Bittersweet childhood and early years….
Born in Milan, Ohio, little “Al” Edison did not learn to talk until he was almost four, but when he finally started talking he was continuously asking questions about how everything that he encountered worked. It was not surprising, that when Edison went to school, his restlessness and curiosity quickly tired his teachers, who considered the boy to be “addled (unable to think clearly)”.
After three months of official schooling, Edison’s mother got fed up of the teachers’ attitude, started herself teaching her his son at home. Edison liked to read and soon surpassed his peers in intellect and education. By at the age of 12, Al started his first job, selling newspapers, snacks, candy and vegetables at the local railway station. When he was 14 he developed hearing problems. Ultimately, he became totally deaf in his left ear, and approximately 80% deaf in his right ear. This made it impossible for him to acquire knowledge in a typical educational setting, forever depriving him of possibility of going to college.
Courage gave new opportunity…
One day while travelling by train, Edison saw a 3-year-old boy wandering on the tracks, unaware of an oncoming boxcar. Without thinking, he grabbed the boy and they both tumbled away from the oncoming wheels. The boy’s father turned out to be the Station master. To repay Edison for his courage, he took the youngster under his wing and taught him how to use the ‘telegraph’, which was then considered to be state-of-the-art technology! From 1862 to 1868, Edison worked as a roving telegrapher in the Midwest, the South, Canada and New England. During this time, he began developing a telegraphs repeating instrument that made it possible to transmit messages automatically.
Another one of those life changing events:
In 1869, New York greeted penniless and in-debt Edison with gloomy weather and ever-busy people. During his third week in “the big apple” city, Al was on the verge of starving to death. His bad luck changed suddenly. When walking down the street he saw the Manager of ‘Gold & Stock Telegraph Company’ in total panic, because the critically important stock-ticker apparatus in his office had just broken down. No one was able to fix it, but Edison was able to fix it and 10 minutes later the device began to run properly. Ecstatic, the office manager immediately offered Edison a job as electrician for a salary of $300.00 per month. This seemed like a fortune to a boy, who for the past three weeks had been sleeping in basements and begging for food.
The “Wizard of Menlo Park”! :
During this time Edison continued to work on his ideas, developing his first successful inventions: the duplex telegraph and an improved version of stock ticker, which he called the “Universal Stock Printer”. For these and some related inventions Edison was paid $40,000. He immediately paid back the $35 he had borrowed from his friend, sent some money home to help his family and used rest of the money to set up his first small laboratory in Newark, New Jersey, and worked on quadruplex telegraph.
Five years later to reduce financial costs, Edison and his two associates, Charles Batchelor and John Kruesi moved to a new laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
Here Edison achieved his greatest success, inventing the carbon telephone transmitter “button” (still used in telephone speakers and microphones) and the tinfoil phonograph for which Edison became known as the “Wizard of Menlo Park”
Contrary to what many believe, Edison was not the first inventor of the light bulb. Several designs and prototypes had already been developed by earlier inventors. But all of these early bulbs had different flaws, ranging from an extremely short life to the high electric current drawn, making them expensive to produce and difficult to apply on a large scale.
In 1879, after many experiments with platinum and other metal filaments, Edison returned to use of a carbon filament. He first publicly demonstrated his incandescent electric light bulb which lit for more than 40 hours. What Edison did was to perfect the already existing models of light bulbs.
In 1882, he supervised the installation of the first commercial, central power system to distribute electricity, which was essential to capitalize on the invention of the electric lamp.
Edison officially became a folk hero and a role model of the rags-to-riches American dream. He was courted by publicity, admired by his fellow scientists and teased by his friends for his ability to catnap anywhere. By the time he was in his mid 30’s, Edison was said to be the best-known American in the world!
In 1884, Edison began construction on a new laboratory and research facility in West Orange, New Jersey. The new lab employed approximately 60 workers and Edison attempted to personally manage this large staff. During his time in West Orange, Edison produced the commercial phonograph, the Kinetoscope, the Edison storage battery, the mimeograph, the electric pen, and the microtasimeter.
In all, Edison patented over 1,000 discoveries both in the U.S. and Europe, founded 14 companies, including General Electric and became an icon of the self-made man.
During the last years of his life Edison slowed down a little and started to dedicate more time to his family. Thomas Alva Edison died in West Orange, New Jersey, but he will always be remembered as a man who, more than any other laid the basis for the technological and social revolution of the modern electric world.
Thomas Edison Quotes:
1. “What you are will show in what you do.”
2. “The three things that are most essential to achievement are common sense, hard work and stick-to-it-iv-ness.”
3. “Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
4. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
5. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
6. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”