Full name: Thomas Alva Edison
Born: February 11, 1847; Milan, Ohio, United States
Died: October 18, 1931; Fort Myers, Florida
Who was he: Inventor and businessman
Notable inventions: Light bulb
First patent: 21 years old (electric vote recorder)
Thomas Edison was born on February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio. His parents were Samuel Ogden Edison, Jr. and Nancy Matthews Elliott. Thomas was their seventh child.
“Wow, 7 children,” Demi quipped.
“If you remember back to biology chapter on evolution, that’s an example of an r strategist right there,” Jamie replied, “that is, having many children, knowing some will not live out their lives, but others will.”
Edison started school late due to childhood illness. His mind often wandered and his teacher Alexander Crawford often called him “addled”. He was kicked out of school three months after starting.
“Wow, what an underestimation ?” Demi said.
“You’re sure right there Mandy,” Jamie replied.
“Imagine what change to history would have been made if Thomas Edison hadn’t believed in himself, and overcame failure?” Demi responded.
“As the old saying goes, ‘genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration’,” Jamie replied.
Edison was then home-schooled by his mother, who was previously a teacher. She encouraged and taught him to read and experiment. Many of his lessons came from reading R.G. Parker’s School of natural philosophy.
Edison’s life in Port Huron was bitter. He was partially deaf since a young age, and became became a telegraph operator after he saved 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 took Edison as an apprentice and trained him as a telegraph operator. Edison’s deafness helped him as it blocked out noises and prevented Edison from hearing the telegrapher sitting next to him.
One of Edison’s mentors during those early years was a fellow telegrapher and inventor named Franklin Leonard Pope, who allowed the then broke youth to live and work in the basement of his Elizabeth, New Jersey home.
Edison was a prolific inventor. Amongst his inventions include:
- Electrographic vote recorder, which was Edison’s first patent, through a “yes” and “no” switch
- Simplified telegraph, which didn’t require manually tapping out the message at the receiving end
- Faster electric telegraph, which had faster signal speeds than earlier models
- Stencil pen, which is the predecessor to tattoo pens
- Phonograph, which recorded and reproduced audible sounds using metallic foil on a cylinder
- Carbon transmitter, which became the basis of telephone transmitters for more than a century
- Practical electric lamp, as Edison’s carbon filament light bulb was the first commercially viable electric light. Previous versions weren’t as durable, and used more expensive materials, such as platinum
- Electric lighting system, which was designed to maintain the same amount of electricity throughout the device
- Motor that regulates electricity, controlling the supply of electricity between devices such as lamps
- Fruit preserver, sucking oxygen out of glass jars, producing vacuum-sealed jars of fruit
- Electro magnetic brake, which was designed to stop vehicles on a railroad
- Incandescent chandelier, which is the grouping of several incandescent lamps to create the candelier
- Turn table for electric railway, which is an electric current that ran through the rails to reduce the chances of a short circuit
- Ore separator, which separates magnetic and non-magnetic materials
- Kinetographic camera, which showed successive photos in a rapid speed so as to make them appear to be moving
- Rock crusher, using 2 hard rollers to crush rocks
- Alkaline battery, which produced an longer-lasting battery
- Fluorescent electric lamp, which used tungsten of calcium and strontium
- Improved automobile, designing an automobile whose wheels were better aligned with the car
Marriage and legacy
On December 25, 1871, he married Mary Stilwell, and they had three children, Marion Estelle Edison, Thomas Alva Edison, Jr., and William Leslie Edison. His wife Mary died in 1884. On February 24, 1886, he married 19 year old Mina Miller. They had an additional three children, Madeleine Edison, Charles Edison (who took over the company upon his father’s death) and Theodore Edison.
Edison, who made the famous quote, “genius is 99% perspiration; 1% inspiration” eventually invented the light bulb:
Thomas Edison died on Oct. 18th, 1931 in New Jersey at the age of 84 years.