Some Famous Scientists in History

Thomas Edison at age 14 was selling candy on trains.

Thomas Edison – Inventor
Student News Net staff

Thomas Edison was granted 1,093 patents for his inventions – the most ever issued to an inventor in the United States. He is most famous for inventing the light bulb but his very first patent was for a vote-recording machine that in the end, nobody would purchase. After that, Edison decided he would only work on inventions people wanted. He brought the world the motion picture camera, the phonograph and the alkaline electric battery to name just a few.

THOMAS EDISON was born in Milan, Ohio, on Feb. 11, 1847. He was raised in Ohio and Michigan. At age seven, after spending only three months in the classroom, Edison's teacher and principal decided that, because of his constant questioning about how everything worked, he was "retarded." His mother strongly disagreed and took him out of school to begin teaching him herself.

At age 12, Edison went to work selling newspapers, snacks and candy on the railroad. He often spent his free time experimenting with chemicals. One day, he accidentally set the baggage car on fire. After that, he was only allowed to sell papers at railroad stations.

One day, the stationmaster's child wandered onto the tracks in front of an oncoming boxcar. Edison leaped onto the tracks and pulled the boy to safety. As a reward, the boy's father taught Edison Morse code and the basics of the telegraph. It would be the start of Edison’s long career inventing better ways to communicate and improving day-to-day life for all people.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), Edison worked as a replacement for one of the thousands of telegraph operators who had become soldiers.

Edison left home and did a lot of traveling after the war. Meanwhile, he worked in the telegraph offices of several cities throughout the country.

In 1868, he left his job in Richmond, Virginia and moved to Boston where he became a telegrapher with the Western Union Co.

That same year, he patented his first invention, an electric vote-recording machine. He wanted to sell it to politicians but they did not want such a quick record of the vote. After that, Edison focused his attention on inventing things he was sure people would want to buy.

In 1869, he moved to New York City, where he worked as a technician and made several improvements on the stock-ticker. He was surprised when a corporation offered him $40,000 for its patent rights.

Edison married Mary Stilwell in 1871 on Christmas Day and true to his intense work ethic, returned to his laboratory after the ceremony to continue working on a stock ticker. He often slept in his lab and would work on inventions for days at a time without leaving his lab.

In 1872, Edison’s first daughter was born and was nicknamed “Dot” after the Morse Code. When his first son was born in 1876, his nickname was “Dash” so Edison now had a “Dot” and a “Dash” at home as well as at work!

Edison opened his own laboratory in 1875 in Newark, N.J., with the profits he received from the sale of a company that held several of his patents.

His next major invention was the carbon transmitter, which finally made Alexander Graham Bell's telephone practical for public use.

In 1876, Edison moved his laboratory to Menlo Park, N.J., where he invented the first phonograph in 1877 and the model of the first electric light bulb in 1879. These inventions, along with several others, earned him the reputations of "the wizard of Menlo Park" and the "father of the electrical age."

In 1887, Edison set up the world's first research and development laboratory in West Orange, N.J. By 1888, the operation contained the largest scientific testing laboratory in the world.

By the late 1880s, Edison was involved in developing the first silent motion pictures. And by 1912, he was experimenting with talking pictures.

During this period, he also invented and developed the first storage battery that was considered "practical." He also invented a dictaphone and mimeograph machine.

Many consider Edison's most important contribution to the world to be the invention of the first system of creating and distributing light from a central source. This made electric light and power affordable to all classes of people.

In 1892, his Edison General Electric Co. merged with another firm to become the General Electric Company (GE), now a worldwide company producing medical equipment, home appliances, light bulbs and airplane engines as well as a host of other products. GE also owns the NBC television network.

During World War I, Edison conducted research for the U.S. military on such items as the submarine and the periscope.

During the 1930's, Henry Ford moved Edison's original Menlo Park laboratory to the Greenfield Village museum in Dearborn, Mich., where it can still be seen today. His laboratory and home in West Orange, N.J., were made a national historic site in 1962.

Edison died at age 84 in New Jersey with 1,093 patents to his name. At the time of his death, many communities all over the world turned off their lights for a moment to honor his memory.

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