Thomas Alva Edison Biography - The Edison Papers

"He led no armies into battle, he conquered no countries, and he enslaved no peoples..
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Thomas Edison, 1847-1931: America's Great Inventor

And if that wasn't enough to forever seal his unequaled importance in technological history, he came up with an invention that - in terms of its collective affect upon mankind - has had more impact than any other. In 1883 and 1884, while beating a path from his research lab to the patent office, he introduced the world's first economically viable system of centrally generating and distributing electric light, heat, and power. (See "") Powerfully, instrumental in impacting upon the world we know today, even his harshest critics grant that it was a Herculean achievement that only he was capable of bringing about at this specific point in history.

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Edison Biography - Thomas Edison

In 1887, Edison built an industrial research laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, that remained unsurpassed until the twentieth century. For four years it was the primary research facility for the Edison lighting companies, and Edison spent most of his time on that work. In 1888 and 1889, he concentrated for several months on a new version of the phonograph that recorded on wax cylinders.

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It should come as no surprise that, during his free time, Edison soon resumed his habit of "moonlighting" with the telegraph, the quadruplex transmitter, the stock-ticker, etc. Shortly thereafter, he was absolutely astonished - in fact he nearly fainted - when a corporation paid him $40,000 for all of his rights to the latter device.

Convinced that no bank would honor the large check he was given for it, which was the first "real" money he had ever received for an invention, young Edison walked around for hours in a stupor, staring at it in amazement. Fearful that someone would steal it, he laid the cash out on his bed and stayed up all night, counting it over and over in disbelief. The next day a wise friend told him to deposit it in a bank forthwith and to just forget about it for a while.


A few weeks later, Edison wrote a series of poignant letters back home to his father: "How is mother getting along?... I am now in a position to give you some cash... Write and say how much....Give mother anything she wants...." Interestingly, It was at this time that he also repaid Bredding the $35.00 he had borrowed earlier.

Over the next three years, Edison's progress in creating successful inventions for industry really took off.... For example, in 1874 - with the money he received from the sale of an electrical engineering firm that held several of his patents - he opened his first complete testing and development laboratory in Newark, New Jersey.


At age 29, he commenced work on the carbon transmitter, which ultimately made Alexander Graham Bell's amazing new "articulating" telephone (which by today's standards sounded more like someone trying to talk through a kazoo than a telephone) audible enough for practical use. Interestingly, at one point during this intense period, Edison was as close to inventing the telephone as Bell was to inventing the phonograph. Nevertheless, shortly after Edison moved his laboratory to Menlo Park, N.J. in 1876, he invented - in 1877 - the first phonograph.

In 1879, extremely disappointed by the fact that Bell had beaten him in the race to patent the first authentic transmission of the human voice, Edison now "one upped" all of his competition by inventing the first commercially practical incandescent electric light bulb...


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Thomas Alva Edison - Meet Amazing Americans | …

Noting that no one in the crowd that had gathered around the defective machine seemed to have a clue on how to fix it, he elbowed his way into the scene and grasped a momentary opportunity to have a go at addressing what was wrong himself.... Luckily, since he had been sleeping in the basement of the building for a few days - and doing quite a bit of snooping around - he already had a pretty good idea of what the device was supposed to do.

After spending a few seconds confirming exactly how the stock ticker was intended to work in the first place, Tom reached down and manipulated a loose spring back to where it belonged. To everyone's amazement, except Tom's, the device began to run perfectly.

The office manager was so ecstatic, he made an on-the-spot decision to hire Edison to make all such repairs for the busy company for a salary of $300.00 per month.... This was not only more than what his pal Benjamin Bredding was making back in Boston but twice the going rate for a top electrician in New York City. Later in life, Edison recalled that the incident was more euphoric than anything he ever experienced in his life because it made him feel as though he had been "suddenly delivered out of abject poverty and into prosperity."

Thomas Edison National Historical Park (U.S. National …

Edison’s lamp would consist of a filament housed in a glass vacuum bulb. He had his own glass blowing shed where the fragile bulbs were carefully crafted for his experiments. Edison was trying to come up with a high resistance system that would require far less electrical power than was used for the arc lamps. This could eventually mean small electric lights suitable for home use.

Thomas Edisons Inventions | Thomas Edison Muckers

During the third week after arriving in "the big apple" Tom (seen left) was purportedly "on the verge of starving to death." At this precipitous juncture, one of the most amazing coincidences in the annals of technological history now began to unfold. Immediately after having begged a cup of tea from a street vendor, Tom began to meander through some of the offices in New |York's financial district. Observing that the manager of a local brokerage firm was in a panic, he eventually determined that a critically important stock-ticker in his office had just broken down....