Name: Thomas Alva Edison
Birth Date: February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931
Job Functions: Inventor
Fields: Science, Invention, Manufacturing
Known For: Inventing phonograph, incandescent electric light bulb, and motion picture projector.
Introduction to Thomas Alva Edison
Continuing with our theme for National Mentoring Month to feature one of Napoleon Hill’s nine invisible counselors, today our focus is on Thomas Alva Edison. Just to recap, Napoleon Hill, who wrote the timeless classic, Think and Grow Rich, had nine men that he used as invisible mentors.
He studied these nine men very closely, and as a result, was able to anticipate how they would respond when he faced a problem – he could ask, for example, “What would Thomas Alva Edison do?” in this situation, and would intuitively know. The intent of this series is for you to get to know these nine men, and perhaps borrow an idea or two, or a technique or two from them.
Thomas Alva Edison had a thirst for learning, but left school early because he was hearing impaired and couldn’t hear what his teachers were saying. He was homeschooled by his mom. In this mini biography of him, you will learn about his accomplishments, and his persistent nature. You will see the major steps he took which contributed to his success. We learn from Edison the importance of taking action.
Surprisingly, although Thomas Alva Edison invented devices that were revolutionary, he was never awarded a Noble Prize.
Other Invisible Counselors (Invisible Mentors)
Thomas Alva Edison’s Steps to Success
- Thomas Alva Edison was homeschooled by his mother, Nancy Edison, a former teacher. She instilled in her son the importance of reading, which was the start of his lifelong love of reading.
- Reading included science textbooks, which enabled him to conduct many experiments in physics and chemistry.
- Held 1,093 patents – for 63 consecutive years, starting in 1868, he patented an invention every year. Patents include: Incandescent electric light bulb, phonograph, motion picture projector, telephone transmitter that led to commercial telephone and radio broadcasting.
- His entrepreneurial spirit emerged at an early age – at 12 years old, he took a job on the Grand Trunk railway, selling magazines, candy, apples, sandwiches, and tobacco on the train.
- A very enterprising lad, he recognized a market of readers, so in 1862, using a small handpress in a baggage car, he published a subscription based newspaper, the Grand Trunk Herald, at eight cents per month. It was circulated to 400 railroad employees.
- Used the baggage car as a chemistry lab.
- Became a telegraph operator in 1862, which he mastered, and for the next few years worked in towns throughout the American Midwest.
- In 1868, he went to work for Western Union Telegraph Company in Boston.
- Spent nights experimenting with electrical currents, which resulted in the invention of a device to electronically record voice votes taken by the legislative assembly.
- In 1869, invented the Edison Universal Stock Printer, which was a commercial success. It enabled him to manufacturer stock tickers and high speed printing telegraphs, and in a short time frame had 50 consulting engineers.
- Six years later, he held 200 patents for inventions he and his staff created at the company.
- In 1876, he started to construct a large manufacturing plant in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he completed the most important of his career.
- On October 21, 1879, publicly demonstrated an incandescent light bulb. Realizing the implications of his discovery, and its ability to change the world, Edison invested the next few years to adapt it for large scale use.
- Founded his company, the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York on December 17, 1880. By 1882, the company began operating the world’s first electric power station, supplying power to 400 incandescent lamps owned by 85 customers.
- Within 4 months, the station was lighting more than 5,000 lamps for 230 customers, and the demand for lamps far exceeded supply. By 1890, it supplied current to 20,000 lamps.
- In 1887, built a large lab in West Orange, New Jersey, which subsequently hired 5,000 people who produced an improved phonograph, mimeographs, alkaline-storage batteries, dictating machines, and motion picture cameras and projectors.
- Produced The Great Train Robbery, one of the first movies ever made, using technology he invented. The Edison Company produced over 1700 movies. He synchronized movies with the phonograph in 1904, which was the basis for “talking pictures.” By 1913, developed a prototype of the “talking picture.”
- Served as president of the U.S. Navy Consulting Board during World War I and contributed many of his discoveries to the war effort.
- Won many awards for his many revolutionary inventions that helped to shape and change the world.
The Great Train Robbery of 1903 By Thomas Edison Motion Picture
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Biggest Accomplishments – Why Thomas Alva Edison’s Contribution Matters
- Thomas Alva Edison held 1093 patents including: Incandescent electric light bulb, mimeographs, alkaline-storage batteries, dictating machines, and motion picture cameras and projectors. He is the only American who patented an invention every year for 63 years.
- Edison’s motion picture cameras and projectors combined with George Eastman’s refinement of film, were the precursor to the motion picture industry.
- He built on Alexander Graham Bell’s invention – the telephone – by amplifying and improving the sound quality.
Lessons from Thomas Alva Edison
- Persistence pays: It took 10 years to commercialize the phonograph. Edison spent his career inventing devices, some of which were revolutionary. He kept on perfecting his inventions.
- Read voraciously, applying what he learned from reading.
Why would Thomas Alva Edison make a good invisible mentor?
Thomas Alva Edison is someone whose life you can use as an example. He read voraciously, and read for a cause because he applied what he learned from the books that he read. He was persistent, never giving up, finding ways to perfect his inventions. It took 8,000 trials for his superior storage battery with alkaline electrolyte to work the way he wanted it to.
Documentary 2015 | Thomas Edison – The Wizard of Menlo Park
Image Credit: via Wikipedia
Encyclopedia of World Biography
UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography
Science and Its Times
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture
Gale Encyclopedia of US Economic History
Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy