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The Biography Of An American Inventor And Businessman Thomas Edison

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Many of today’s most beneficial inventions like the light bulb and the phonograph would never exist if it wasn’t for the hard work of man. This biography explains the life story of a legendary pioneer who is doubtlessly known as the world’s greatest inventor today.

Birth/Early Life:

On February the 11th, 1847 the life of the seventh and last child of Samuel and Nancy Edison was about to commence in Milan, Ohio, USA. Born as Thomas Alva Edison,

he was often regarded as “a difficult child” at school due to his hyperactivity as a child. As a matter of fact, after only three months of education, he was pulled out of school by his mother, who was furious at the teachers’ remarks on Edison. From that day onwards, education ended up being brought up by his mother. Around the same time, Edison started developing grave auditory issues, due to a bout of scarlet fever and recurring untreated middle-ear infections.

Early Career:

As soon as Edison turned thirteen, he was sent to work; like his older brothers and sisters. He was sent to sell candies, newspapers and vegetables on trains running from Port Huron to Detroit. One day, while working at Mount Clemens Railway Station, he spotted a three-year-old boy named Jimmie Mackenzie on the railway. Meanwhile, there was a train coming so Edison ran and saved the child from being struck by the train. In return for his brave deed, Jimmie’s father, the station agent, offered Edison a position of a telegraph operator, in return for saving his son, Between 1863 and 1866, Edison worked as a telegraph operator at the Grand Trunk Railway in Ontario. While there, Edison produced his own newspaper article called The Grand Trunk Herald with the help of four assistants. In 1866, Edison moved to Louisville, Kentucky, Louisiana and worked as an employee for the Western Union Company. One night, while Edison was experimenting a lead-acid battery, he accidentally spilled sulfuric acid onto the in-betweens of the floorboards into the boss’ office below and predictably, he got fired the very next day. Shortly afterwards, Edison moved to Boston where he invented the electric vote recorder- a device that recorded votes.

Finding that his innovation was a complete failure, he decided to turn over a new leaf in New York. While looking for a job, he met Franklin Pope, a worker from the Gold Indicator Company. He permitted Edison to stay overnight in the battery room of the company. The next day, Edison stayed in the building and investigated the machines in the company. And the following one was his lucky day; there was a machine that sent important information to the Gold Exchange, but apparently, it stopped working. Edison helped to repair the machine. Dr Samuel Laws, from the Gold Exchange, found out what he did for his company and Laws offered him $300 to repair all the machine of theirs. Not long afterwards, the president of the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company heard of Edison’s work too, and he was asked once again to repair every single machine in the company! But this time he wasn’t offered 300; instead, he was offered $40 000!


Shortly afterwards, Edison moved to New Jersey, alongside Franklin Pope, and together, they opened up several telegraph companies. In 1870, a woman named Mary Stilwell was offered a position as an employee in one of Edison’s telegraph companies. Edison soon fell in love with her; the next year, the two went to Akron, Ohio and, Edison and Stilwell got married on Christmas Day. For the next five years of his life, Edison worked at Newark, New Jersey, manufacturing devices that would greatly enhance the speed and efficiency of the telegraph. During that period, the couple had their first child named Marion (nicknamed “Dot”) in 1873.

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In 1876, Edison established the first research and development facility in Menlo Park, in Middlesex County, New Jersey. In the same year, Mary had given birth to the couple’s second child, Thomas (nicknamed “Dash”). In 1877, the phonograph- a device which could play music. As a result, Edison was later dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park” by the press. Even though the sound quality and the number of recordings were limited, the invention of the phonograph was a legendary achievement.

After the invention of the phonograph, Edison and Mary had their third child, which they’d named William in 1878. In 1879, Edison invented one of the greatest inventions in mankind- the incandescent light bulb. After around 3000 designs, the first successful experiment on the light bulb occurred on October the 22nd, 1879, where the light lasted for 13.5 hours. At first, Edison decided to use carbon filament as the main element in his electrical light experiment, but later, he and his research team discovered a material which could supplant it: the carbonised bamboo filament. It was a material that was capable of lighting up the bulb for more than 1200 hours. In 1880, Edison founded the Edison Illuminating Company, a company that distributed power to edifices nearby and in 1882, he helped put 400 lights on the streets of Manhattan to homes, hospitals, offices and schools. Thus, New York was nicknamed as “The City That Never Sleeps”.

The success of the innovation brought Edison to a plentiful amount of eminence and wealth as it started to spread around the planet world.

Unfortunately, the success of the light bulb was impaired by the loss of his wife, Mary. On August 9th, 1884, the 29-old woman passed away due to unknown causes- possibly from a brain tumour or a morphine overdose. Edison later married 20-year old Mina Miller on the 24th of February, 1886 in Akron, Ohio. A few months later, Edison bought his new bride a 29-room mansion with 13.5 acres of land called Glenmont, in West Orange, New Jersey. In 1887, Edison erected a new research lab in West Orange, which was approximately ten times larger than the previous one. The couple later had two children; one named Madeleine in 1888 and one named Charles in 1890.

After the opening of Edison’s enormous laboratory, he started looking for ways to improve his original tin-foil phonograph. While working on the phonograph, he began working on a device which 'does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear”. In 1891, Edison invented what was called “the motion picture camera” with his employee, William Dickson. While Edison worked on the innovation itself, Dickson worked on the photographic and optical development of the camera. In 1893, Edison commenced on the commercial production of motion pictures in a peculiar-looking building named the “Black Maria”, which was known to be the first-ever motion picture studio. Concurrently, he invented the Kinetoscope, a device which enabled spectators to view silent films through a peep-hole one at a time. Over the years, Edison’s film studio produced more than 1200 films; among the first of these was The Great Train Robbery, filmed in 1903. In 1898, Thomas and Mina had their third child which they’d named Theodore. As the new century dawned, Edison began working on a lighter but more durable battery- the alkaline battery. Following that, he formed The Edison Storage Battery Company. Albeit the batteries were extremely scarce, they still came in handy for lighting up signs.

Later Years and Death:

Soon, the difficult times had come; in 1913, a big fire had destroyed thirteen of Edison’s buildings. Two years later, World War I had commenced in USA and Edison was appointed as the head of the Naval Consulting Board. He was requested to manufacture weapons for the army and the navy by the government. He agreed to assist them but he refused to manufacture anything that instilled harm or violence.

As the automobile industry grew, Henry Ford, a close friend of his, and the president of the Ford Motor Company, requested Edison to give him one of his batteries for his Model T. As the new decade dawned, he was asked again by Ford, alongside Harvey Firestone (another friend of Edison’s) to help them find an alternate source of rubber for their experiment on car tyres. Thereafter, Edison retired. As he began retiring, his health was beginning to decline too. Thus, at this point, Edison started spending more and more time with family and away from his laboratory. Sadly, on October the 18th, 1931, the life of the legendary pioneer tragically concluded due to a complication of diabetes. He was buried at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, Llewellyn Park, West Orange, New Jersey, behind his house.


Edison’s multiple inventions and accomplishments have made him a legend. Today, his name is used in multiple modern-day companies like Commonwealth Edison and Consolidated Edison and places like The Edison Memorial Tower. Edison had received 1093 US patents for his numerous revolutionary inventions during his years as an inventor and thus, from this day on, Thomas Alva Edison will always be recognised as the all-time greatest inventor.

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The Biography Of An American Inventor And Businessman Thomas Edison. (2022, February 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“The Biography Of An American Inventor And Businessman Thomas Edison.” Edubirdie, 27 Feb. 2022,
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