- NAME: Thomas Edison
- OCCUPATION: Entrepreneur, Inventor
- BIRTH DATE: February 11, 1847
- DEATH DATE: October 18, 1931
- Did You Know?: Thomas Edison became the first to project a motion picture in 1896, at Koster & Bial's Music Hall in New York City.
- EDUCATION: The Cooper Union
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Milan, Ohio
- PLACE OF DEATH: West Orange, New Jersey
- Full Name: Thomas Alva Edison
- AKA: Thomas Edison
Best Known For
Inventor Thomas Edison created such great innovations as the electric light bulb and the phonograph. A savvy businessman, he held more than a 1,000 patents for his inventions.
Thomas Edison - Inventor (4:13)
Inventor Thomas Edison, known during his time as "The Wizard of Menlo Park," developed numerous practical devices that changed the world such as the phonograph, the movie camera, and the light bulb.
The inventor of the light bulb, phonograph, and motion picture, Thomas Edison was granted 400 patents from 1879 to 1886. Though he changed technology forever, not all of his inventions were successful.
Henry Ford is credited with the creation of assembly line-a concept that yields the world's most affordable car.
Alexander Graham Bell used all his resources to get Americans to use his new invention, the telephone.
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Born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio, Thomas Edison rose from humble beginnings to work as an inventor of major technology. Setting up a lab in Menlo Park, some of the products he developed included the telegraph, phonograph, electric light bulb, alkaline storage batteries and Kinetograph (a camera for motion pictures). He died on October 18, 1931, in West Orange, New Jersey.
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
"Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits."
“I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill.”
“I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
“Restlessness is discontent — and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man — and I will show you a failure.”
“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”
“Hell, there ain't no rules around here! We're trying to accomplish something.”
“I always invent to obtain money to go on inventing.”
“The phonograph, in one sense, knows more than we do ourselves. For it will retain a perfect mechanical memory of many things which we may forget, even though we have said them.”
“We know nothing; we have to creep by the light of experiments, never knowing the day or the hour that we shall find what we are after.”
“Everything, anything is possible; the world is a vast storehouse of undiscovered energy.”
“The recurrence of a phenomenon like Edison is not very likely... He will occupy a unique and exalted position in the history of his native land, which might well be proud of his great genius and undying achievements in the interest of humanity.” (Nikola Tesla)
Inventor Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. He was the last of the seven children of Samuel and Nancy Edison. Thomas's father was an exiled political activist from Canada. His mother, an accomplished school teacher, was a major influence in Thomas’ early life. An early bout with scarlet fever left him with hearing difficulties in both ears, a malady that would eventually leave him nearly deaf as an adult.
In 1854, the family moved to Port Huron, Michigan, where Edison attended public school for a total of 12 weeks. A hyperactive child, prone to distraction, he was deemed "difficult" by his teacher. His mother quickly pulled him from school and taught him at home. At age 11, he showed a voracious appetite for knowledge, reading books on a wide range of subjects. In this wide-open curriculum Edison developed a process for self-education and learning independently that would serve him throughout his life.
At age 12, Edison set out to put much of that education to work. He convinced his parents to let him sell newspapers to passengers along the Grand Trunk Railroad line. Exploiting his access to the news bulletins teletyped to the station office each day, Thomas began publishing his own small newspaper, called the Grand Trunk Herald. The up-to-date articles were a hit with passengers. This was the first of what would become a long string of entrepreneurial ventures where he saw a need and capitalized on opportunity.
Edison also used his access to the railroad to conduct chemical experiments in a small laboratory he set up in a train baggage car. During one of his experiments, a chemical fire started and the car caught fire. The conductor rushed in and struck Thomas on the side of the head, probably furthering some of his hearing loss. He was kicked off the train and forced to sell his newspapers at various stations along the route.
While he worked for the railroad, a near-tragic event turned fortuitous for the young man. After Edison saved a 3-year-old from being run over by an errant train, the child’s grateful father rewarded him by teaching him to operate a telegraph. By age 15, he had learned enough to be employed as a telegraph operator. For the next five years, Edison traveled throughout the Midwest as an itinerant telegrapher, subbing for those who had gone to the Civil War. In his spare time, he read widely, studied and experimented with telegraph technology, and became familiar with electrical science.
In 1866, at age 19, Edison moved to Louisville, Kentucky, working for The Associated Press. The night shift allowed him to spend most of his time reading and experimenting.
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