetts, he spent a year at Purdue University. Then, for 20 years he lived in Chicago and was associated with different firms and institutions. These included the Western Electric Company, William Gaertner and Company, Armour Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago. He also worked with Nobel Laureate Albert Michelson at the Ryerson Laboratory for eight years. During the years 1916-1922 he worked at the Central Scientific Company. He passed away in Pentwater, Michigan, which is located on the shoreline of Lake Michigan.


Achilles Khotinsky first visited the United States in early 1878; he was sent to supervise the construction of three battle cruisers for the Imperial Russian Navy. He returned to Europe in 1879. He resigned from the Navy in 1881 and returned to the United States in early 1881. The broad range of his work experiences includes experimenting with torpedoes, construction of secondary batteries, development of constant temperature devices, as well as the construction of a precision machine for making diffraction gratings. His cements were well known by physicists. The amount of time devoted to incandescent lamps was limited but the name of Khotinsky deserves to be included in the history of the lamp.


The use of the "de" in front of Khotinsky's name is not understood by the writer. In the French language the use of "de" in front of the surname usually meant "of" or "from." In French family names it indicates the place of origin. Based on British patents it appears Khotinsky did not use "de" prior to about 1887.


Partial List of (de) Khotinsky Patents
(United States)
No., Title, Patent Date

238,400, Lime Light Lamp, Mar 1, 1881

244,062, Diving Apparatus, Jul 12, 1881

560,617, Telephone Signal and Signaling Circuit, May 19, 1896

564,084, Protective Appliance for Electrical Apparatus, Jul 14, 1896

565,080, Telephone Substation Apparatus, Aug 4, 1896

571,669, Lightning Arrester, Nov 17, 1896

27, Lime-Light Lamps, Jan 4, 1881

4490, Secondary or Accumulator Voltaic Batteries, Sep 20, 1882

4756, Secondary Voltaic Batteries, Oct 6, 1882

5540, Secondary Voltaic Batteries, Nov 27, 1883

14,927, An Electric Switch, Nov 12, 1884

3261, Construction of Voltaic Batteries, Mar 12, 1885

3518, Holder for Incandescent Electric Lamp, Mar 18, 1885

8416, Method of Constructing Electrode Frames for Secondary Voltaic Batteries, Jul 11, 1885

13,720, Apparatus for Effecting Electrical Measurements and Contacts, Oct 10, 1887

The writer thanks Joan Blaylock and Tracy Koenig of the Public Documents and Patents Department, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio, for their generous help in locating and providing patents as well as uncovering a biographical sketch of Khotinsky that the writer had overlooked in his research.


1) The Electrical Engineer, Vol XII, No 177, Sep 23, 1891, pg 364.

2) The Electrical Engineer, Vol XII, No 179, Oct 7, 1891, pg 416.

3) The Electrical Engineer, Vol XII, No 189, Dec 16, 1891, pg 670.

4) "A Biographical Review of the Khotinsky Accumulator," by Capt. A. de Khotinsky, The Electrical Engineer, Vol XIV, Sep - Nov 1892, pp 235-236, 264-265, 293-294, 308, 446-447, 473-474, 491-492, 519.

5) Capt. A. de Khotinsky, The Electrical Engineer, Vol XV, No 258, Apr 12, 1893, pg 367.

6) The Electrical Engineer, Vol XVI, No 294, Dec 20, 1893, pg 536.

7) "De Khotinsky's Incandescent Lamp" Electrical Review, Vol 23, No 18, Dec 20, 1893, pgs 207-208.

8) "General Electric Company vs. Captain A. De Khotinsky and C.W. Cartwright," The Electrical Engineer, Vol XVI, No 295, Dec 27, 1893, pp 555-556.

9) "Judge Colt Grants a Motion Against the de Khotinsky Lamp," Electrical Review, Vol 24, No 3, Jan 17, 1894.

10) "Injunction Against the de Khotinsky Lamp" The Electrical Engineer, Vol XVII, No 298, Jan 17, 1894, pg 55.

11) Electrical Review, Vol 24, No 3, Jan 17, 1894, pg 31.

12) Electrical Review, Vol 24, No 5, Feb 21, 1894, pg 91.

13) The Electrical Engineer, Vol XVIII, No 329, Aug 22, 1894, pg 156.

14) Les Lampes A Incandescence Électriques, J. Rodet, Gauthier-Villars, Imprimeur-Libraire, Du Bureau des Longitudes, de L'École Polytechnique, Quai des Grands-Augustins, 55, 1907, la page 66.

15) de Khotinsky Cement, Central Scientific Company, Catalog F, 1915.

16) "Achilles de Khotinsky," The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol XXV, 1936, pp 63-64.