The Edison Effect
There are many people who say Thomas Edison single-handedly invented the twentieth century. Although there are those who may disagree, one thing cannot be denied: Edison was a genius, and his inventions greatly affected the development of modern society.
Born in 1847 in Ohio, Thomas Edison attended school for only three months. After his teacher claimed that he could not learn, Edison's mother decided to teach him at home. There he was allowed to explore the subjects that most interested him. By age ten, Edison had built a science laboratory in the basement of his family's home and had become an avid experimenter.
Edison got his first job at age twelve on the railway selling candy and newspapers. Three years later, he suffered an ear injury from a train accident and lost much of his hearing. He could have had an operation, but he refused. He insisted that being deaf helped him concentrate on his experiments.
Thomas Edison's first invention was the automatic telegraph repeater. He was already an expert on the telegraph before he came up with a gadget that sent telegraph signals between unmanned stations. Thanks to Edison, people were then able to send several telegraph messages simultaneously .
Next came the electric vote recorder. It made voting quicker and more accurate, yet no one wanted to buy it. Edison then moved on to tackle the stock market ticker, the machine that gave information about stock market prices. Edison improved it, and sold the rights for US$40,000.
In his late twenties, Edison built an "invention factory" where he and his business partners could dedicate all their time to inventing. After improving upon the telephone, Edison created the phonograph, his favorite and most lucrativeinvention. Although Edison did not actually invent the light bulb, he did create an electric lighting system which led to its widespread use.
A tireless achiever, Edison established the first central electric power station in 1882, enabling New York to be the first city in the world to have electric lights. This was the beginning of the modern world in which electricity became a way of life.
The following year, one of Edison's engineers discovered electrons, which eventually led to electronics, the branch of science dealing with electricity. This discovery was patented as the "Edison effect". Without electronics, we might not have radio, TV, computers, or space travel. The rest of Edison's life was spent making and improving inventions including the motion picture camera, the alkaline battery, the copy machine, and the microphone.
Thomas Edison died at the age of eighty-four in 1931. Three days later, much of America dimmed its lights in honor of the inventor— man who had more impact on the development of present-day civilization than anyone else in history.