Thomas Edison Essay, Research Paper
Thomas Alva Edison is one of the most famous inventors. He saw many changes take place in his lifetime. His inventions were responsible for many of those changes. Some of his inventions were the telephone, the light bulb, the movie projector, and the phonograph. These inventions contributed to modern day, lights, movies, telephones, records and CDs. When Edison was born, there was no such thing as electricity, but by the time he died entire cities were lit by electricity (www.minot.k12.nd.us/edison.html).
Thomas Edison was born February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio. He was one of the seven children of Samuel Edison, Jr. and Nancy Elliot Edison. His mother was a schoolteacher, and his father did many things from, running a mill to real estate. When Thomas was seven, his family moved to Port Huron, Michigan. Edison started school here in Michigan. His teacher was Reverend G. B. Engle, who considered Edison a dumb student. He did not like math and annoyed his teacher with his many questions. His teacher told his mother that he could not be taught. This angered his mother and made her decide to home school him (Josephson 354).
Edison loved to read. Before he was twelve, he had read novels by Dickens, Shakespeare, and Gibbon. When he was nine, he read a science book that his mother had given him. This book told how to do many experiments at home. He did every experiment in the book and his mother gave him many more science books to look at. He loved Chemistry so much that he spent all of his spare money on chemicals. He also collected bottles, wires, and other things to use in his experiments. At age ten, Thomas built his first laboratory in the basement of his house (Compton’s Encyclopedia 74).
When Edison was twelve, he had his first job as a trainboy on the Grand Trunk Railway. Thomas sold newspapers and candy to the passengers. He also printed a weekly paper called the Weekly Herald. He spent all of the money he earned on supplies for his laboratory. During the year he was there he got permission to move his lab to a baggage car. This let him work on his experiments during the five-hour layover. One day the train moved slightly spilling his chemicals. The laboratory caught fire and the conductor threw him off the train (www.minot.k12.nd.us/mps/edison.html).
Edison had ear problems throughout his childhood. He had scarlet fever when he was young which damaged his hearing significantly. When he was fifteen a freak accident caused him to go deaf. When he tried to jump on a moving train the conductor grabbed him by the ear to help pull him up. He said he felt something pop inside his head. His deafness could have been cured by an operation but he refused. He said being deaf helped him concentrate. He also said, “Deafness probably drove me to reading”. He was one of the first people to use the Detroit Free Library. He went through the library reading as many books as he could. He spent much of his time reading books on electricity, mechanics, chemical analysis, manufacturing, and technology (www.minot.k12.nd.us/mps/edison.html).
While Edison was at the train station he learned to use the telegraph from one the station officials. He used scrap metal to build a telegraph set and practiced Morse code. When he was sixteen he moved to Toronto, Canada, to become a telegraph assistant. His job was to report in every hour by telegraph signal. Edison thought that this was a waste of time, so he invented an automatic telegraph. Thomas moved back to the U. S. and worked as a roaming telegrapher. During this time he experimented with the telegraph and became an expert on it. He took it apart and reassembled it until he knew exactly how it worked. When he was twenty-one he got a job in Boston as a night telegraph operator. He worked to improve the telegraph so that it would send many messages at one time. He soon borrowed money from his friend and quit his job (www.minot.k12.nd.us/mps/edison.html).
Edison now spent all of his time inventing. He invented an electric vote recorder but no one wanted to buy it. Today it is used in many states for voting. He now spent much of his time studying the stock market machine. Edison got the chance to fix one and he did such a good job that the owners hired him to build a better one. He sold the rights for the new one and earned forty thousand dollars.
With all this money he built a new shop where he produced stock market machines and high speed printing telegraphs. He soon asked his father to help him build a new factory in Menlo Park, NJ. He and his two partners devoted all of their time to inventing in their new factory. His first invention was the improvement of the telephone. He wanted to improve on this because people had to shout when on the phone. Edison also invented the phonograph when he was thirty. He invented this by accident while working on telegraphs and telephones. Thomas used tin foil to make the phonograph, which he called a “talking machine”. The first words that he recorded were “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. After he got a patent on his new invention, it was sold to the public from 1878 to 1880 for prices anywhere from ten dollars to two hundred dollars. He worked on improving this invention for over forty years (Compton’s Encyclopedia 73).
Two years after Edison invented the phonograph, he bragged that he would invent a safe and inexpensive electric light before any other scientist. He searched for the best material that would give off light when electricity ran through it. He tried materials like baywood, boxwood, hickory, cedar, flax, and bamboo. After he spent almost forty thousand dollars, performing twelve hundred experiments, he found that carbonized thread worked. He used sewing thread that had been burned to ash in his light bulb. This light bulb burned for two days. He was now able to turn on and off lights in his laboratory. These new light bulbs were first installed on the ship “Columbia”. Edison soon thought of a way to light many lights at one time. He set up the worlds first electrical company in New York. The Edison Electric Light Company sent electricity to houses and lamps (Josephson 382).
He soon built a bigger invention factory in West Orange, New Jersey. This laboratory was ten times bigger than his factory in Menlo Park. This laboratory had fourteen buildings. Six of those buildings were used for inventing. The main building was the size of three football fields. Many of the shops were used for electrical testing, glassblowing, electrical power generation, and chemical stockrooms. Over five thousand people worked in this lab and Edison attempted to manage this large staff. Edison walked through the huge building every single day. But he spent much of his time doing paperwork instead of experiments. He did his paperwork in the library of the West Orange Laboratory. The library was also used for a trophy room. Edison received many awards during his life. The motion picture camera also came out of the West Orange Laboratory. Edison connected the phonograph with the motion picture camera. He could now produce motion pictures with sound. Sometimes at the lab they tried mixing chemicals that seemed foolish, some of these were coffee, eggs, sugar, milk, whalebone, turtle shell, elephant hide, and the hair of a person. It is also a rumor that Edison had the eyeballs of a US senator in one of his storerooms. The human hair was used for a wig on the first talking doll. In the dolls chest was a tiny phonograph speaker. Sadly, the West Orange Laboratory burned to the ground in nineteen-fourteen. Edison took the loss calmly, saying “All of our mistakes have been destroyed”. He also said, “In a new factory we can start our experiments with a clean slate” (Compton’s Encyclopedia 75).
In World War One, Edison was the head of the Naval Consulting Board for the government. He directed research on torpedoes and antisubmarine devices. In 1920, Congress established the first Naval Research Laboratory (Compton’s Encyclopedia 76).
During Edison’s life he had two wives. He married his first wife, Mary G. Stillwell, in 1871. He met her while she was working in his laboratory. He had hoped that she would be his partner in inventing but he said that she could not invent anything. While they were married they had three children, Marion, Thomas, and William. Thomas nicknamed his first two children “Dot” and “Dash”. Mary Stillwell died in 1884. Edison remarried in 1886 to Mina Miller. Mina and Thomas also had three children, Madeline, Charles, and Theodore. When Charles became older he became the governor of New Jersey. Mina and the children did not see Thomas much because and nineteen hours a day. He worked so much that he hardly knew if it was night or day. He only slept when he was tired and ate when he was hungry. Edison’s firm work theories helped him accomplish many things throughout his lifetime (Josephson 396).
As Edison grew older, he never quit learning our experimenting. His hands were permanently stained from the chemicals he had used over the years. He still rushed into his research, doing experiments as fast as they came to him. Edison became very controlling of his inventions in his later years. He learned that people would turn up the speed on the phonograph to make the music faster than normal. This angered Edison so he made his manufacturing department put a speed on controls on the phonograph to keep this from happening. Thomas Alva Edison died when he was eighty-four years old, on Sunday, October 18, 1931. He was still experimenting until the day that he died. He was buried in Orange New Jersey near his factory. Three days after his death electric lights were dimmed throughout the United States in honor of Edison (www.minot.k12.nd.us/mps/edison.html).
In Edison’s life he invented many things. He gave the world many things that are necessities today. Without electric lights, the telephone, the stock market machine, movie projector, and the phonograph the world would be a much more inconvenient place. We would not be able to turn on and off a light or easily communicate with others. Edison was truly a genius and many incredible works throughout his lifetime.
Edison. (1992). Compton’s Encyclopedia.Volume 7; Pages 72-77.
Josephson, Matthew. (1959). Edison: A Biography. New York: McGraw-Hill
Thomas Alva Edison. Available http://www.minot.k12.nd.us/mps/edison.html