Thomas Alva Edison

One of the greatest inventors of all time, Thomas Alva Edison produced a number of inventions that changed the world – electric lighting, sound recording, and an early form of moving pictures, among many others. He had little formal schooling, but he was fascinated by science. He worked extremely hard, and would spend days, months, or even years experimenting in order to make something work. He often slept fully clothed on one of his work table, so that he could start work again first thing in the morning.

Edison early lifeEarly life : Edison was born in 1847 in a small town in Ohio, USA. His teachers thought he was stupid, so his mother taught him herself, inspiring his interest in science. In 1869, after moving to New York, he improved the “ticker”, a machine for relaying information about the stock market. The machine earned him $40,000.

Menlo Park : In 1876, using the money from his stock “ticker”, Edison built an “invention factory” at Menlo Park, 39 km (24 miles) from New York City. This barn-like two storey building was the world’s first research laboratory, where a staff of scientists helped Edison to develop his ideas into devices that actually worked. In the six years that Edison worked at Menlo Park, he patented more than 400 different inventions.

Research work : At Menlo Park, Edison would come up with rough ideas and sketches. These would be refined, built, and tested by his assistants. They often had to build inventions again and again to find out why they did not work. Edison, when asked about his success, stressed the importance of these setbacks. “I failed my way to success,” he said.

Edison Research Work
Edison Light BulbElectric light : Perhaps Edison’s most important invention was the electric light bulb.He saw that a bulb with a glowing thread or filament would work, using little electricity. It took him thousands of experiments before he discovered that the best material for the filament was carbonized cotton thread. British scientist Joseph Swan 1828-1914 invented a light bulb at the same time as Edison, and the two men later joined forces.
Lighting cityLighting the city : Having developed the lightbulb, Edison went on to create a complete electric lighting system, powered by a central generator. His first power plant opened in 1882, serving 85 satisfied customers. Soon, whole cities were lit with electricity.

Other inventions : Edison patented 1,093 inventions in his lifetime. He helped make the first successful typewriter, a dictating machine, and an improved telephone mouthpiece.He came close to inventing radio, and predicted the use of atomic power.

Edison PhonographPhonograph : The phonograph, a device for recording and playing back sounds, was Edison’s favourite invention. He sketched the machine and gave to an assistant to build. It worked, but Edison did not realize this because he had poor hearing.
KinetoscopeKinetoscope : In 1889, Edison invented the kinetoscope, a projector with a peepshow-type viewer to go with it. Kinetoscopes were installed in special viewing parlours in the USA, and customers paid to watch short films.
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