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More than a bulb: the story of Thomas Edison

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More than a bulb: the story of Thomas Edison

Thomas Alva Edison was an innovator unlike any other in history, and his influence can still be observed today. Edison, who was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio, drastically revolutionised modern society with his innovations, which included developing the light bulb and phonograph, and helped to make the twentieth century one of the most technologically innovative periods in history.

Thomas Edison’s most lasting contribution to modern life has always remained a light bulb, but he and his collaborators have filed a total of 1093 patents. Thomas Edison’s inventions include:

  • The phonograph, the very first machine that could capture and play back sound.
  • The stencil-pen, a writing instrument powered by electricity and that is thought to be the predecessor to the tattoo gun.
  • The carbon transmitter, which improved the volume and clarity of voices on the telephone.

He also helped improve existing inventions, such as the stock ticker and the automatic telegraph.

Thomas Edison’s Most Notable Inventions:


Incandescent light bulb

Electric vote recorder

Carbon telephone transmitter

Alkaline battery

Electric pen

Inspiration behind Thomas Edison’s interest in Invention

Thomas Edison’s family moved to Port Huron, Michigan, when he was seven years old. Edison, who went by the nickname “Al,” short for his middle name Alva, was an uninterested student who was eventually tutored by his mother at home. During the Civil War, he opted to travel across the country at the age of 15, sending and receiving telegraph messages for trains and the Union Army. His lifelong love for inventing was sparked by the encounter.

The Beginning

File:Menlo Park Laboratory.JPG
 Wikimedia Commons

According to Wikipedia, Thomas Edison began his career selling candy, newspapers and vegetables on the trains running from Port Huron to Detroit. He turned a $50-a-week profit by age 13, most of which went to buying equipment for electrical and chemical experiments. He became a telegraph operator after he saved 3-year-old Jimmie MacKenzie from being struck by a runaway train. Jimmie’s father, station agent J. U. MacKenzie of Mount Clemens, Michigan, was so grateful that he trained Edison as a telegraph operator. Edison’s first telegraphy job away from Port Huron was at Stratford Junction, Ontario, on the Grand Trunk Railway. He was held responsible for a near collision. He also studied qualitative analysis and conducted chemical experiments on the train until he left the job.

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Crediting his ailment as a key factor in his success

File:Edison bulb.jpg

Edison suffered from severe hearing loss when he was a kid. Nobody truly knows what caused it, though Edison blamed it on a railway conductor who once grabbed him by the ears and injured him. More likely, he couldn’t hear because of ear infections. Edison claimed that his hearing loss gave him an uncanny capacity to concentrate and focus on whatever task he was working on.

The last breaths of Thomas Edison before his death were preserved as a museum item.

By Herbert Hoover Library. –, Public Domain, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone, respectively. Ft. Myers, Florida, February 11, 1929

Edison became friends with Henry Ford, the founder of the automobile industry, during his career. As Edison’s health deteriorated and he was eventually wheelchair bound, Ford purchased one for himself so that the two of them could race. When it emerged that Edison’s days were numbered in 1931, some speculate that Ford asked Edison’s son Charles to try to record his father’s final breath in a test tube. While Charles did not do so, Edison’s room did include test tubes beside his bed during his final moments. Charles requested that they be paraffin-sealed, and he presented one to Ford. It’s currently on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and is titled “Edison’s Last Breath?”

Companies bearing Edison’s name

  • Edison General Electric, merged with Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric
  • Commonwealth Edison, now part of Exelon
  • Consolidated Edison
  • Edison International
  • Detroit Edison, a unit of DTE Energy
  • Edison S.p.A., a unit of Italenergia
  • Trade association the Edison Electric Institute, a lobbying and research group for investor-owned utilities in the United States
  • Edison Ore-Milling Company
  • Edison Portland Cement Company
  • Ohio Edison (merged with Centerior in 1997 to form First Energy)
  • Southern California Edison

Famous Thomas Edison Quotes:

  • “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
  • “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”
  • “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Further Readings



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