ThomasEdison could probably be properly called Mr. Electricity because of the manyinventions and millions of dollars that he used and invested with electricity. From the invention of the light bulb, to the invention of the phonograph ThomasEdison made electricity a reality for the masses. And one of his greatestinfluences was from his Father a very positive man.
A long with the greatinfluence he had upon Americans and the world. He sparked the movement oftodays computer ran world. Thomas Edison was born February 11, 1847 in Milan,Ohio. He was the seventh and last child of Samuel Edison, Jr.
and Nancy ElliotEdison. His parents had no special mechanical background. His mother was aformer schoolteacher; his father was a jack-of-all-trades – from running agrocery store to real estate. When Thomas was seven years old, his family movedto Port Huron, Michigan. He was a very curious child who asked a lot ofquestions.
“Edison began school in Port Huron, Michigan when he was seven. Histeacher, the Reverend G. B. Engle considered Thomas to be a dullstudent.
“(Allen pg. 22) Thomas especially did not like math. And he asked toomany questions. The story goes that the teacher whipped students who askedquestions. After three months of school, the teacher called Thomas,”addled”.
Thomas was pissed. The next day, Nancy Edison brought Thomasback to school to talk with Reverend Engle. The teacher told his mother thatThomas 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. “(Allen pg. 34) It appears he briefly attended two more schools. However, his schoolattendance was not very good. So nearly all his childhood learning took place athome. Edison’s parents loved to read.
They read to him works of good literatureand history. They had many books that young Tom eagerly devoured. Before he was12, he had read works by Dickens and Shakespeare, Edward Gibbon’s Fall of theRoman Empire and Decline, and more. Nancy Edison encouraged her curious son tolearn things for himself. His parents were dedicated to teaching their children. They did not force him to learn about things he didn’t enjoy.
So he learnedabout things that interested him the most. When Thomas was nine Nancy Edisongave him an elementary science book. It explained how to do chemistryexperiments at home. Edison did every experiment in the book.
Then Nancy gavehim more books on science. He soon loved chemistry and spent all his spare moneybuying chemicals from a local pharmacy. He collected bottles, wires, and otheritems for experiments. Abbott Pg. 2 At age 10, Thomas built his first sciencelaboratory in the basement of the family’s home. His father disapproved of allthe time Thomas spent in the basement.
Sometimes Sam offered a penny to Thomasif he would go back to reading books. But Thomas often used his pennies to buymore chemicals for experiments. “He labeled all his bottles”Poison”. “(Denmark pg. 25) Edison had many ear problems throughouthis childhood. When he was 15, a train accident injured his ears more.
When hetried to jump on a moving train, a conductor grabbed the boy’s ears to help pullhim up. “Thomas said he felt something snap inside his head. He soon began tolose much of his hearing. ” (Swanson pg.
34) Thomas never became deaf, but fromthen on he was hard of hearing. His deafness could have been cured by anoperation. But Thomas refused the operation. He said being deaf helped himconcentrate. When Edison was 21, he got a job in Boston as an expert nighttelegraph operator.
Even though he worked nights, he slept little during theday. He was too busy experimenting with electrical currents. Edison worked toimprove a telegraph machine that would send many messages at the same time overthe same wire. He borrowed money from a friend, and soon quit his job. Now hecould spend all his time inventing.
The first invention that he tried to sellwas an electric vote recorder. It made voting faster and more accurate. But noone wanted to buy it. “Today it is used in many states to record votes oflegislators. ” (Allen pg. 45) 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 themachine that gave information about stock market prices. It was a spin-off ofthe Morse telegraph device.
Once, Edison fixed a broken stock ticker so wellthat that the owners hired him to build a better one. Within a year he made theEdison Universal Stock Printer. Edison sold the rights for the stock ticker. Hethought he might get paid around $4,000 for it. He got $40,000! With all thismoney, Edison started a business in Newark, New Jersey.
He built stock tickersand 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 wasa poor financial manager.
In his late 20’s, he began to have money problems. After six years at his workshop in Newark, New Jersey, Edison asked his fatherto help build a new “invention factory”. Edison built his new sciencelaboratory at the village of Menlo Park, NJ. Now he and his two businesspartners could devote their full attention to inventing. Edison promised that hewould build a small invention every ten days and a big invention every sixmonths! He also said he would “take orders” for inventions.
Abbott Pg. 3 They moved into the new building in March 1876. His first invention was animprovement on the telephone. Before Edison’s improvement, people had to shoutwhen they used the telephone. The new lab had around 60 workers.
It didn’tmatter to Edison what a person’s background was. If he thought someone hadtalent, that was enough. Edison achieved his greatest successes in thislaboratory. Soon he had 40 different projects going at the same time.
“Heapplied for as many as 400 patents a year. ” (Denmark pg. 54) His ideas andinventions ranged from the practical to the crazy. Edison worked at Menlo Parkfor over 10 years. Edison became a business partner with some of New York’srichest people, J.
P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts. Together they formed theEdison Electric Light Company. They made this company before electric lightbulbs had been invented.
Today this company is called General Electric. Thephonograph was Edison’s favorite invention. He invented the “talkingmachine” by accident while working on telegraphs and telephones. But thephonograph didn’t go on sale to the public for another 10 years. It was atinfoil phonograph. “Edison called it a “talking machine” and a”sound writing” machine.
” (Allen pg. 54) This was no improvement ofexisting technology. It was not something he planned to invent. This wassomething brand new and Edison’s most original invention.
And it happened byaccident. He was working on ways to record telegraph messages automatically. Thefirst words he recorded were “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. He was 30 yearsold. He worked on and off for more than twenty years to perfect the recordplayer.
Scientists had been working to invent electric light for many years. Back then people used candles and gaslights to light their homes. But gaslightswere smelly and smoky. After two years in his new laboratory, Edison boasted hewould invent a safe, mild, and inexpensive electric light.
Edison searched forthe proper “filament” or wire, which would give good light whenelectricity flowed through it. He sent people to the jungles of the Amazon andforests of Japan in his search for a perfect filament material. He tested over6,000 vegetable growths (baywood, boxwood, hickory, cedar, flax, and bamboo) asfilament material. In 1879, after spending $40,000, and performing 1,200experiments, he succeeded.
He made a light bulb using carbonized filaments fromcotton thread. Carbonized thread is ordinary cotton sewing thread that has beenburned to an ash. The light bulb burned for two days. The electric light tookthe greatest amount of time and required the most complicated experiments of allhis experiments. Abbott Pg.
4 One of Edison’s engineers, William J. Hammer, madea discovery, which later led to the electron tube. The electron tube led to theelectric signal, which led to electronics. Electronics is a branch of sciencethat is related to electricity. Without electronics we might not have radio, TV,CDs, computers, x-ray machines or space travel. The discovery of electrons waspatented as the “Edison effect” which is the basis of electronics.
In1887 Edison built a bigger invention factory in West Orange, New Jersey. ThisEdison Laboratory was 10 times larger than his first lab in Menlo Park. It isnow a national monument. This Laboratory Unit had fourteen buildings. Six ofthese buildings were devoted to the “business of inventing. ” “Themain building alone was the size of three football fields.
” (Denmark pg. 75)It had space for machine shops, glass-blowing operations, electrical testingrooms, chemical stockrooms, electrical power generation, and other functions. Atthe Edison Laboratory they made new products and improved old products. Over5,000 people worked there. Edison attempted to personally manage this largestaff.
The story goes that when a new employee once asked about lab rules,Edison said, “there ain’t no rules around here! We’re tryin’ to accomplishsomep’n. ” Every day Edison toured this huge facility to see what was goingon. But he spent most of his time doing paperwork instead of experiments. He didhis paperwork in the library.
The research library was an office and trophyroom. Edison received many, many awards throughout his life. In the center ofhis office, Edison sat at a desk with three dozen pigeonholes, surrounded byover 10,000 books. At West Orange, Edison improved the phonograph using waxrecords. Now he could build phonographs to sell to the public. Out of the WestOrange laboratories came the motion picture camera and silent and sound movies.
His factory improved the alkaline storage battery, the electric pen, the copymachine, and the dictating machine. Other inventions and improvements included acement mixer, the microphone, and a magnetic process to separate iron ore. Edison invented the concept of film reels for motion-picture cameras. He alsoconnected a motion picture camera to a phonograph.
Now he could put sound withmotion pictures! In 1913, Edison introduced the first talking moving pictures. Before photocopying machines were invented, Edison invented an electric”pen” which was really a puncturing device that rapidly punched holesin a sheet of waxed paper. A historian suggested this “pen” lookedlike a sewing machine. There were silly moments in the lab also. “Sometimesthey tried mixing chemicals that seemed foolish – coffee, eggs, sugaring, andmilking.
” (Allen pg. 45) His Abbott Pg. 5 lab held everything forexperimenting – whalebone, tortoise shell, elephant hide, and even the hair of aperson, a native Amazonian. “It is rumored that one of Edison’s friends saidthe lab storeroom even had the eyeballs of a US senator. ” (Denmark pg. 54)Most of these lab substances had no practical use, but a few did.
Edison usedrain-forest nuts to make phonograph needles. Japanese bamboo was used to makefilament (wire) for his light bulb. The hair of the Amazon was used for a wigfor the first talking doll. In the doll’s chest was hidden a tiny phonographspeaker. In 1915, Edison was appointed president of the U. S.
Navy ConsultingBoard. He believed that electricity would make weapons more powerful. He claimedto have made an explosive that would explode if yelled at. He invented anelectric torpedo. “Edison urged Congress to establish the Naval ResearchLaboratory in 1920. ” (Allen pg.
58) This was the first military researchlaboratory. For more than forty years, the laboratory created by Thomas AlvaEdison in West Orange, NJ, had enormous impact on the lives of millions ofpeople around the world. Edison’s last patented invention was a way to makemanmade rubber. The lab continued to invent things even after Edison died in1931. So to create a rough summary of Thomas Alva Edisons life would besimple. He was raised in a positive environment with lots of encouragement fromhis father.
And he made it possible for electronics to become an everyday partof our lives.