Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847. Edison was an inventor, manufacturer, and businessman. His skills in marketing himself and his inventions led him to receive globalized fame in his mid-30s. During his lifetime Edison had more than 1,000 patents, singly or joint, including the incandescent light bulb, phonograph, and the “Kinetograph” — which was one of the first motion picture cameras. Edison was the first inventor to apply the principles of organized science and teamwork to the process of invention while working alongside several esteemed researchers to create the world’s first industrial research laboratory.
Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio on February 11, 1847. He was the youngest of seven siblings born to his father Samuel Edison Jr, and his mother Nancy Elliott Edison — who tragically died in 1871. Edison’s father was the lighthouse keeper and carpenter on the “Fort Gratiot” military post in Michigan, and his mother —who used to be a school teacher — taught him reading, writing, and arithmetic. At the young age of 12, Edison began developing hearing problems.
At 13 he started selling candy, newspapers, and vegetables on a train running from Port Huron to Detroit and he turned $50 profit a week — most of which went to purchasing equipment for his experiments. During the Civil War, he worked as a telegrapher all across the United States after he learned about the emerging technology of telegraphy. Edison then developed a serious hearing problem that was attributed to his contracting scarlet fever when he was younger. His disadvantage motivated him to invent devices that would make it possible for a person with a hearing impairment to work with auditory signals.
In 1871, Edison married 16-year-old Mary Stillwell — who ultimately passed away in August of 1884. After his wife died, he remarried in February 1886 to Mirna Miller, with whom he had three children. Edison completed his first commercial use for his incandescent light bulb in 1880, which was operated on board the Columbia — a new steamship — until it was decommissioned in 1895. In December 1880, he founded the Edison Illuminating Company and acquired a vast estate with a research lab in West Orange, New Jersey, where he began to work on developing and commercializing the phonograph. Since then, Edison has received a “Technical Grammy Award” — a distinction bestowed upon persons who have made excellent technical contributions to the field.
Edison was nicknamed the “Wizard of Menlo Park” due to his laboratory that was concerned with creating knowledge. Later in his life, he focused his attention more on developing an alkaline storage battery, which he was credited with building the framework for modern-day electricity. Thomas Edison died in 1931 after complications with diabetes.
Thomas Edison quits his work in telegraphy to pursue invention full-time.
Edison's mother tragically dies and in the same year, he marries Mary Stillwell.
Edison invents the phonograph which causes an unexpected accomplishment that grants him celebrity status.
While focusing on inventing safe inexpensive electric light to replace oil and gaslights he has a breakthrough and replaces the platinum filament bulb with carbonized bamboo as a viable alternative for the filament.
Edison’s Incandescent lighting systems are used in a Lighting Exhibition in Paris.
He sets off a media sensation with the announcement of a “spirit phone” to communicate with the dead, in a statement, Edison later admitted it was a made-up story so as not to disappoint the publications.
Edison is inducted into the official hall of fame for his inventions.
Why We Love Thomas Edison
He was an optimist and smart businessman
On December 31, 1879, during his first public demonstration of the incandescent light bulb, he famously said “we will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.” He predicted the future, in a sense.
He is the greatest inventor in America
Some of Edison's inventions include the electric power generator, sound recorder, motion picture camera, phonograph, and tools used for mass communication. He certainly was a busy man!
His mother was his first teacher
Although he was a smart boy as a child, he was taught by his mother who was a qualified teacher until he turned 11. This instilled in him a deep love for learning as well as a curiosity.
5 Surprising Facts
He has more than 1,000 patents
Edison has a total of 1,093 patents of which 389 were for electric light and power, 195 for the phonograph, 150 for the telegraph, 141 for storage batteries, and 34 for the telephone.
He was fired for conducting unauthorized experiments
During his night shift one night In 1867 while experimenting, some sulfuric acid spilled on the floor, seeped through the floorboards and onto his boss’ desk, and he was fired the next day.
He founded the company “General Electric”
To this day “General Electric” is still one of the largest publicly-traded companies in the world.
He helped film the 1910 “Frankenstein” Movie
Edison's film studio was responsible for the first “Frankenstein” film in 1910.
His children were named after the telegraph
Edison nicknamed his children ‘Dot’ and ‘Dash’ after the morse code.
Thomas Edison FAQs
Was Thomas Edison rich or poor?
At the time of his death, Edison had an estimated net worth of $12 million, adjusted for inflation the modern equivalent of $170 million.
What was Thomas Edison’s most famous invention?
He is best known for his invention of the phonograph and incandescent electric lightbulb.
Are there any living relatives of Thomas Edison
During his 13-year marriage to Mary Stilwell Edison, Edison fathered three children, none of which had children of their own.
Thomas Edison’s birthday dates