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Thoms Alva Edison

Thoms Alva Edison




  • Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. He was the youngest of seven children of Samuel and Nancy Edison.
  • His father was an exiled political activist from Canada, while his mother was an accomplished school teacher and a major influence in Edison’s early life.
  • In 1854, Edison’s family moved to Port Huron, Michigan, where he 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 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, Edison began publishing his own small newspaper, called the Grand Trunk Herald.


  • The up-to-date articles were a hit with passengers.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 Edison 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.


  • By age 15, he had learned enough to be employed as a telegraph operator. 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. He developed an unrestricted style of thinking and inquiry, proving things to himself through objective examination and experimentation.


  • 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.


  • In 1869, at 22 years old, Edison moved to New York City and developed his first invention, an improved stock ticker called 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. With this success, he quit his work as a telegrapher to devote himself full-time to inventing.
  • In 1870, he 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 products for the highest bidder.
  • 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.
  • In 1876, Edison moved his expanding operations to Menlo Park, New Jersey, and built an independent industrial research facility incorporating machine shops and laboratories.


  • In December of 1877, Edison developed a method for recording sound: the phonograph.
  • While Edison was not the inventor of the first light bulb, he came up with the technology that helped bring it to the masses.
  • Edison was driven to perfect a commercially practical, efficient incandescent light bulb following English inventor Humphry Davy’s invention of the first early electric arc lamp in the early 1800s.


  • After buying Woodward and Evans’ patent and making improvements in his design, Edison was granted a patent for his own improved light bulb in 1879.
  • In January 1880, Edison set out to develop a company that would deliver the electricity to power and light the cities of the world.
  • That same year, Edison founded the Edison Illuminating Company—the first investor-owned electric utility—which later became General Electric.


  • In 1887, Edison built an industrial research laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, which served as the primary research laboratory for the Edison lighting companies.
  • He spent most of his time there, supervising the development of lighting technology and power systems. He also perfected the phonograph, and developed the motion picture camera and the alkaline storage battery.
  • On April 23, 1896, Edison became the first person to project a motion picture, holding the world’s first motion picture screening at Koster & Bial’s Music Hall in New York City.


  • Edison designed a battery for the self-starter on the Model T for friend and admirer Henry Ford in 1912. The system was used extensively in the auto industry for decades.
  • During World War I, the U.S. government asked Edison to head the Naval Consulting Board, which examined inventions submitted for military use. Edison worked on several projects, including submarine detectors and gun-location techniques.
  • Edison died on October 18, 1931, from complications of diabetes in his home, Glenmont, in West Orange, New Jersey. He was 84 years old.


  • During his lifetime, Edison received 1,093 U.S. patents and filed an additional 500 to 600 that were unsuccessful or abandoned.
  • He executed his first patent for his Electrographic VoteRecorder on October 13, 1868, at the age of 21. His last patent was for an apparatus for holding objects during the electroplating process.


  • Edison became embroiled in a longstanding rivalry with Nikola Tesla, an engineering visionary with academic training who worked with Edison’s company for a time.
  • The two parted ways in 1885 and would publicly clash in the “War of the Currents” about the use of direct current electricity, which Edison favored, vs. alternating currents, which Tesla championed.


  • On December 25, 1871, at the age of 24, Edison married 16-year-old Mary Stilwell (1855–1884).They had three children:Marion Estelle Edison,Thomas Alva Edison Jr. William Leslie Edison.
  • Mary Edison died at age 29 on August 9, 1884.On February 24, 1886, at the age of thirty-nine, Edison married the 20-year-old Mina Miller.
  • They also had three children together: Madeleine Edison,Charles Edison (1890–1969), Governor of New Jersey(1941–1944), who took over his father’s company and experimental laboratories upon his father’s death.Theodore Miller Edison.