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Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)


Thomas Alva Edison was an amazing human being by any standard. He was an inventor, and businessman, and was responsible for creating the most inventions in history.

What he left the world was a legacy that shaped and created the modern world in a way that makes him one of the most influential figures of the world.

Edison was born on the 11th of February 1847 in Ohio and was the youngest in a family of seven. The family moved to Michigan where he spent his childhood.

Edison had all of three months of official school because his teacher thought he had a learning difficulty. Therefore, his mother home schooled him from then on.

From a young age, he was a curious little boy and his mother supported him in all his creations. He built working models of steam engines, and steam powered saw mills.

He caught a bad case of Scarlett fever when he was quite young and this left him with a bit of a hearing difficulty.

His life in Michigan was a mix of selling candy, vegetables, and newspapers to earn money, conducting chemical experiments, and studying.

At the age of 15, with official permission he started his own newspaper selling business with four assistants. This was the first in a line of 14 businesses he would have during his lifetime.

He even worked as a telegraph operator for a while, until he left to work in a gold company in New York at 22 years.

While at the company, when machine that printed the gold prices broke down, he fixed it, and then invented a machine that did the job even better.

He left his job and started his own workshop inventing these machines and telegraph machines. His journey of success had begun.

He also invented one of the earliest copying instruments, an electric pen in 1875.

He invented the phonograph (gramophone) in 1877, and became known as the “Wizard of Menlo Park”.

Even though his recording on the phonograph was of poor quality and it could not be played more than a few times, and because Alexander Graham Bell improved it and became known as the inventor of the telegraph, Edison started working on other things.

Even though he did not receive the licence for his phonograph, he invented and improved many things related to it like dictating machines, and records.

One of his major inventions was the first industrial inventions lab, that he named “The Invention Factory”.

In 1879, at the age of 32 years Edison invented the direct current generator for electric lighting and a carbon lamp.

Edison Lamp Works, another of Edison’s many companies, produced 50,000 lamps the following year.

Even though Edison was not the first to invent the electric bulb, he is considered the first to invent the first practical incandescent light that had commercial value.

Incandescent lights are lights that are powered when the filament within is heated. The filament is the small glowing wire inside the bulb that carries the current.

He also invented a system of wireless communication between trains, between ships at sea, ships on land and at sea and even moving trains.

Edison improved and invented many things related to electric railways and invented and got the licence for the first motion picture camera. It is the same technology still used today.

He was also a brilliant engineer. He invented a giant roller machine from iron that could crush and break large amounts of rock, and improved the X-ray tube.

Other inventions of Edison’s were a steel alkaline storage battery, the kinetophone (talking motion picture), the Telescribe (combining the telephone and the dictating phonograph allowing for the telephone conversation to be recorded from both sides), and the first artificial form of carbolic acid.

These are his most famous and important inventions, but there are many more too.

With his invention of the electric bulb and his understanding of electricity, he also founded the Edison Illuminating Company, which supplied electricity to places in lower Manhattan.

Edison was a lively man who worked right up until the time he died. Shortly before his death, he handled the project that started electric trains in New Jersey.

He married twice and had six children from his two marriages.

On the 18th of October 1931, Thomas Alva Edison died from health complications at his home in New Jersey. He is buried behind the home.

In honor of all the work Edison did, many places, people, museums, memorials, awards, military ships, and companies have been named after him.

He was awarded many medals and awards both during his lifetime, and even after, as recently as 2011, where he was brought into the Entrepreneur Walk of Fame.