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Inventor Thomas Edison created such great innovations as the electric light bulb, the telephone 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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The night shift allowed him to spend most of his time reading and experimenting. He developed an unrestrictive style of thinking and inquiry, proving things to himself through objective examination and experimentation. Initially, Edison excelled at his telegraph job because early Morse code was inscribed on a piece of paper, so Edison’s partial deafness was no handicap. However, as the technology advanced, receivers were increasingly equipped with a sounding key,
enabling telegraphers to “read” message by the sound of the clicks. This left Edison disadvantaged, with fewer and fewer opportunities for employment.
In 1868, Edison returned home to find his beloved mother was falling into mental illness and his father was out of work. The family was almost destitute. Edison realized he needed to take control of his future. Upon the suggestion of a friend, he ventured to Boston, landing a job for the Western Union Company. At the time, Boston was America’s center for science and culture, and Edison reveled in it. In his spare time, he designed and patented an electronic voting recorder for quickly tallying votes in the legislature. However, Massachusetts lawmakers were not interested. As they explained, most legislators didn’t want votes tallied quickly. They wanted time to change the minds of fellow legislators.
In 1869, Edison moved to New York City and developed his first invention, an improved stock ticker, the Universal Stock Printer, which synchronized several stock tickers’ transactions. The Gold and Stock Telegraph Company was so impressed, they paid him $40,000 for the rights. Edison was only 22 years old. With this success, he quit his work as a telegrapher to devote himself full-time to inventing.
In 1870, Thomas Edison set up his first small laboratory and manufacturing facility in Newark, New Jersey, and employed several machinists. As an independent entrepreneur, Edison formed numerous partnerships and developed his products for the highest bidder. Often that was Western Union Telegraph Company, the industry leader, but just as often, it was one of Western Union’s rivals. In one such instance, Edison devised for Western Union the quadruplex telegraph, capable of transmitting two signals in two different directions on the same wire, but railroad tycoon Jay Gould snatched the invention from Western Union, paying Edison more than $100,000 in cash, bonds and stock, and generating years of litigation.
With his ever-increasing financial success, in 1871 Edison married 16-year-old Mary Stilwell, who was an employee at one of his businesses. During their 13-year marriage, they had three children, Marion, Thomas and William, who became an inventor. Mary died of a suspected brain tumor at the age of 29 in 1884.
By the early 1870s, Thomas Edison had acquired a reputation as a first-rate inventor. In 1876, he moved his expanding operations to Menlo Park, New Jersey, and built an independent industrial research facility incorporating machine shops and laboratories.
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America wasn't discovered, it was built. At the end of the Civil War, America was seen as a failing experiment in democracy; a nation fraying from the inside and at war with itself. Just 50 years later, the United States was the greatest superpower the world had ever seen. This landmark transition was due in no small part to a group of business-savvy, innovative young men: John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan and Thomas Edison. These men constructed a bold vision for a modern America and transformed the greatest industries of our time, including oil, rail, steel, shipping, automobiles and finance; they are unequivocally America's first captains of industry.
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