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Fascinating facts about Thomas Alva Edison one of the most prolific inventors of practical electrical devices in history.

Thomas Alva Edison
AT A GLANCE:
The modern world is an electrified world. The light bulb, in particular, profoundly changed human existence by illuminating the night and making it hospitable to a wide range of human activity. The electric light, one of the everyday conveniences that most affects our lives, was invented in 1879 by Thomas Alva Edison. He put together what he knew about electricity with what he knew about gas lights and invented a whole of electrical system.
THE STORY
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DID YOU KNOW?
Inventor: Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison photo courtesy General Electric
Criteria: First practical. Modern prototype. Entrepreneur.
Birth: February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio
Death: October 18, 1931 in West Orange, New Jersey
Nationality: American
Invention: electric light bulb in 1879
Electric Lamp image courtesy General Electric
Function: noun / electric light bulb / incandescent lamp
Definition: An electric lamp in which a filament is heated to incandescence by an electric current. Today's incandescent light bulbs use filaments made of tungsten rather than carbon of the 1880's.
Patent: 223,898 (US) issued January 27, 1880
Milestones:
1868 Edison's first invention was a Vote Recorder
1869 Printing Telegraph
1869 Stock Ticker
1872 Automatic Telegraph
1876 Electric Pen
1877 Carbon Telephone Transmitter
1877 Phonograph
1879 Dynamo
1878 Thomas Edison founded the Edison Electric Light Company
1879 Incandescent Electric Lamp
1880 223,898 Thomas Edison 1/27 for Electric Lamp and Manufacturing Process
1881 Electric Motor
1881 238,868 Thomas Edison 3/15 for Manufacture of Carbons for Incandescent Lamps
1881 251,540 Thomas Edison 12/27 for Bamboo Carbons Filament for Incandescent Lamps
1883 he observed the flow of electrons from a heated filament—the so-called "Edison effect"
1886 Talking Doll
1889 Edison Electric Light Company consolidated and renamed Edison General Electric Company.
1890 Edison, Thomson-Houston, and Westinghouse, the "Big 3" of the American lighting industry.
1892 Edison Electric Light Co. and Thomson-Houston Electric Co. created General Electric Co.
1897 Projecting Kinetoscope
1900 Storage Battery
capS: Edison, Thomas Alva Edison, Incandescent Electric Lamp, electric lamp, electric light bulb, light bulb, General Electric, most U.S. patents, electric industry, inventor, biography, profile, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
Thomas Alva Edison, whose development of a practical electric light bulb, electric generating system, sound-recording device, and motion picture projector had profound effects on the shaping of modern society. His greatest invention may not have been his products but the funding and impotence he placed on his company's research and development efforts.

Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, on February 11, 1847. He attended school for only three months, in Port Huron, Michigan. When he was 12 years old he began selling newspapers on the Grand Trunk Railway, devoting his spare time mainly to experimentation with printing presses and with electrical and mechanical apparatus. In 1862 he published a weekly, known as the Grand Trunk Herald, printing it in a freight car that also served as his laboratory. For saving the life of a station official's child, he was rewarded by being taught telegraphy. While working as a telegraph operator, he made his first important invention, a telegraphic repeating instrument that enabled messages to be transmitted automatically over a second line without the presence of an operator.

Edison next secured employment in Boston and devoted all his spare time there to research. He invented a vote recorder that, although possessing many merits, was not sufficiently practical to warrant its adoption. He also devised and partly completed a stock-quotation printer. Later, while employed by the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company of New York City he greatly improved their apparatus and service. By the sale of telegraphic appliances, Edison earned $40,000, and with this money he established his own laboratory in 1876. Afterward he devised an automatic telegraph system that made possible a greater speed and range of transmission. Edison's crowning achievement in telegraphy was his invention of machines that made possible simultaneous transmission of several messages on one line and thus greatly increased the usefulness of existing telegraph lines. Important in the development of the telephone, which had recently been invented by the American physicist and inventor Alexander Graham Bell, was Edison's invention of the carbon telephone transmitter.

In 1877 Edison announced his invention of a phonograph by which sound could be recorded mechanically on a tinfoil cylinder. Two years later he exhibited publicly his incandescent electric light bulb, his most important invention and the one requiring the most careful research and experimentation to perfect. This new light was a remarkable success; Edison promptly occupied himself with the improvement of the bulbs and of the dynamos for generating the necessary electric current. In 1882 he developed and installed the world's first large central electric-power station, located in New York City. His use of direct current, however, later lost out to the alternating-current system developed by the American inventors Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse.

In 1887 Edison moved his laboratory from Menlo Park, New Jersey, to West Orange, New Jersey, where he constructed a large laboratory for experimentation and research. (His home and laboratory were established as the Edison National Historic Site in 1955). In 1888 he invented the kinetoscope, the first machine to produce motion pictures by a rapid succession of individual views. Among his later noteworthy inventions was the Edison storage battery (an alkaline, nickel-iron storage battery), the result of many thousands of experiments. The battery was extremely rugged and had a high electrical capacity per unit of weight. He also developed a phonograph in which the sound was impressed on a disk instead of a cylinder. This phonograph had a diamond needle and other improved features. By synchronizing his phonograph and kinetoscope, he produced, in 1913, the first talking moving pictures. His other discoveries include the electric pen, the mimeograph, the microtasimeter (used for the detection of minute changes in temperature), and a wireless telegraphic method for communicating with moving trains.

At the outbreak of World War I, Edison designed, built, and operated plants for the manufacture of benzene, carbolic acid, and aniline derivatives. In 1915 he was appointed president of the U.S. Navy Consulting Board and in that capacity made many valuable discoveries. His later work consisted mainly of improving and perfecting previous inventions. Altogether, Edison patented more than 1000 inventions. He was a technologist rather than a scientist, adding little to original scientific knowledge. In 1883, however, he did observe the flow of electrons from a heated filament—the so-called Edison effect—whose profound implications for modern electronics were not understood until several years later. Edison died in West Orange on October 18, 1931.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
The Entrepreneur    from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of the Incandescent Electric Lamp (Light Bulb)    from The Great Idea Finder
History of Electricity   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Brainstorm!: The Stories of Twenty American Kid Inventors
by Tom Tucker, Richard Loehle / Paperback - 144 pages  / Sunburst (1998)
The stories of twenty ingenious young Americans who have filed patents with the United States Patent Office, including Chester Greenwood who invented ear muffs, Ralph Samuelson, originator of water-skiing, and Vanessa Hess who created colored car wax.
100 Inventions That Shaped World History
by Bill Yenne, Morton, Dr. Grosser (Editor) / Paperback - 112 pages (1983)
/ Bluewood Books 
This book contains inventions from all around the world from microchips to fire. This is a really good book if you are going to do research on inventions.

Edison: Inventing the Century
by Neil Baldwin / Paperback: 532 pages / University of Chicago Press, Reprint edition (April 2001)

An account of the life of inventor Thomas Edison, focusing on his intellectual contributions, his absorption in his work, the mythology that developed and was cultivated about him, and the cultural context in which he produced his inventions.
At Work With Thomas Edison: 10 Business Lessons from America's Greatest Innovator
by Blaine McCormick, John P. Keegan / Paperback: 254 pages / Entrepreneur Media Inc.( 2001)
In addition to patenting over 1,000 inventions, Edison was a capable businessman who recognized that innovation is a business, emphasizing the importance of creating a company that produces more than just one good idea.
Thomas A. Edison: A Streak of Luck
Robert Conot / Paperback / Published 1986
This book reveals the Thomas Edison you didn't learn about in elementary school. It is insightful and intelligently written.

Perseverance: The Story of Thomas Alva Edison
by Peter Murray, Robin Lawrie (Illustrator) / School & Library Binding (August 1997) / Childs World
Traces the life of the man who invented the phonograph, light bulb, and motion picture camera, with an emphasis on the value of perseverance in his achievements
Empires of Light : Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World
by Jill Jones / Hardcover: 432 pages / Random House; (August 19, 2003)
The genius of such poet-scientists as Nikola Tesla depended on the more finely tuned business skills of George Westinghouse and the towering capital of J.P. Morgan to achieve actualization.

ON THE SCREEN:
Edison Tech
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / Biography / Less than $25.00
He was the father of the future...electric lights, power systems, motion pictures, recorded sound--even the tattoo pen. Life as we know it would be inconceivable without the prodigious output of Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Edison
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / Biography / Less than $25.00
Life in the modern world would be unthinkable without his inventions. More than any other individual, he paved the way for the future. Thomas Alva Edison has rightly earned a place among the most important men in history..

Power Plants
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00 / Also VHS
Though the basic technology has remained constant for decades, continual improvements and refinements have made them far more efficient and powerful
Mansions, Monuments & Masterpieces
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / A&E / 74281 / Less than $25.00
One illuminated America. The other put the nation on the road. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford transformed the world with their inventions. They shared a friendship that spanned decades. And the fortunes they made allowed them to create remarkable homes and estates.

Young Tom Edison
(1940) Black & White, (VHS) NTSC / Rated: NR / ASIN: 6302922941
Starring: Mickey Rooney, Director: Norman TaurogI
Edison, the Man
(1940) Black & White, (VHS) NTSC / Rated: NR /  ASIN: 6302208912 
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Director: Clarence Brown, Peter Godfrey
Edison: The Wizard of Light
Color, Closed-captioned, Dolby, Full length, Surround Sound / Rated: NR / ASIN: B00000K0B6

ON THE WEB:

Edisonian
This site presented by the Edisonian Museum offers photographs and descriptions of many of Thomas Edison's inventions.
(URL: www.edisonian.com/)
Thomas A. Edison Papers
This site makes available a searchable document database and some of the editorial materials from over 250,000 printed pages.

(URL: edison.rutgers.edu)
Thomas Alva Edison's Inventions
Edison was awarded 1,368 separate and distinct patents during his lifetime. He passed away at age 84 on October 18th, 1931 - on the anniversary date of his invention of the incandescent bulb.
(URL: www.thomasedison.com/Inventions.htm
)
Edison National Historic Site
Operated by the National Park Service This site consists of Thomas Alva Edison's research and development laboratory and his home, Glenmont.

(URL: www.nps.gov/edis/)
Thomas Edison's Patents
Edison executed the first of his 1,093 successful U.S. patent applications on 13 October 1868, at the age of 21. His patents are presented here in two lists—by execution date and by patent date.
(URL: edison.rutgers.edu/patents.htm)
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Located at Inventure Place, the online home of creative minds.Thomas Edison was inducted in 1973 for his invention of the Electric Lamp Patent Number 223,898.
(URL: www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/50.html)
Invention Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Featured Thomas Alva Edison for his invention of the Electric Light Bulb.
(URL: web.mit.edu/invent/iow/edison.html)
Edison's Menlo Park Laboratory
From 1876 to 1882, Thomas Edison and his skilled assistants created a multitude of new inventions at his Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory. These reconstructed buildings in Greenfield Village represent Edison's greatest invention: the industrial research laboratory.
(URL:
www.hfmgv.org/exhibits/edison/default.asp)
Thomas Alva Edison's Inventions
Edison was awarded 1,368 separate and distinct patents during his lifetime. He passed away at age 84 on October 18th, 1931 - on the anniversary date of his invention of the incandescent bulb.
(URL: www.thomasedison.com/Inventions.htm
)
Edison Companies and Business Associates
A list of the major Edison and Edison-related companies from A.B. Dick to Vitascope.
(URL: edison.rutgers.edu/ecopart3.htm)


WORDS OF WISDOM:
"Be courageous! Whatever setbacks America has encountered, it has always emerged as a stronger and more prosperous nation.... Be brave as your fathers before you. Have faith and go forward!" -
Thomas Alva Edison

"Patent all your ideas, and get yourself a good lawyer." - Thomas Alva Edison

"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless." -
Thomas Alva Edison

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • Edison received his first patent, of the more than 1,000 patents, in 1868 for a vote counter intended to speed up proceedings in Congress.
  • Edison'e first successful invention was the stock ticker.
  • In 1877, Edison produced the first Phongraph.
  • He passed away at age 84 on October 18th, 1931 - on the anniversary date of his invention of the incandescent bulb.
  • In 1878 Edison was appointed Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France and in 1889 was made Commander of the Legion of Honor. In 1892 he was awarded the Albert Medal of the Society of Arts of Great Britain.
  • In 1928 received the Congressional Gold Medal "for development and application of inventions that have revolutionized civilization in the last century."
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Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised October 28, 2005.
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