Term Paper Thomas Alva Edison is one of the most influential people of his time. This native born Ohioan is credited with many invention that we use today and that many of us take for granted. Countless hours of hard work went into everything he accomplished. That drive is what made him the man he was and defined him as an individual. Thomas Edison was born February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio. He was the seventh and last child of Samuel Edison, Jr.
and Nancy Elliot Edison. His parents had no special mechanical background. His mother was a former schoolteacher; his father was a jack-of-all-trades – from running a grocery store to real estate. When Thomas was seven years old, his family moved to Port Huron, Michigan.
He was a very curious child who asked a lot of questions. Edison began school in Port Huron, Michigan when he was seven. His teacher, the Reverend G. B. Engle considered Thomas to be a dull student. Thomas especially did not like math.
And he asked too many questions. The story goes that the teacher whipped students who asked questions. After three months of school, the teacher called Thomas, ‘addled,’ which means confused or mixed up. Thomas stormed home. The next day, Nancy Edison brought Thomas back to school to talk with Reverend Engle. The teacher told his mother that Thomas couldn’t learn.
Nancy also became angry at the teacher’s strict ways. She took Thomas out of school and decided to home-school him. It appears he briefly attended two more schools. However, his school attendance was not very good. So nearly all his childhood learning took place at home. Some of his inventions he deliberately tried to invent, like the light bulb and the movie projector.
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But some inventions he stumbled upon, like the phonograph. Of all his inventions, Edison was most proud of the phonograph. Edison invented and improved upon things that transformed our world. Some things he invented by himself. Some things he invented with other people.
Just about all his inventions are things we still use in some form today. Throughout his life, Edison tried to invent things that everyone could use. Edison created the world’s first ‘invention factory’. He and his partners invented, built and shipped the product – all in the same complex. This was a new way to do business.
Today many businesses have copied Edison’s invention factory design. A business friend once asked Edison about the secret to his success. Edison replied, ‘Genius is hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense’. But his ‘common sense’ was very uncommon. More patents were issued to Edison than have been issued to any other single person in U. S.
history: 1, 093. A patent is something that says no one can copy your idea. When Edison was 12 years old, he took a job as a train boy on the Grand Trunk Railway. The train traveled from Port Huron, to Detroit, and back to Port Huron, all in one day. Thomas sold newspapers and candy to passengers. He also printed a weekly newspaper, the Weekly Herald.
He spent all he earned on books and equipment for his chemical laboratory. After about a year, he got permission to move his home science laboratory to the train baggage car. He did his science experiments during the five-hour layover in Detroit. But one day the train lurched, spilled chemicals, and the lab caught fire. The train conductor threw Thomas and his chemicals off the train. His next job was selling newspapers at stations along the railroad.
Nine years before Edison was born, Samuel F. B. Morse was famous for inventing the telegraph. The telegraph sent messages over wires using ‘Morse code’. In Morse code, the alphabet and numbers are written in combinations of dots, dashes, and short and long sounds. By the time Edison began doing experiments, telegraph lines went across the country.
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He wanted to learn how to be a telegrapher and send messages over telegraph wires. While selling newspapers along the railroad, something happened that changed his life. Edison saved the life of a station official’s child. The child fell onto the tracks of an oncoming train. The boy’s father thanked Edison by teaching him how to use the telegraph. Edison used scrap metal to build a telegraph set and practiced the Morse code.
When Edison was 16, he moved to Toronto, Canada. He became a telegraph assistant. His job was to report to Toronto every hour by telegraph signal. Edison thought this was a waste of time. He invented a gadget that sent a signal even if he was asleep.
This was his first invention – the transmitter and receiver for the automatic telegraph. His boss found him asleep. Edison was almost fired. Edison moved back to the United States.
In his later teens he worked as a roaming telegraph operator. He went from city to city in the eastern US. He hung around railroad yards, newspaper offices, and machine shops. He worked in a jewelry shop and at telegraph offices. He worked with clockwork, printing equipment, and different telegraphy instruments. He studied and experimented with these tools during his spare time.
He became an expert on the telegraph. The more he learned about telegraphy, the more he wanted to learn. He took apart equipment and reassembled it until he understood how it worked. He experimented with ways to make it better.
He visited used bookstores for science books. He ordered chemistry books from London and Paris. He filled his rented rooms with chemicals and junk metal for his experiments. The story goes he spent all his money buying science things and books, and wouldn’t buy clothing. One winter he went without a winter coat.
When Edison was 21, he got a job in Boston as an expert night telegraph operator. Even though he worked nights, he slept little during the day. He was too busy experimenting with electrical currents. Edison worked to improve a telegraph machine that would send many messages at the same time over the same wire. He borrowed money from a friend, and soon quit his job. Now he could spend all his time inventing! The first invention that he tried to sell was an electric vote recorder.
... Edison created the electric light or what we know of it today as the light bulb. To make a statement like this that Thomas Edison invented ... the light ... , he had found backers and started a company called the Edison Electric Light Company. As he went along he created a half a ...
It made voting faster and more accurate. But no one wanted to buy it. Today it is used in many states to record votes of legislators. He moved to New York City in the summer of 1869. He had no money. A friend let him sleep in a basement office below Wall Street.
Edison spent a lot of time studying the stock market ticker. That was the machine that gave information about stock market prices. It was a spin-off of the Morse telegraph device. Once, Edison fixed a broken stock ticker so well that that the owners hired him to build a better one.
Within a year he made the Edison Universal Stock Printer. Edison sold the rights for the stock ticker. He thought he might get paid around $4, 000 for it. He got $40, 000! With all this money, Edison started a business in Newark, New Jersey. He built stock tickers and high-speed printing telegraphs. At this shop he improved on the typewriter.
Until Edison improved it, you could write faster than you could type! ! Edison became business partners with some of New York’s richest people, J. P. Morgan and the Vanderbilt’s. Together they formed the Edison electric light Company which was formed before electric light bulbs had been invented. The phonograph was Edison’s favorite invention.
He invented the ‘talking machine’ by accident while working on telegraphs and telephones. The first words he recorded were ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’. He was 30 years old. Edison received his first patent for the talking machine in 1878.
The tinfoil phonograph was sold to the public from 1878 – 1880 at prices ranging from $10 to $200. His wax-cylinder machines didn’t go on the market until 1888 – 1889 as rentals. Edison called the tinfoil phonograph a ‘talking machine’ and a ‘sound writing’ machine. This was no improvement of existing technology. It was not something he planned to invent. This was something brand new and Edison’s most original invention.
And it happened by accident. He was working on ways to record telegraph messages automatically. Edison continued to work on cylinder and disk phonographs for the rest of his long life, even receiving patents on them well into the 1920’s – over 40 years later! It was his longest continuing interest. Scientists had been working to invent electric light for many years. Back then people used candles and gaslights to light their homes.
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But gaslights were smelly and smoky. After two years in his new laboratory, Edison boasted he would invent a safe, mild, and inexpensive electric light. Edison searched for the proper ‘filament’ or wire that would give good light when electricity flowed through it. He sent people to the jungles of the Amazon and forests of Japan in his search for a perfect filament material. He tested over 6, 000 vegetable growths (bay wood, boxwood, hickory, cedar, flax, bamboo) as filament material. In 1879, after spending $40, 000, and performing 1, 200 experiments, he succeeded.
He made a light bulb using carbonized filaments from cotton thread. Carbonized thread is ordinary cotton sewing thread that has been burned to an ash. The light bulb burned for two days. The electric light took the greatest amount of time and required the most complicated experiments of all his experiments. Edison is most famous for his development of the first electric light bulb. At the laboratory a Menlo Park, scientists could turn on and off different lights.
This was something very new for the world. When Edison was born, electricity had not been developed. By the time he died, entire cities were lit by electricity. Much of the credit for electricity goes to Edison. Edison invented a system where many lamps could get electricity all at the same time.
He set up the world’s first ‘electric light-power station’ in lower Manhattan. New York City was the first city in the world to have electric lights. The Edison Electric Light Company sent electricity to houses and lamps. One of Edison’s engineers, William J.
Hammer, made a discovery that later led to the electron tube. The electron tube led to the electric signal, which led to electronics. Electronics is a branch of science that is related to electricity. Without electronics we might not have radio, TV, CDs, computers, X-Ray machines or space travel. The discovery of electrons was patented as the ‘Edison effect’ which is the basis of electronics.
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People called Edison ‘The Wizard of Menlo Park’. Edison was often able to see possibilities others missed because he was constantly learning. When he was 30 and 40 years old he read everything he could about the latest developments in photographic optics. This helped him in his inventions for movie cameras. Edison married Mary Stilwell. Edison was upset to discover that his new wife would not be his partner in his science laboratory.
Just over a month after marrying Mary, the twenty-four-year-old Edison wrote in a notebook, ‘My wife Dearly Beloved can’t invent worth a Damn! !’ In 1884, Mary died, leaving him with three young children. He married Mina Miller in 1886. He had three more children with Mina. Edison was five feet, 10 inches tall with gray eyes, long hair that looked as if he cut it himself. He wore baggy acid-stained pants and scruffy shoes. Chemicals discolored his hands.
Later he began wearing all black. Strangers mistook him for a priest. Edison was a workaholic. He could not tolerate laziness. He often worked as many as 112 hours a week. Both his wives complained that he spent all his time in the laboratory.
He and his lab partners often worked late into the wee hours of the morning. Instead of going home to sleep, he took catnaps on a lab bench. His second wife, Mina, had a cot set up in a corner of his library so he didn’t have to sleep on a hard bench. What makes Edison different from other scientists was his ability to take ideas and put them into practical results. Edison was quoted as saying, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. ‘ When he discovered the phonograph.
Great ideas did not pop into Edison’s head like lightning bolts out of the blue. He was always looking for solutions to problems. Edison simply loved the challenge of inventing. It was a test to see how many possibilities he could come up with. Edison became very excited about any odd wonder.
On his daily walk around the lab grounds, he discovered a bug giving an unusual odor. Edison was so curious about this that he wrote to a famous scientist, Charles Darwin, about it. As Edison grew older, he became harder of hearing. But he never stopped learning. Typically he would rush into research, dashing off ideas and doing experiments as fast as they came to mind. Once the invention had been started, he left the details to others.
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Edison was known to be stubborn. When he was a senior citizen, he became protective of his inventions. One historian found an irate letter from Edison to his manufacturing department. Edison had learned that teenagers were turning up the speed of his cylinder phonograph to make the music faster. Edison complained, ‘I don’t want it and won’t have it. ‘ To make sure this would not happen again, he ordered his workers to make a control for the record speed.
Thomas Alva Edison died when he was 84 years old, on Sunday, October 18, 1931. He was still experimenting up until the time he died. Three days later, on October 21, 1931, electric lights were dimmed for one minute throughout the United States. Edison and his wife, Mina, are buried on their home estate grounds. Bibliography Smith, John – “Don’t Follow This ” American Publishing Company, Washington D. C.
, 1969 Dili on, Bob – “This is wrong ” Forever Young Inc. Omaha, NB, 1988 Durst, Fred – “If you can read this you are too close ” Nookie for Life Orlando, FL, 1999.