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Thomas Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931). American-born entrepreneur, scientist and inventor, known for creating the electric light bulb and bringing electricity to dozens of homes.
He is also listed as one of the most prosperous entrepreneurs in his country, where he is credited with contributing to the Economy, being considered a national hero and one of the most influential men in history.
He was born in Milan, Ohio, United States, on February 11, 1847, to a very poor family, the youngest of seven children of Samuel Edison and his wife, Nancy Edison, who was a schoolteacher. As a child, she was infected with scarlet fever, a disease that some historians believe was responsible for her hearing loss, which was total in her regard.
He began his studies at port Huron Public School in Michigan, where the family had moved since 1854. At three months his mother had to withdraw it, due to learning problems, which have been listed by some researchers as a possible Attention Deficit Disorder or some mild type of autism. He was homeschooled. Before long he developed an exciting taste for reading, and created a system of self-teaching.
When he turned 12, he began selling newspapers on the railway line, creating his own diary, which he named grand Trunk Herald. He also took advantage of his access to trains, to install a small chemical experiment laboratory in a luggage car. However, he caused a fire, which caused him to be ejected from the train, and forced to sell newspapers at the station, in order to pay for the damage.
One day, he saved a three-year-old boy from being hit by a train. In gratitude, the infant’s father taught him how to handle a telegraph. Edison learned quickly. At the age of 15, he served as a traveling telegraphist, across the Midwest.
At age 19, he began working for The Associated Press in Kentucky. However, the telegraph’s technology evolved, either migrating from a text inscribed on paper to Morse key sounds, leaving Edison unable to continue in the business, due to his hearing impairment. In 1868, he returned to Ohio.
Beginnings as an inventor
Upon returning, he discovered that his family was living in great needs, then went to Boston, where he got a position at the Western Union.
A year later, he moved to New York, where he invented a quote board, which greatly impressed Gold merchants and the Telegraph Company, who bought him the rights for $40,000. At the age of 22, Edison quit his job and decided to pursue the profession of inventor. He moved to New Jersey, where he opened a workshop and hired several assistants. He quickly managed to bring his innovations as well as his talent to market.
In 1871, he married one of his employees, Maria Stlwell, who was just 16 years old, and with whom he had three children, Marion, Thomas and Willian. By this time, Thomas Edison was already a renowned inventor. In 1876, he decided to move within the same state of New Jersey to Menlo Park, where he opened a major industrial laboratory.
Months later he was hired by the Western Union to improve Alexander Graham Bell’s phone, Edison added a microphone to the device, making the speaker not have to scream. In 1877, he invented the phonograph, which however was not commercialized until the next decade.
The Edison illuminating company
In 1880 he patented the electric light bulb, and the idea of bringing electric light to all homes was drawn up. He created the Edison Illuminating Company, which later held the General Electric Corporation in the hands of investors. A year later, it toured the United States, installing its electrical systems across the country.
In 1882, the station installed on Pearl Street was able to provide electrical power, from 110 volts, to 59 houses in lower Manhatan. In 1884, his wife Maria died. Two years later, Edison married an 18-year-old girl named Mina Miller. In 1887, he set up an industrial laboratory in West Orange to further study how to improve electrical technology. At the time, he invented a motion picture camera and alkaline battery.
However, it did not fully adapt to the magnitude of his company or to the academically trained engineers, which he apparently felt somed. In 1885, he engaged in a confrontation with Nikola Tesla, an engineer who worked for a time with him, in favor of the use of direct current as opposed to alternating current, defended by Telsa.
In his concern to warn people about the risks of alternating current, he went so far as to electrocute animals publicly.
Other inventions and final years
On April 23, 1896, he became the first to screen a moving film. He also developed a battery for an electric car, as well as a battery for automatic start-up, which was implemented by the automotive industry for years.
During World War I he was requested by the United States Government to develop weapons, however he invented only defensive weapons, on the grounds that he would not invent weapons to kill.
From the 1920s on, he settled with his wife in Florida, where he devoted himself to several major projects such as the development of electric trains. On 18 October 1931, he died at the age of 84. Hundreds of citizens and businesses around the world turned off their lights for a minute, in honor of a man who with his inventiveness forever transformed the world.
Image source: businessinsider.com.au
July 27, 2019