Thomas Edison, America’s greatest inventor and one of its foremost entrepreneurs in the 19th century, developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera.
But he’s most probably known best for being the first to create a long-lasting and practical electric light bulb, and was thus dubbed ‘The Father of The Light Bulb’.
Also called “The Wizard of Menlo Park”, Edison was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention.
He is also known for creating the first industrial research laboratory.
Holding nearly 1,100 U.S. patents in his name, as well as many more in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, Edison was a prolific inventor.
Christened as Thomas Alva Edison, he was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio, as the seventh and last child to Samuel Ogden Edison, Jr. and Nancy Matthews Elliott. He grew up in Port Huron, Michigan.
Edison only attended school for a few months and ended up being taught by his mother. Much of his education came from reading R.G. Parker’s School of Natural Philosophy and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
Despite developing hearing problems at an early age, he didn’t let that impair his growth. In his first few jobs, he sold candy and newspapers on trains running from Port Huron to Detroit, and also vegetables on the streets.
He later worked as a telegraph operator. He obtained the exclusive right to sell newspapers on the road, and, with the help of four assistants, printed the Grand Trunk Herald, which he sold with other papers.
Thus began his long streak of entrepreneurial ventures, as he discovered his talents as a businessman. It eventually led him to found 14 companies, including General Electric, which remains one of the world’s largest publicly traded companies.
Edison’s businesses, patents and inventions eventually had widespread impact on the world.
His work spawned the electric light and power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures — all of which established major new industries worldwide.
His inventions also contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications. They included a stock ticker, a mechanical vote recorder, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures.
Edison married 16-year-old Mary Stilwell in 1871 and they had three children together.
He died on October 18, 1931, of complications related to diabetes and was buried behind his home in West Orange, New Jersey.
Awards Won By Edison:
1887: Matteucci Medal.
1890: Elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
1899: Edward Longstreth Medal of The Franklin Institute.
1908: American Association of Engineering Societies John Fritz Medal.
1915: Franklin Medal of The Franklin Institute.
1920: United States Navy Distinguished Service Medal.
1923: The American Institute of Electrical Engineers’ Edison Medal
1928: Congressional Gold Medal.
— Compiled from various sources