(1847-1931)

Edison's father

Samuel Edison Jr. was the father of Thomas Alva Edison. Samuel was most noted for his involvement in the Mackenzie revolt in Canada which.. Later fleeing to the United states, he settled in Milan Ohio where Thomas Alva Edison was born.

Edison's Childhood

Thomas Edison, to say the least, did not have an easy childhood. For instance, at the age of six he was responsible for starting a fire that destroyed the family barn. As punishment, he was publicly whipped by his father. Roughly a year after the fire incident, the family moved to Port Huron, Michigan where young Edison became ill and had to postpone his schooling until he was eight years of age. The schoolmaster at his school thought Edison to be and incredibly stupid and intractable boy. His mother however, seemed to have different thoughts on the matter. Disgusted at the school, she took her son out and took it upon herself to school the young boy at home. There, she exposed him to books at a far higher level than anyone of his age. Thanks to his mother's teachings, Edison's horizons of knowledge were not limited just to science, but also in such subject as philosophy, English, and history. By the time he was of age eleven, he established his own laboratory in his basement and via this he would acquire yet more of his skills.

At the age of twelve, Edison was obliged to start working instead of studying. He landed a job on the Grand Trunk Railway that made daily runs between Port Huron and Detroit. There he sold food, sweets and newspapers to the passengers. During the long layover in Detroit, Edison read books; he became one of the first patrons of the Detroit Free Library. It is said that Edison went systematically through their entire stock of books. Edison was also able to make himself a laboratory in the back of the train. However, his job on the train caused Edison to become deaf. One morning he did not make it aboard in time, and as the train started to pull away he tried to climb the first step but was not able to keep his balance. A railroad worker grabbed him by the ears and hauled him up. Edison felt something snap inside his head, which started his deafness, which got worse throughout his life. However, Edison did not look upon his deafness as a misfortune, he claimed that it allowed him to pay attention to books, and also allowed him to focus. While Edison still worked for the railroad, the stationmaster taught him how to send and receive by telegraph. He became proficient at the Morse code and soon became a good telegrapher. Unfortunately, Edison's laboratory at the back of the train also ended his career there. The train was jarred one day, spilling Edison's chemicals. The chemicals ignited, causing Edison's lab to go up in flames. The conductor didn't appreciate this much, so he threw Edison off the train.

When he was sixteen, Edison left his hometown job with his new proficiency and became a telegraph operator. In 1868 he lived in Boston for a short while, then moved to New York City. Once he was in New York, he got a job at the Gold Indicator Company. Because he was penniless, they gave him a place to sleep in the basement. Soon after that, he was hired at Western Union as an inventor. He became owner and manager of two manufacturing shops and later was captivated by a woman who worked in one of his shops, Mary Stilwell. They were married on Christmas, 1871.

Menlo Park

In 1876 Edison established the world's first "invention factory" located in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His lab was described as a large barn-like building where Edison was able to concentrate more on creating inventions. Edison developed the phonograph and the first light bulb in this factory in Menlo Park. Earning him world recognition and the nickname, "The Wizard of Menlo Park."

His wife Mary was stricken with typhoid and died in 1884. Edison was thirty-eight. A few years later he found himself attracted to Mina Miller.

'Perhaps the most famous invention that came out of the shop at Menlo Park, was the electric light bulb. Although Edison didn't invent the first electric light, he did however make the first practical light bulb for indoor use. At the time, arc lights were used on the streets, but were to bright for use in the standard household. The incandescent light bulb, which is based on sending an electric current through a filament until it heats up enough to give off light, produced just enough light to be used in the common house.' Unfortunately, Edison had a hard time finding filaments that would last for any significant amount of time. Eventually, Edison used carbonized Bristol board as the filaments. When he developed the idea for the light bulb, Edison also designed plans for an entire electrical system, including wiring, generators, and standards for outlets and sockets.

Middle to end life of Edison

During his travels in search for the 'perfect' filament, Edison built a house in Fort Myers, Flordia. Edison also owned the Glenmount mansion in West Orange, New Jersey. He lived in New Jersey with his wife Mina, after they were married in 1886. Not far from his house in New Jersey he created another research laboratory, this one even larger than the one at Menlo Park.

In August of 1931, he took a turn for the worse, and it was clear to everyone that he was slipping away. Someone asked him if he had thought about a life hereafter, and he replied, "It does not matter. No one knows." He passed away early Sunday morning, October 18, 1931. Josephson comments: "The electromagnetic telegraph, the telephone, the radio, with all of which his life had been bound up, flashed the news to all corners of the world." During his life, Edison accomplished many things. In his life, Edison completed 1093 patents. Also he was the founder of many industrial companies. Some of the companies still exist today; for example, General Electric.