Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio. His father was a shingle maker and his mother was a school teacher. When Edison was seven, he moved to Port Huron, Michigan. Edison attended school there. He tended to ask many questions and this would bother his teachers. The teachers told his mother that he was mentally retarded and could never learn. He would not stay focused and was too active to learn. He only attended three months of formal education and the rest of the time his mother educated him at home.

Edison loved to read. His favorite books were science books that involved chemistry information. Since he was young, he liked to do chemistry experiments. When he was 14, Edison became a newsboy on the Grand Trunk railroad. While he worked there, an accident caused Edison to lose most of his hearing which only got worse through his lifetime.

At 15, Edison learned how to be a telegraph operator. He learned the Morse code and became skilled in sending and taking messages. One of Edison's first inventions was a telegraph repeater which automatically relayed a message to a second line. This device was the basis from which he developed some of his later important inventions.

In 1869 Edison went to Boston and patented his vote counter he had invented earlier. From this Edison developed the stock ticker. He was paid $40,000.00 for this invention. He invested the money to open a laboratory and factory in Menlo, New Jersey to work full time on inventing. Most of his inventions had to do with various kinds of multiplex systems of telegraphy. He soon became famous as "the wizard of Menlo Park." In 1882 alone, Edison applied for 141 patents and was granted 75 of them. Some of his major inventions were the incandescent electric light bulb, the phonograph, the motion- picture projector, automatic and multiplex telegraph, the carbon telephone transmitter, a stock ticker, and the alkaline storage battery. Some of these inventions took years and cost thousands of dollars to create and perfect.

The first Bell telephone was both a transmitter and a receiver. You would speak through it and then put it to your ear to hear the reply. The phone didn't work well and had too much static. Edison invented a carbon transmitter that strengthened the power of the voice.

When he was about 30, Edison invented the phonograph. He called it the "talking machine". Edison worked on the phonograph for many years trying to perfect it and it cost him over 3 million dollars to do it.

While he tried to produce light, Edison studied the entire history of lightening. He made threads of many heat-resistant material and put these filaments into glass globes and passed electricity through them. He used bamboo for these filaments and he produced the first light bulb. Edison then developed a complete system of distributing the current and built a central power station

When Edison died at the age of 84, he had patented 1,093 inventions.



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The Columbia Encyclpedia, Fifth Edition.1993.

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1996. Copyright 1995. Funk and Wagnall Corp.

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