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The Inventor T. A.


Life and Accomplishments of

Thomas Edison
the Inventor

Lauren Moya
Ibrahim Mohamed
Mathew Smith
Xia Guan

Physics 1010-011
Salt Lake Community College

- Abstract

Thomas Edison (1847-1931) was an American Inventor - Businessman who diversified the
American way of life as well as altered the world with his created devices such as the motion
picture camera and the phonograph. He is most recognized for his ingenious invention, the Light
Bulb. This report touches on some of his main attributes to the world as well as his family and
business life. Thomas Edison can be remembered as one of the most paramount inventors of all
time. Born in Ohio, Edison made his way around the United States by choice as well as by
request. His inventions and many businesses made him not only famous but extremely
prosperous for his time. Edison was an inventor of The Future. His ideas and concoctions
paved the way for modern technological business. The telephone, motion picture camera,
alkaline batteries, electric light bulbs are all utilized by people throughout the world today.
Edison is even recognized for creating the first basic tattoo gun, a fact most people are unaware
of. His reputation precedes him for generations; it is celebrated in American during National
Disability Awareness Month. Edison married in 1871 to Mary Stilwell, 16 at the time. They
were married 13 years. Mary bore three children but sadly she died of a brain tumor. Edison
lived a long productive life, was famous in the States and died a legend, in October 1931.
Monuments in his name are placed around the United States, in elementary schools, Colleges,
libraries and in businesses. Since 2010, an award bearing the highly regarded name Thomas A.
Edison Award, is being given annually, up to seven times a year, to innovative electrical
engineers in business throughout the United States as well as throughout the world. What a
highly respected honor!

This paper focuses on Thomas Edisons early life, career, inventions, and opinions on politics,
religion, metaphysics, money and ends with his later years until his passing in 1931. The goal of
this paper is to let people know more about Thomas Edisons extraordinary contribution to the
modern science industry, allowing people realize there are some very valuable attributes which
can be learn from him. As college students, we can learn from Thomas Edison that creative
ideas coupled with hard work, are the keys to achieving a successful career.
Thomas Edison (1847 1931)

Figure 1

The Young Thomas Edison

Figure 2
Edisons parents, Sam and Nancy Edison moved to Milan, Ohio in 1839. Edison was born in
February, 1847. Edison was called Al, short for Alva, his middle name, until his teen years. He
grew up in Port Huron, Michigan in 1854 (Inventing Entertainment) as a youth he was poor in
health as well as his siblings, at one point unfortunately Edison was stricken with scarlet fever.
Edison was very interested in mechanical operations as well as chemical experiments since he
was very young. Edison set up a chemistry laboratory with a printing press on the train where he
sold newspaper plus candy; however, a fire accident ended his job on the train. Sadly, this
accident induced hearing loss by the age of 12. This disability didnt hinder Edison from
becoming the most proliferative inventor of all time. Edison never lost his interest of science or
in the discovery of how things worked mechanically or in chemistry experimentation. In fact,
Edison is highly regarded in an American holiday, National Disability Awareness Month
(NDAM), as one of the great influences reasonable employment equality with disabilities. For

this, we must thank Mr. Edison! In his youth Edison was not known for being the traditional
grade A student although particular teachers called him addled which didnt sit well with his
Mother. His Mother decided to homeschool Edison because of his poor reputation with
schoolmasters. He did not want to disappoint her choosing to make the best with what she taught
him. His homeschooling and hearing impairment was a benefit because it gave Edison an
efficient method of focused concentration which allowed him time for experimentation and
invention of many mechanisms used around the world today. In 1854, Edisons parents moved
their family to Michigan and his career commenced when he began working for the Grand Trunk
Railroad in Detroit. Edison was only twelve years old who already performed intelligently and
understood multitasking in his position from chemistry in his baggage car while selling
newspapers to publishing news in the orienting press. He was twelve years old yet already so
accomplished (Grand Trunk). At a young age Edison had an incredible appetite for knowledge.
Reading all day, learning, utilizing his new found knowledge to experiment with understanding
of how the world works was a great passion for the young Thomas Edison.

- The Life and Career of Thomas Alva Edison

Inception of Edisons Career
The beginning of Thomas Edisons career can arguably be said to have started in his childhood.
As mentioned before, Mr. Edison spent his younger years experimenting to find out why things
worked the way they did mechanically. In 1866, at the age of only 19, after finishing the
opportunity given to him to become a telegraph operator named J.U. MacKenzie (MacKenzie),
Thomas Edison moved to Louisville, Kentucky to work for the Associated Press. He was mostly
required to work the nightshift, to his benefit because in having so much time on his hands over

the long evenings, he passed his time by reading and experimenting. By conducting such
experiments with the desire to discover the mystery of mechanics, Edison developed a style that
was restricted by only his creativity and was then able to prove things to his own self through
objective experimentation and examination. However, as technology advanced, the older
telegraphs he was accustomed to using provided Morse code was inscribed in the message
started becoming increasingly equipped with a sounding key. With Edison feeling inadequate
because of his limited hearing capabilities, the skill he excelled in as a telegraph operator wasnt
enough to keep him employed. Edisons' was the beginning of a long adventurous career which
changed the lives of all Americans, even the world. Edisons patented inventions along with
improvements on existing inventions paved the way for the technological era we enjoy today.
The Western Union Telegrapher/Vote Recorder
One of Edison greatest achievements was re-inventing the portion of the Telegrapher to perfect it
for the benefit of middle class citizens as well as business people. After returning to his
hometown Milan, Ohio in 1868, and discovering that his father was out of work and his mother
was inching deeper into mental illness, Edison decided to take action and with advice from a
friend, moved to Boston, Massachusetts. In 1862, Edison was offered employment from Western
Union as a manager (Inventing Entertainment). The telegraph that Edison re-invented primarily
used electromagnetism for transmission of its signals. Levers opened and closed circuits that sent
messages through either brass wires or platinum wires. The opening and closing of electrical
waves by human compression of wires, allowed short and long wave signals and were
interpreted by operators who understood Morse code. The other end of the telegrapher held
another mechanism invented by Edison named the Register or Recorder. The register interpreted

long and short signals and upon actuation of an electro magnet and an indentation point with ink.
The indentation point drew a dot for short waves or a dash for long waves (Telegrapher).
Vote Recorder

Figure 3
After Edison resigned from Western Union and decided to create a new invention, the electronic
vote recorder. This invention was not popular at all with politicians. As it turned out the
candidates werent too thrilled about that idea because back then the strategy was for candidates
to prolong obtaining votes in case voters changed their minds while candidates were still
campaigning. How it worked as described by Rutgers University: As the current passed
through the paper, the chemicals decomposed, leaving the imprint of the name in a manner
similar to that of chemical recording automatic telegraphs. Dials on either side of the machine
recorded the total number of yeas and nays. Edison was issued U. S. Patent 90,646 on 1 June
1869. A fellow telegrapher named Dewitt Roberts bought an interest in the invention for $100
and took it to Washington, D.C. to exhibit to a committee of Congress. The chairman of the
committee, unimpressed with the speed with which the instrument could record votes, told him
that "if there is any invention on earth that we don't want down here, that is it." The slow pace of

roll call voting in Congress and other legislatures enabled members to filibuster legislation or
convince others to change their votes. Edison's vote recorder was never used.
He made a decision that he would never invent anything that no one had interest in! Thomas
realized that he knew more about telegraph. From that point, he worked with Franklin L. Pope to
improve telegraph. In 1874, Thomas successfully designed an automatic telegraph, but sold the
patent rights (Inventing Entertainment). Thomas also worked on improvement of telephone. He
designed a transmitter which could adjust the volume of a telephone. Following these inventions
and re-inventions, Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 (Inventing Entertainment). Following
that event, in 1878, he founded a new company The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company.
In the same year, he started his invention on electric light system. In 1882, Thomas set up his
light system on Pearl Street in Manhattan. (Inventing Entertainment) Several years later, most
big cities all over the world had set up the light system. Thomas Edison became very famous all
over the world, because his invention gave everyone a brighter world to live in!

Improving the Stock Ticker

Figure 4 & 5

Moving to New York City in 1869 proved the perfect setting for Edisons first invention, a
Universal Stock Printer. Edison also used his experience from working at Western Union to
invent the telegraphic stock ticker. Not only was it able to inform traders on stock prices he also
made it possible to sync up multiple stock transactions from various other tickers. This work had
finally made Thomas Edison some money. The Gold and Stock Telegraph Company paid him
$40,000 for the rights to use his invention (Salman). Finally he was able to devote his life fulltime to his inventions and experiments. Edison made the most money from the telegraph.
However, by understanding the technology and behavior of electricity through working on the
telegrapher, he was able to re-invent the stock ticker (originally invented by Edward Calahan).
The stock ticker was used to transmit telegraph information onto paper. At a time when he was
sleeping in a factory he noticed that the old stock ticker that the owner of the factory was using
wasnt working properly. He decided to talk to the owner about purchasing that old stock ticker
and experimenting with it. Edison and the owner agreed, discussing possibilities of making it
more efficient so, Edison purchased it from his boss. Edison was able to take it apart, and rebuild
it. However, the new stock ticker was the first electricity based board system. He received a
patent award for this brilliant re-invention (Stock Ticker). The perforated tape was run
through a high-speed transmitter at speeds as high as 1,000 words per minute. As the
perforations passed rapidly under a metal stylus, the stylus would make electrical contact with a
revolving drum, thus closing the circuit. This caused a series of rapid, intermittent signals to be
transmitted to an automatic receiver at the other end of the line. At the receiving end, the signals
produced an electric discharge that passed through a metal stylus into specially treated chemical
recording paper, which caused the chemicals to decompose and leave a long or short mark

representing the dashes and dots of the Morse code. After the message was received, it then had
to be translated from Morse code and the final message prepared for delivery.

Carbon Telephone Transmitter

Figure 6
Now at this time there were some ways that Thomas Edison thought the newly invented
telephone could be improved. He understood the knowledge of Alexander Graham Bells
telephones which used the vibrations in human voice to induce vibrations in the transmitters
electromagnet: this is how the voices could be heard on the other line. Thomas Edison saw that
this technology did not work as well over longer distances. By the time the sound from one end
got to the other end, it was very faint. Edison was aware that the weakness in the sound wave, or
current, could be improved thus creating the Carbon Transmitter. The current needed variance to
improve the sound waves. Edison tried using a battery to allow variance in the currents strength
and resistance (Carbon). This component made it so when a person on one end would speak; a
valve would open or close, thus creating a more efficient current than before. Edison also
adjusted the original telephone. With Bells telephone, one instrument had to act as a receiver

and transmitter simultaneously. Edison separated the two, very much like what we see today on
land line telephones: one piece for talking and the other for hearing. This caused a slight battle
of the brains between Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. Western Union paid a lot of money to
Edison for his Carbon Transmitter and wanted to deploy it by telephone lines all over Britain but
since Bell had held the patents, some legal battles had begun during 1892, causing a mess of
litigation. Finally cooler heads prevailed and the two inventors joined forces to create the United
Phone Company. This invention made Edison richer than hed ever been to that point. Since
employees could run this company, it would give Edison what he needed most time to invent
other things.
The Electric Light Bulb

Figure 7
In the 1880s Thomas Edison was a busy man. He set out to deliver electricity to cities all over
the world; mainly to power his newly patented light bulbs. With the light bulb he invented, his
knowledge about electricity and gaslights, Edison created a whole new system of electric
lighting. For the light bulb, the difficulty became finding the best material for the glowing wire
inside the bulb called a filament. He tried using coconut fiber, fishing line, and even human hair!

After 40,000 pages of notes and 1600 different materials he finally found success using
carbonized bamboo which glowed for thirteen and a half hours. The estimated length of time that
was needed for a working, successful light bulb was 40 hours. In 1882, the first big test of
Edisons electric system sent electricity for powering light bulbs in 25 New York City buildings.
Edison commenced developing that light bulb in 1878, continuing development perfections
throughout 1880. This was a great achievement for Edison who ended up collaborating with
General Electric Company and made a huge fortune for his newly successful patented invention.

The Fluoroscopy

Figure 8
The Fluoroscopy is another invention which Thomas Edison improved. After Edison
encountered W. C. Rontgens X-ray machine Edison ordered his employee Dally to develop a
focus tube for an improvement on the visual device used in the fluoroscope. He discovered that
using calcium tungstate, a phosphor, instead of platinocyanide, a salt, would allow fluoroscopic
screens to be able to produce better and brighter pictures or X-rays (Fluoroscopy). This design is
still used today but Mr. Edison abandoned the project after nearly losing his eyesight almost

killing his assistant Clarence Dally. The fluoroscope uses either a pulsing or continuous x- ray
beam. The x-ray tube is made of glass and sometimes metal, the tube has a vacuum seal inside.
The machine creates x- rays by converting electricity from its line that supplies power (power
line). The power line has a current of 120-480 volts, however to use it in the x-ray the current is
converted into 25-150 kilo volt range. Then it creates a stream of electrons that are shot against
a tungsten target which is a target made from the element tungsten as a vest to protect the body
from the high x-ray exposure. The electromagnetic waves can pass through the body and create
images of the internal structures. However, because of the different tissues within the body have
different densities the waves are weakened as they pass through certain tissues. An example of
this is that bones absorb a lot of x-rays because it is very dense, in contrast the tissues around
the bone absorb less x-ray because it is less dense. When the electrons hit this target the
electrons stop because of its surface. The result is a release of x-ray energy, and then the energy
is focused by the x-ray tube into an area of the body to be imaged. His assistant ended up dying
of cancer due to over-exposure to radiation. Later on Edison stated, when asked about x-rays
Don't talk to me about x-rays, I am afraid of them!

Motion Picture Enhancement

Improvement of the motion picture camera the Kinetograph (translates to Peep-hole viewer)
was a collaboration project of W.K.L Dickson and Edison. Not to be mistaken for the
Kinetoscope, a motion picture viewer. Edison and W. K. L. Dickson split the work; Edison doing
the electromechanical portion and Dickson figuring out the photographic and optical
development (Kinetograph). Most of the credit for the kinetograph, however, went to Dickson

although Edison held the patent. This machine wasnt fully developed so it was only installed in
penny arcade machines for simple films at the time.
-Wizard of Menlo Park 1870s till Death, 1931Wizard of Menlo
Thomas Edison's home at Menlo Park

Figure 9
Great relationships were formed during this time. By the 1870s Thomas Edison was on the Alist of inventors. In 1876 he decided to relocate once again to Menlo Park, New Jersey to
expand his operations, build laboratories including machine shops. Once again, Western Union
came racing back to tap into that vast treasure trough of knowledge that Edison had. The Union
asked him if he would invent a device that would compete with the Godfather of the telephone,
Alexander Graham Bell. While he didnt exactly invent direct competition to the telephone, he
did work harder on perfecting his own ideas.

West Orange and Fort Meyers (1886-1931)
West Orange was where Edison was originally
schooled and raised but after his first wife Mary died
he moved to Florida and bought a home in Glenmont,
Fort Myers for his second wife Mina. The Glenmont
home is now a historical tourist attraction. It was
Figure 10

entirely remodeled by Edison himself including a round office, an entire air duct system and an
entirely new electrical system.light bulbs included! While he lived there in the Glenmont
Estate, Edison met Henry Ford who was a guy that was really into the automobile.
Edison and Ford lived near each other and
became more than just friends in many ways.
Edisons brilliant inventions and business
savviness contributed to some of the things Ford
needed help with and vice versa. They had a good
friendship together as well as a business
Figure 11

partnership. Thank goodness for the friendship of Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford!

Edisons personal views on Religion and Money

Renowned for his brilliance in his useful contraptions,
it was apparent that when it came to his religious
views, Edison did not believe in the God of
theologians. (2014) Edison stated that he had .
never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious

Figure 12

ideas of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God. So far as religion of
the day is concerned, it is a damned fake Religion is all bunk." (2014). Many were convinced
that Edison was an atheist while others considered him a theist. Unshaken by the thought of
others believing so, discretely he addressed a previous statement he made during an interview.
He stated, You have misunderstood the whole article, because you jumped to the conclusion that
it denies the existence of God. There is no such denial, what you call God I call Nature, the
Supreme intelligence that rules matter. All the article states is that it is doubtful in my opinion if
our intelligence or soul or whatever one may call it lives hereafter as an entity or disperses back
again from whence it came, scattered amongst the cells of which we are made. (2014)
In World War I, Edison was called to serve as a naval consultant. War was imminent, but he had
a stronger push for non-violence. Having no desire to create anything destructive, he contributed
his time and efforts only to defensive weaponry. He was convinced that non-violence leads to the
highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Edison explains that.Until we stop harming
all other living beings, we are still savages! (2014) Ironically, he was the mastermind of the
electric chair in which he argued not only for promotional purposes, but that electrocution was a
painless method of execution yet seemingly more humane, rather than the idea of latter.
Edison rejected the idea of having a monetary system. He was not fond of the idea of having to
pay more for what was borrowed. In fact, Edison had written a proposal in what served as
monetary reformation to the Federal Reserve Bank. To his disappointment, his ideas were
rejected yet he sought no constructive support.
Though the newspapers might call him the millionaire inventor, he described himself a
machine-rich and cash poor man. (1959, p. 270) Before his life ended, he took upon himself
one last interview. Only to be revealed after the inventor had passed. Rumored by the article, it

was still in question to just how much money Edison had profited in his lifetime has one of
historys greatest inventors.

Marriage and Children

The Edison Family

Figure 13
In 1872, Thomas married his former employee, Mary Stilwell. Thomas enjoyed his marriage, but
his dedication on his inventions and the illness of his first wife caused their marriage personal
marital relationship to be full of difficulties. He spent a lot of time in his lab, which resulted in

his wife being very angry with him. However, Marys love for her husband was great; she still
supported Edisons success and his career.
In 1873, Thomas and Mary begot their first child, Marion. Thomas gave his son the nickname
Dot. Three years later, Thomas second son Thomas Jr was born. Thomas gave him a nickname
Dash. In 1878, Mary gave Thomas his third child, William Leslie. (Inventing Entertainment,
1999, para 12). In 1884, Thomass first wife Mary Stilwell died. In 1884, Thomas married Mina
Miller. (Thomas Edison's Children, 2013, para 3) They got another three children. Their names
are Madeleine, Charles, and Theodore.
Thomas Jr ran several companies, but all his business failed. William could not get along with
his father, but he still tried to run some business. However, all his businesses failed. Finally he
became a chicken farmer. Madeleine tried to continue her fathers career, but she couldnt get
fair opportunity at that time. Eventually she became a politician. Charles took over his fathers
company, but finally he sold the company. Eventually, he became a politician. Theodore
graduated from MIT, and then finally he became an inventor. Even though he didnt hold as
much as his fathers patents, he was the Thomas only child who became an inventor.
Edison was pretty much in business his whole life and towards his death he was part of a great
accomplishment for an electrical transmission for trains using direct current. Before
Edison's death he visited his old house in Milan, Ohio and shocked to see it lit by lamps and
candles. Edison died on October 18, 1931 in West Orange. His wife Mina was being interviewed
and mentions that Edison was on a fad diet the last few years of his life where he would drink a
glass of milk every 3 hours.

Edison was founder and owner of over 50 businesses such as the Portland Cement Company,
with which Edison sold cement to build the Panama Canal (P.Cement Co.) Edison held over
1,000 patents, gaining at least 400 between the years 1879-1860. He was an innovator of modern
technology not only with successful inventions but failed inventions which were visionary and
ahead of his time. Edisons inventions such as the electric light bulb, carbon telephone
transmitter and the fluoroscopy paved the way for innovators of the future. His family and home
life were filled with love and his children adored him. His co-workers looked up to him and
sought to be as innovative as he. His bosses were impressed with his work and considered him an
extremely valuable asset to not only their businesses but their lives as well. The life Edison led is
an example for all to aspire to. Experimentation and imagination is the beginning of all creation
especially in a capitalistic civilization such as ours. Edison improved life for the world as well as
for his family. His homes were modeled after his creativity and personal designs. He was a very
wealthy man from a financial perspective as well as a personable and intellectual perspective.
His predecessors admire him and aspire to be as strong willed, intelligent and brave as he. Today
his descendants carry the Edison name with pride and our country will always recognize that his
yesterday is our today. We owe Thomas Alva Edison a great big Thank you for his life and

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