The Achievements of Thomas Edison

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Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, on February 11, 1847.

Surprisingly, he did not start speaking until he was almost four years old.

In school, he often daydreamed, leading his teacher to label him as mentally slow.

Because of these comments, Edison’s mother decided to homeschool him.

Move to Michigan and Early Jobs

In 1854, Edison’s family moved to Port Huron, Michigan.

There, young Edison sold candy and newspapers on trains.

He later became a telegraph operator after heroically saving the daughter of a station agent from an oncoming train.

This skill led him to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1866, where he worked for Western Union.

Innovations in Telegraphy

Starting in 1872, Edison focused on improving the quadraplex telegraph system, which allowed telegraphs to send and receive four signals simultaneously on the same wire.

While not a completely new invention, Edison’s work was an improvement on the duplex system created by Moses G. Farmer and Joseph Stearns.

The Phonograph

Edison’s first notable invention was the phonograph in 1877.

Contrary to popular belief, this device was not a precursor to the record player but recorded sound on cylinders for voice recording purposes.

It was the gramophone that later recorded on discs and evolved into the record player as we know it today.

Electric Light and the War of the Currents

Though Edison did not invent the first electric light bulb, he created the first commercially practical incandescent light.

He acquired the patent for the first light bulb and improved it.

Later, he encountered Joseph Wilson Swan, who had developed and patented a working light bulb.

Edison made Swan a partner and eventually bought out his patent, securing full ownership.

In 1880, Edison patented a system for electrical distribution to capitalize on his electric lamps, using direct current (DC).

However, DC had its limitations.

When these became apparent, Edison launched a propaganda campaign to promote DC over alternating current (AC).

This led to the famous “War of the Currents” with Nikola Tesla, who had developed a more efficient AC power generator.

Eventually, AC proved to be the superior system for transmitting power.

Motion Picture Camera

In 1888, Edison began working on inventing a motion picture camera.

While he had minimal involvement in the actual invention, his assistant developed the kinetoscope and the kinetograph.

These devices allowed moving images to be recorded and viewed through a peephole.

Some early films included a man performing tricks on a bicycle and two cats boxing.

Concrete Furniture

One of Edison’s lesser-known ventures was his attempt to create concrete furniture.

This idea stemmed from a failed project to build concrete houses.

Edison used what he claimed was lightweight foam concrete to manufacture various home furnishings.

However, when these items were shipped out for display, many arrived broken, leading Edison to abandon this line of products.

Beliefs and Legacy

Contrary to popular belief, Edison was not an atheist.

His spiritual and religious beliefs were a mix of pantheism and deism.

While Edison rarely invented entirely new breakthroughs, he was adept at improving existing ideas and capitalizing on them.

His numerous patents often represented modifications of already existing concepts, showcasing his exceptional business acumen.

Thomas Edison passed away on October 18, 1931, from complications of diabetes.

Although many lesser-known inventors have made more significant contributions, Edison undeniably had a substantial impact on the world.

His story is a testament to his ability to enhance and commercialize existing technologies, leaving a lasting legacy.


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