Genius is one percent creativity and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” a quotation that was coined during Edison’s lifetime and refers to his outstanding observations. Every individual on the planet, without a doubt, uses at least one of Alva’s inventions, which range from the light bulb to the phonograph. Thomas Alva Edison was a brilliant mind and one of the world’s best inventors. One of his notable innovations that have remained to fuel his legacy is the phonograph and the light bulb. If Edison had not invented the light bulb, the world would still be using lamps for illumination. What is more interesting is that despite having been deaf, Edison was a determined person and he never gave up, and this made him realize his goals. Edison was born in Milan, Ohio in 1847 February 11. He was born in a family of six siblings, and he was the youngest. At one point, his mother Nancy Edison, removed him from school as she was angry that his teacher called her son a retard. Mrs. Edison decided to teach her son at home. The determination that Edison showcased was significant and shaped his success branding him a remarkable inventor. As such, Edison is termed to be an iconic figure embodying innovation and commercial success and a person who was influential in leading the world into the modern innovative era.
The life of Thomas Alva Edison
Edison was one of the prolific and a prominent inventor, and Mason reports that he exerted tremendous influence in the modern world (Mason 12). Edison acquired astounding 1,093 patents, and his notable inventions include motion the picture camera, the incandescent light bulb and phonograph among many others. He was not only an inventor, but he managed to become one of the most successful manufacturers and a businessman during his era. He possessed fascinating marketing skills, and reports indicate that Edison ventured into numerous business operations, liaisons, corporations, and partnerships (Melosi 6).
Edison started working as a telegrapher before he became an inventor. Edison rescued a child who was three years old from being run over by a boxcar in 1862. J.U. MacKenzie was the father of the child, and he gave Edison the “railroad telegraphy as a reward for saving his son” (Melosi 3). Edison was them employed a telegraph operator in Western Union office, and this is where he his invention career was significantly shaped. He resigned in 1869 as a telegraph operator because he wanted to entirely devote his time to the invention. Edison’s first invention was the “electric vote recorder” which he made in June 1860 (Mason 34). However, many politicians were reluctant in using the machine, and thus it did not gain much fame. Alva was then employed in Samuel Laws’ Gold Indicator Company where he fixed many broken machines. His later life was significantly preoccupied with multiple partnerships and projects concerning telegraphy. He ultimately managed to develop a quadruplex telegraph which was a machine that was able to send two messages simultaneously and in the same direction.
In 1875, Edison developed the electric pen telegraph. Notably, his personal life during this time was accompanied by many changes including the death of his mother in 1971 and his marriage to Mary Stilwell. Edison’s marriage was characterized by difficulties due to his obsessions with his works along with her constant illness (Matthew 12). Edison spent most of his time in the lab experimenting with new inventions. He focused on electric lighting in 1878, and a decade later, he managed to invent an improved phonograph. The ore-milling process was another interesting venture of Edison. He set out the Ore-Milling Co. in 1888, while at West Orange, he embarked on working on motion picture camera. Competition from other motion picture companies and as a result, a heated legal battle between the companies and Edison patent rights ensued. The battles saw Edison sued numerous companies for patent rights infringement. The experiment he carried out in 1913 led to the development of Kinetophone which was device that was able to synchronize “sound on a phonograph cylinder to the screen pictures (Matthew 21).
Edison as Lead in Craftsmen
Edison frequently relied on scientific research which was essential in guiding his work in electricity and mechanics and overall inventions. William notes that the light build which illuminates over the heads of people turned out to be a standard metaphor for the degree of brilliance and mirrored an idealistic man (William 4). Perhaps, a prevalent notion that is associated with Edison is that his inventions were 99% perspiration and only 1% inspiration. Through his knowledge, the mechanics, craftsmanship and “model builders at Menlo Park grew to sixty-four by 1880” (William 7). In the West Orange, Edison along with diverse specialists in laboratories and devoted his time to chemical storage, chemistry, electricity, and phonograph. Many men in the city sought for Edison’s direction and inspiration. As a result, he went to many workstations providing sound ideas, directions, and solutions and he retained a clear leadership role throughout his life.
Managing Factories, Investors, and Celebrity
The innovation that Edison carried out gave him the utmost intellectual satisfaction. Additionally, he was also determined to benefit from his creativity, and due to thus, he found a number of corporations. In the field of power and electric lighting, Edison founded the Electric Light Company from where he controlled the patent rights. The Edison Electric Lamp Company manufactured the machinery components, and the Edison Company was isolated for majorly lighting. Other corporations include the Edison Tube Company and Edison Machine Works. In his career, he gathered the backing of chief telegraph companies and led key financiers like J. Pierpont Morgan and Henry Villard who were among the most active supporters of Edison’s activities.
Edison’s reputation soared in the 1870s, and the measure of his success in the phonograph cannot be left untold. His electrical systems operated on direct current (DC) and formed the radical route to the invention of the alternating current (AC) by George Westinghouse. In the 1880s, Edison’s utility and manufacturing interests became numerous and widespread in many geographical areas. Thus, he was unable to directly manage his corporations, and in 1892 the electric interests were merged with Thomson-Houston to form General Electric (Matthew 21). As such, Thomas was significant in playing a marginal role of the merge of the company. During the time, Edison turned to be one of the most influential and renown figures in the world, and he was admired by all. In his career, Edison devoted a lot of his time opening facilities in West Orange and depicted to be an effective industrialist and marketer.
Edison’s Later Years
Alva’s Corporations undergone fundamental re-organization later in life into Thomas A. Edison, Inc. in 1911 because the organization had become more structured and diversified. He also reduced his involvement in the day to day operations and his underlining goal was to sustain market viability for his products. In 1914, there was an outbreak of fire in West Orange laboratory in 1914 which culminated in the destruction of 13 buildings. As a result, Edison incurred a massive loss, and despite the setback, he spearheaded the rebuilding. He also became a chief advisor to Europe when the nation was preparing for the First World War (Melosi 31). Edison noted that in the future, technology would be employed in wars and indeed, his predictions have come to pass. In 1915, Edison was made to be the head of the “Naval Consulting Board.” The board was spearhead by the government in its attempt to bring science into the war defense programs. Indeed, Edison was a key figure on the advisory board, and the program was instrumental in the creation of the Navy laboratory and was opened in 1923. William elucidates that Edison spent a lot of time doing naval research during the First World War. He particularly worked on the submarine detection as a defense mechanism.
Alva’s health started to deteriorate in the 1920s, and he was forced to spend more time at home where he continued to experiment. In his last two years, he was caught up in a series of ailments and the health significantly declined. “On October 14, 1931, Edison lapsed into a coma and died on October 18, 1931”, at the age of 84 (Mason 71).
Notably, since Edison rose to fame in the 1870s, his path has always been the most mythologized in history. The complexity and richness of his work coupled with the legendary stories that have survived for ages make Edison masterpieces and an influential person in the current world. He remains to be a “towering figure in the history of modern technological advancement” (Mason 61). During his time, he was issued with more than one thousand patents, and he thus made a significant contribution to the development of various essential innovations globally. The discoveries he made were groundbreaking for the development of other electronics such as radios. William reports that Edison devoted substantial attention to entire stages of “process-conceptualization, design, model building, and commercialization-which involved him with a variety of individuals, including scientists and mathematicians, craftsmen and mechanics, investors, politicians, and customers” (William 40). Through his interaction, Edison was able to exhibit distinct and effective leadership skills and shaped his legacy to greater heights. His impact in the First World War was also intriguing.
Edison was a heroic inventor, and he significantly shaped the modern world through his outstanding innovations. His ideas resonated around scientific discoveries and he managed to leave behind an enormous legacy. He inspired greatness through his hard work and mirror an inspiration and creativity. Edison is highly credited for having successfully invented the incandescent light bulb, phonograph, motion pictures, and distribution system as well as practical electrical lighting. Indeed, Edison will remain to be a renowned figure for many generations, and his influence continue to impact many scientific fields.
Matthew Josephson, Edison: A Biography, (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1959) p. 386.
Mason, Paul. Thomas A. Edison. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2002.
Melosi V. Martin, Thomas A. Edison and the Modernization of America, Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman/Little, Brown Higher Education, 1990.
William S. Pretzer. “The Wizard Of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented The Modern World (Review)”. Technology and Culture, vol 49, no. 2, 2008, pp. 478-479. Johns Hopkins University Press, doi:10.1353/tech.0.0029.