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Thomas Edison Biography

Nov 04, 2015

Thomas Edison (1847-1931) was undoubtedly one of the most accomplished inventors of our time. He held 1,093 US patents and was responsible for creating the motion picture camera, the electric light bulb, and the phonograph (a device for recording and producing sound). He also systemized the very process of invention, thereby laying the groundwork for the product research and development teams that these days work to create new products and processes for companies from Apple to Kleenex. With that in mind, can you imagine what our lives would be like now without him? 

Edison poses with some of his early light bulbs. Edison poses with some of his early light bulbs.

Early History

Thomas Edison was born in Ohio on February 11, 1847. Edison grew up in Michigan and was taught at home by his mother. He did attend public school for a short time (only three months), but did not thrive in the harsh educational environment that was typical of the time. His hearing was also impaired, which made the traditional school system especially challenging. Edison has credited his mother with being a driving force behind his intelligence and innovation, and in fact tried to live his life using the following four principles, which his mother taught him: 

  • Never get discouraged if you fail. Learn from it. Keep trying. 
  • Learn with both your head and your hands. 
  • Not everything of value in life comes from books - experience the world. 
  • Never stop learning. Read the entire panorama of literature.  

Thomas Edison as a child. Thomas Edison as a child.


Thomas Edison began his career in New Jersey, where he invented many improvements to the telegraph system. His first major invention, though, was the phonograph (invented in 1877), which amazed and astounded people all over the country. Around this time, Edison also built the first industrial research laboratory in the United States, located in Menlo Park, NJ. It was here that he continued work on his other inventions, including electric light. In 1880, Edison created an electric utility company, which was one of the first companies to provide a public electricity supply in the whole world. Thanks to his research lab, Edison had a lot of help with his inventions; much of his work, including the creation of the motion picture camera, was done in cooperation with other inventors.

Something tells me Thomas Edison didn't love being a telegraph operator...Something tells me Thomas Edison didn't love being a telegraph operator...

Fun Facts

  • By the early 1900s, Thomas Edison was already working on electric vehicle storage batteries; hybrid cars, though, didn't even become widely available until the late 1990s!
  • Thomas Edison loved the game Parchesi. 
  • Edison's young children often helped him compile resources for his research projects! 
  • Charles Edison, one of Thomas' sons, worked for President Franklin Roosevelt. 
  • The first ever message recorded and played on the phonograph was Thomas Edison saying "Mary had a little lamb."

A rarely captured smile!A rarely captured smile!
Have Your Say!

Which of Edison's inventions would you find it hardest to live without? Let us know in the comments section!