|views of Edison's lab|
As I mentioned in the previous post, Thomas Edison had over 1000 patents. Most of us know Edison as the inventor of the light bulb but his inventions were much more extensive than that.
As we all know, Edison did not invent electricity. Many think Benjamin Franklin did, but he merely showed us it existed. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879. Before electricity and light bulbs, people got light from gas lamps as gas was pumped into homes. This could prove dangerous and in many instances, caused home fires and explosions. Before gas lighting, people used kerosene lamps which used oil and a wick and before that people used candles. We have come a long way from candles.
So, how did he figure out the light bulb? Many had tried to create something to help us see better. Edison knew a filament would help send electricity through the bulb but he needed to find the right kind of filament. He tried several different types of filaments. Most only burned for seconds. Finally, he used a cotton filament that was heated first and turned into carbon. Then he took all the air from inside the light bulb. The oxygen burned filament too quickly. By removing the air, the filament could burn longer. He had success - 13 hours!!!
What more do we know about Thomas Edison? He was born on February 11, 1847 in Ohio and was the youngest of eight children. Even as a child he was curious. One time he set fire to the family's barn just because he wanted to see what would happen when it burned. He was always doing experiments. He even had his own lab as a child. When he was 7 his family moved to Michigan. Edison was often sick as a child so he did not attend school much. When he did go to school, he was so shy, he never talked to anyone. Finally his mother agreed to keep him home and he was home-schooled. He lost his hearing during an illness and never regained it.
When he was 14, while he was selling newspapers at a train station, he saved a boy from being run over by a train. The father was so grateful he agreed to teach Thomas Edison how to use a telegraph machine. This was a dream come true for Edison. He loved working with the telegraph machine and even invented ways to improve it. He rigged up an alarm on the telegraph so that telegrams would only be sent every half hour. The alarm would sound and Edison, who had a tendency to fall asleep while he worked at night, would be able to wake up and send and receive telegrams.
In 1870, when he was only 23 years old he invented an electronic vote recorder. He received $40,000 for his invention and used this money to open his own factory. He could finally work as a full time inventor. His factory was in Newark, New Jersey.
Invent a "minor invention every ten days and a big thing every six months". This was his motto and he held everyone who worked for him to the same standard.
He built a better telegraph machine that could send 4 messages at once. He invented wax paper. He invented a better typewriter. The list goes on an on. He created a better telephone. (we all know Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, but Edison made it easier to hear by making it better).
He married May Stilwell in 1871 and they had three children - Marion, Thomas Jr. and William. Then he built a new home in Menlo Park, near his home.
In 1877, Edison invented the phonograph. It recorded on one side and then played it back on the other side. He recorded the nursery rhyme - "Mary Had a Little Lamb".
Another great invention - a dynamo - today we call them generators. New York City wanted electricity in its city. With Edison's help, they wired several city blocks with electricity and were able to send electricity to homes and buildings in that area.
In 1884, his wife Mary died. Two years later, Edison married Mina Miller. They also had three children - Charles, Madeleine, and Theodore.
So, what else did Edison invent?
He discovered a way to separate ore from rocks. He built a better camera. He created a safety lamp for miners that was attached to their helmets. He invented a kinetoscope to show moving pictures. He opened the West Orange Studio in New Jersey that became the first motion picture studio in America. He also invented a type of concrete. He even tried to create a house that was made entirely of concrete - even the objects inside.
On October 8, 1931, Thomas Edison died.
"The problem with other inventors is that they try a few things and they quit. I never quit until I get what I want."