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Biography of Thomas Edison | Inventor of the modern era

Considered the greatest inventor of the modern era, his discoveries improved the living conditions of millions of people.
Thomas Alva Edison, the youngest of four brothers, was born on February 11, 1847 in Milan, a small town in Ohio where his father, Samuel Edison, had established six years earlier. His father had to abruptly abandon Canada as a result of a rebellion against the English in which took part and which ended in failure. Marginalized by the railroad, activity in Milan was gradually declining, and the crisis has affected the family Edison, who had to migrate back to a more prosperous place when his son Thomas had already reached the age of seven years.
The new place of residence was Port Huron, Michigan, where the future inventor attended school for the first time. This was a very brief experience: lasted only three months, after which he was expelled from classrooms, claiming his teacher the lack of interest and a blunder more than manifest, these behaviors which was not beyond a partial deafness that contracted as a sequela of an attack of scarlet fever. His mother, Nancy Elliot, who had worked as a teacher before marrying, took hereinafter education of young benjamin of the family, task that played with no little talent, since managed to inspire in him that curiosity without limits that would be the most remarkable feature of his career throughout his life.

Thomas Alva Edison
Fulfilled the ten years, the small Thomas set up his first laboratory in the basement of his parent's House and he learned only the rudiments of chemistry and electricity. But at the age of twelve, Edison realized that he could exploit not only his creative capacity, but also their acute practical sense. So, not to mention his passion for experiments, considered that it was in their hand win cash materializing some of their good occurrences.
His first initiative was to sell newspapers and trinkets on the train making the trip from Port Huron to Detroit. The civil war had erupted and travelers were eager for news. Edison persuaded the Telegraph of the railway line so that they expose on the bulletin boards of holders brief stations on the development of the contest, not forgetting to add to the foot full details appeared in the newspapers; those newspapers sold the own Edison on the train and there is no saying that they removed from the hands.
At the same time, it bought unceasingly scientific journals, books and equipment, and became the carriage of luggage of the convoy in a new laboratory. He learned how to Telegraph and, after obtaining low-priced and second hand print press, began to publish a newspaper on their own, the Weekly Herald. One night, while he was working on his experiments, a little spilled phosphorus caused a fire in the car. The driver of the train and the reviewer managed to put out the fire and then thrown by windows print supplies, bottles and the thousand pots packed the van. All the laboratory and up to the own inventor were to stop on the road. Thus ended the first business of Thomas Alva Edison.
The young Edison was only sixteen years old when he decided to leave home to their parents. The town in which he lived was already too small. Not lacking initiative, was launched in search of new horizons. Fortunately, he spoke perfectly the telegraph office and the civil war had left many vacancies, so, it was where it was, it would be easy to find work.
During the next five years, Edison led a wandering life, from village to village, with occasional jobs. It is housed in squalid pension and invested everything earned in the acquisition of books and apparatuses to experience, totally disregarding his personal appearance. From Michigan to Ohio, from there to Indianapolis, then Cincinnati, and a few months later Memphis, having gone before through Tennessee.
His next work was in Boston, as a Telegrapher on the night shift. He arrived there in 1868, and shortly after twenty-one years could do the work of the British scientist Michael Faraday Experimental Researches in Electricity, whose reading him very positively influenced. Until then, it had only earned fame have certain magical gift that allowed him to easily fix any damaged appliance. Now, Faraday provided the method to channel all their inventive genius. It became more orderly and disciplined, and since then acquired the habit of carrying a notebook, always ready to point any idea or fact that you claim your attention.
Convinced that his professional goal was the invention, Edison abandoned work was and decided to become a freelance inventor, registering its first patent in 1868. It was an electric counter of votes that gave to the Congress, but members of the House called the device superfluous. The American inventor never forgot this lesson: an invention, above all, should be necessary.

Edison in 1878
Without a real pocket, Edison arrived in New York in 1869. A friend gave him accommodation in the basement of the Gold Indicator Co., office briefly transmitting to subscribers of the New York Stock Exchange quotes. Shortly after his arrival, the transmitter unit is damaged, which caused no little stir, and he volunteered to repair it, succeeding with amazing ease. In reward, was entrusted the technical maintenance of all services of the company.
But as not interested in sedentary jobs, she took the first opportunity which arose to work again on its own. He soon received commissioned by the Western Union Telegraph Company more important then. Called you to build an effective printer quote in stock market values. His response to this challenge was his first great invention: Edison Universal Stock Printer. He was offered by the unit $40,000, amount that finally allowed him to lay his head. Married in 1871 to Mary Stilwell, with whom he had two sons and a daughter, and installed a small but well-equipped workshop in Newark, New York, where he continued to experiment in the Telegraph in search of new developments and applications. His greatest contribution in this field was the system Quad, allowing to transmit four telegraph messages simultaneously by a single line, two in one direction and two in another.

The Menlo Park laboratory

But soon was raised Edison a real Research Center building, a 'factory of inventions', as he called it, with laboratory, library, workshops and homes for him and his collaborators, in order to perform no matter what investigations, while they were practices, as they were custom-made or by pure self-interest. Financial resources were not missing and required by the proportions of their projects. It looked for a quiet area on the outskirts of New York until he found a farm uninhabited in the village of Menlo Park. It was the place chosen to build its new headquarters, the first laboratory of research in the world, where would out inventions that were to change the customs of much of the planet's inhabitants.
Settled there in 1876 (was then twenty-eight years old), and immediately got to work. The search for a satisfactory telephone dialer claimed his attention. He invented by Alexander G. Bell, although theoretically well-designed, generated a current so weak that it did not serve for general applications. I knew that particles of graphite, according to remain more or less tight, influenced on the electrical resistance, and applied this property to create a device that amplified considerably weaker sounds: the microphone of granules of carbon, which is patented in 1876.

Edison with his Dictaphone, one of the
applications derived from the phonograph
It was customary in Edison that work carried to another, and the previous case was no exception. While trying to improve the Bell telephone observed a fact which hastened to describe in his notebook: "just make an experience with a diaphragm which has a blunt tip resting on a role of paraffin that moves quickly. The vibrations of the human voice are printed cleanly, and there is no doubt that I can pick up and play any audible sound automatically when I get to work on it. Released, therefore the phone, had time to address the issue. A cylinder, a diaphragm, a needle and other useful child took him to build in less than a year, the phonograph, the most original of his inventions, a device that met under the same principle the recording and sound reproduction.
The own Edison was surprised by the simplicity of his invention, but soon forgot him and went on to deal with the problem of electric lighting, which seemed to him to be most interesting. «I'll provide as cheap light - said Edison in 1879 - that not only the rich will be able to burn their candles.» The answer was in the filament lamp. It was known that some materials could become incandescent when a balloon airless electric current was applied to them. It only remained to find the most suitable filament. I.e., a metal conductor that could heat up to the glow without melting, staying in this State as long as possible.
Before Edison, many other researchers worked in this direction, but when he joined did so without bargaining effort. He worked with strands of more different species: Platinum, which dismissed by expensive, carbon, soot and other materials, and even sent its employees to the Japan, South America and Sumatra to meet different varieties of vegetable fibers before choosing the material that judged more suitable. The first of their lamps was ready on October 21, 1879. It was a light bulb's filament of carbonized bamboo, which surpassed the forty hours of uninterrupted operation. The news of the fact did plummet shares of the companies of gas lighting.

With the invention that gave him celebrity (c. 1918)
In successive years, Edison focused on improving its bulb, and was this activity that led him to the only one of his discoveries that science belongs to an area strictly. It occurred in 1883, while trying to figure out why his incandescent lamp blackening with use. In the course of such investigations, the prolific inventor witnessed the manifestation of a curious phenomenon: the lamp emitted a bluish glow when it was subjected to certain conditions of vacuum and apply you certain voltages. Edison found that such light emission was caused by the unexplained presence of an electrical current that was established between the two rods holding the filament of the lamp, and used this phenomenon, which received its name, to conceive a power meter patent registered in 1886.
In fact, Edison could have given here the passage from electrical engineering to electronics. He failed, however to gauge the importance of the discovery method, next to the 'trial and error' that the scientific deduction, prevented it. It was necessary to wait that the British engineer John A. Fleming, a solid scientific training technologist, would step in 1897 when he managed, after discrete changes, transforming Edison electric meter in the vacuum valve, the first of a long series of electrical devices that gave origin to a new technological era.

More than one thousand inventions

In 1886, two years after the death of his wife, Edison was married to Mina Miller, strong-willed woman, daughter of a wealthy industrial of Akran, Ohio, whose influence on his eccentric husband took note, since he managed to make it a more sociable person. The couple had three children, one of whom, Charles, he devoted himself to politics, to become Governor of the State of New Jersey.
A year of marriage, Edison moved his laboratory Menlo Park, then small, West Orange, New Jersey. There he created a large technology centre, the Edison Laboratory (now a national monument), around which raised numerous workshops, giving work to more than five thousand people.

One of the workshops of West Orange
Electricity continued absorbing most of its time, since it dealt with all aspects relating to their production and distribution. Not with good luck, however, since you made a serious mistake by insisting on direct current system when there were good reasons for the current alternates. Edison was also interested in many other industrial sectors: the production of cement and chemical materials, electromagnetic separation of iron and the manufacture of batteries and accumulators for cars were some of your favourites.
His last major invention was the Kinetograph, patent registered in 1891. An ingenious mechanism to ensure the intermittent motion of the film was a rudimentary film camera which included, nonetheless. In 1894, Edison opened the Kinetoscope Parlor at Broadway, New York, where a single spectator sitting opposite a peephole in a wood cabin to see the film, which is illuminated from behind by an electric lamp. Although the Kinetoscope Parlor immediately aroused attention as a fair attraction, Edison did not believe never that it was important to find a projection system for older audiences, what prevented you to take the final step to the cinematograph of the Lumière brothers.

The Kinetoscope Parlor
The activity of this genius inventor was extended beyond age eighty, completing the list of their realizations technology to total 1,093 patents that came to register in life. Arteriosclerosis, was however, undermining the health of this restless elder, whose death took place on October 18, 1931, in West Orange, New Jersey.

Timeline of Thomas Edison


1847Born in Milan, Ohio (USA).
1859He begins working as a newsboy on the railway.
1862-67He works in different cities as a telegraph operator.
1868He settled in Boston. He registered his first patent, an electric counter of votes, which offered to Congress but was rejected.
1869He settled in New York. Edison Universal Stock Printer invents for the Western Union printer
1876Create the first research lab in Menlo Park.
1877He invented the phonograph.
1879He developed the first practical filament lamp.
1883Discover the physical effect that bears his name.
1885The Edison Laboratory, created in West Orange, New Jersey.
1894He invented the Kinotoscope Parlor, a rudimentary film machine.
1931He died in West Orange, New Jersey (USA).

Inventions of Thomas Edison

The American Thomas Alva Edison was one of the inventors that contributed most to change the life of modern man. The more than a thousand inventions patented transformed drastically the Customs and habits of consumption of industrialized societies. In the same way, Edison was a key figure in the consolidation of the new technological research.

Edison in his laboratory in West Orange
Restless and tireless, researcher worked in fields as diverse as optics, acoustics, or electricity. Its main virtue was the ability to apply technical knowledge to the world of consumption, made that allowed their disenosadquiriesen a great importance in the life of the people.
The incandescent filament lamp is perhaps the invention that Edison gave more celebrity. Its massive manufacture allowed a considerably cheaper obtaining light, so even people with scarce economic resources began to enjoy the possibility of illuminating their homes. In the same way, the electrical lighting radically transformed the image of modern cities, which could see lighting to its last corner.
The phonograph, a device allowing to record and play back any type of sound, was another notable invention of Edison. This device was the precedent of the Gramophone and record player, systems used to listen to music throughout the 20th century. In fact, systems of analogue reproduction of the sound, such as those mentioned above, which were based on the primitive invention of Edison, were used worldwide to the generalisation of digital systems in the Decade of the eighties.

Front of his phonograph Edison
Since 1889 Edison was interested more and more by the cinematographer. Already for years tried, with different success, the projection of a rapid succession of images on a screen. Edison used a filmstrip of the Eastman type, by replacing the rigid piece of Crystal classic by a flexible film, on whose edges applied a few holes that allowed several gear wheels to do it turn enough speed to make undetectable discontinuities between photographs.
It also created an experimental sound film in which the image was coordinated with the sound of a phonographic disc. Later, in 1912, published in the monthly magazine Scientific American a description of Kinemacolor technique; the invention allowed to obtain an image animated with natural colors reproduced photographically.

George Eastman and Thomas Edison
Now just as important as their inventions was the attitude that Edison took against technological invention. He represented a new generation of researchers that displaced the old mechanical inventors of the 18th and 19th centuries. This new attitude towards the technical invention led Edison to create, in 1876, the first industrial research laboratory, precursor of the modern technological experimentation centers, organized around teams of scientists, specialists tecnicosy.

With his son Chase in a car
Electric designed (c. 1914)
Published for educational purposes
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