Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison is regarded as one of the greatest inventors of all time. He was born in Milan, Ohio on February 11, 1847. Raised in Port Huron, Michigan, Edison developed a hearing problem when he was young. He could not perform well at school and was often teased by the other kids. He was eventually pulled out of the school and his mother decided to teach him herself. Edison was fond of studying and experimenting. At the age of 13, he started selling newspapers, he learned how to use a telegraph as well. At the age of 16, he started working as a full time telegrapher!
Edison moved to New York city in 1869. An improved stock ticker called the Universal Stock Printer was built by him – his first successful invention. The Universal Stock Printer earned him $40,000. He moved to Newwark, New Jersey in 1871. He used the money he made from the Universal Stock Printer for building his first laboratory. He met Mary Stiwell in Newark and got married to her. A factory was built by him in Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1876. That was the first private research lab in the whole of the United States.
Phonograph was invented by Edison in 1877. A phonograph is basically a machine which can record and play back sounds. While trying to improve the efficiency of a telegraph transmitter, Edison noticed that the tape of the transmitter produced a noise resembling speech when it was played at rather high speeds. This made him wonder whether he could record a telephone message. He started experimenting by attaching a needle to the diaphragm of a telephone receiver. He assumed the needle would prick paper and record a message. Finally, he used a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder. He could successfully record and playback “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. The phonograph had made Thomas Edison famous. He was invited to the White House for demonstrating the phonograph to president Rutherford B. Hayes in April 1878.
The first practical electric bulb was made by Edison in 1879. He soon invented a lighting system comprising a parallel circuit, durable light bulb, a better dynamo, underground conductor network, and devices for maintaining constant voltage. It also contained safety fuses, insulating materials, and light sockets with on/off switches. The first commercial power station was opened by Thomas Edison on September 4, 1882. Built in Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, the plant provided electricity for homes within 1 square mile.
His wife died in 1884. Edison married Mina Miller in February 1886. The couple purchased a new estate for them to live in West Orange, New Jersey. Edison lived there until he died.
He built a lab at West Orange which opened in November 1887. The five-building laboratory turned out to be the most advanced, the largest and the best-equipped laboratory. The main building which was 3-stories tall had a power plant, machine shops, stock rooms, and a library. There were four 1-story buildings perpendicular to the main buildings; comprising physics lab, chemistry lab, pattern shop and chemical storage. Until his death, Edison worked at this lab.
Edison brought his electric companies together in 1889 to form Edison General Electric. However, he never controlled the company. In 1892, Edison General Electric merged with Thompson-Houston. With the merger, Edison General Electric became General Electric.
Thomas Edison invented a machine for recording and playing motion pictures in his lab in West Orange. He started to commercially produce movies in 1893. Going ahead, he started developing an alkaline battery in 1899. It took him 10 years to finally develop a practical battery – his most profitable product.
He bid adieu to the world on October 18, 1931. He had 1,093 patents in his entire life.
He once said “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”