Theodore Case inherited the mansion which now houses the museum in 1916. He converted a greenhouse on the property into a laboratory where he commenced experiments related to light. When WWI was declared in April 1917, Case began to seek practical waretime applications for these photoelectric experiments. He had previously discovered that the mineral dyscrasite was particularly sensitive to infrared rays. Taking this knowledge, he and his team developed an infrared signalling system which used infrared rays to transmit messages, similar to Morse code.
Case’s system combined a high intensity arc searchlight rich in infrared radiation which was manufactured by the Sperry Gyroscope Company, an Eastman Kodak infrared filter that screened out most of the visible spectrum of light, and a quick responding detector cell that picked up the infrared rays. The cell, which looked like a light bulb, would become extremely important in later sound experiments. It became known as the Thalofide Cell for its composition of thallium (a mineral which replaced dyscrasite), oxygen, and sulfur.
The Thalofide would later be used in the first commercially successful sound-on-film system, developed by Case right here in Auburn!