Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor, scientist, and businessman, who is widely regarded as one of the most important figures of the second industrial revolution. Born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio, he was the youngest of seven children in his family. His parents were Samuel Ogden Edison Jr., a Canadian-born political activist, and Nancy Matthews Elliott, a school teacher.
Edison was homeschooled by his mother until the age of 12, after which he started working as a newsboy and telegraph operator. He had a thirst for knowledge and was constantly experimenting with new ideas. In his early career, Edison worked as a telegrapher, where he gained experience in electrical and mechanical technology.
Edison's most famous invention was the incandescent light bulb, which he patented in 1879. He is also credited with inventing the phonograph, motion picture camera, and many other devices that transformed modern life. Edison was awarded 1,093 patents for his inventions, making him one of the most prolific inventors in history.
Edison was married twice and had six children. He first married Mary Stilwell in 1871, and they had three children together. However, Mary died in 1884, and Edison remarried Mina Miller in 1886, with whom he had three more children.
Edison was known for his relentless work ethic, often working up to 18 hours a day. He had a reputation for being a tough boss, and his employees had to sign strict confidentiality agreements to work for him. However, he was also a philanthropist and donated generously to charities and educational institutions.
Edison died on October 18, 1931, in West Orange, New Jersey, at the age of 84. He had been suffering from diabetes and other health issues for several years before his death. Despite his passing, his legacy lives on, and his inventions continue to shape the modern world.
Thomas Edison had a keen interest in science and technology from a young age, and his mother encouraged his curiosity by letting him conduct experiments in their home. He was also an avid reader, and he reportedly read every book in his local library by the age of 12. Edison's formal education was limited, as he was deemed difficult to teach by his teachers and was eventually homeschooled by his mother.
In 1869, Edison moved to New York City to work for Western Union, where he developed an improved stock ticker machine that made him a considerable amount of money. He used this money to set up his own laboratory and workshop, where he could work on his inventions without the constraints of corporate employment.
Edison's most significant breakthrough came in 1877 when he invented the phonograph, a device that could record and reproduce sound. He later improved on this invention by creating the first commercially viable recording cylinder.
In 1879, Edison invented the incandescent light bulb, which was a revolutionary invention that replaced gas lighting and allowed for the development of electric power plants. Edison's work on the light bulb also led to the development of the first electric utility company in the United States.
In addition to his inventions, Edison was also a successful businessman. He founded the Edison Machine Works in 1880, which produced many of his inventions and was one of the largest manufacturing facilities of its time. He also founded the Edison Electric Illuminating Company in 1882, which provided electricity to customers in New York City.
Despite his numerous achievements, Edison faced many setbacks and failures throughout his career. He famously tested over 3,000 different materials for use as a filament in his light bulb before settling on carbonized bamboo. He also famously quipped that he had not failed in his experiments but had found "10,000 ways that won't work."
Edison's personal life was also marked by tragedy. His first wife, Mary, died from a brain tumor in 1884, and Edison was devastated by her death. He reportedly threw himself into his work to cope with his grief. He later remarried Mina Miller, and the couple had three children together.
Edison's legacy as an inventor and businessman continues to be celebrated today, and his impact on modern technology cannot be overstated. He is often referred to as the "Wizard of Menlo Park," a nod to the New Jersey town where his laboratory was located.