Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman, who has been described as America’s greatest inventor. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fun facts about Thomas Edison.
1. Dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” he was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large scale teamwork to the process of invention, and is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.
2. Edison was a prolific inventor, holding 1,093 U.S. patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
3. More significant than the number of Edison’s patents was the widespread impact of his inventions. Electric light and power utilities, sound recording and motion pictures all established major new industries worldwide.
4. Edison’s inventions contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications.
5. Edison developed a system of electric-power generation and distribution to homes, businesses and factories, a crucial development in the modern industrialized world.
6. His first power station was located on Pearl Street in Manhattan, New York.
7. He taught his second wife Morse code so that they could communicate in secret by tapping into each other’s hands when her family was around.
8. Edison was an advocate for monetary reform in the United States. He was ardently opposed to the gold standard, and debt based money. Famously, he was quoted in the New York Times station, “Gold is a relic of Julius Caesar, and interest is an invention of Satan.”
9. Edison was a movie pirate. He made hundreds of copes of A Trip to the Moon by Georges Melies. This effectively bankrupted Melies.
10. The movie industry is based in Hollywood because movie makers were trying to get away from Edison, who was based in New Jersey. He had patents covering virtually all of the movie making process, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California was known to rule against patent claims.
11. Henry Ford stored his friend Thomas Edison’s last dying breath in a test tube. His motives were unclear, however, the test tube is on display today at the Ford Museum.
12. One of the reasons Edison created the phonograph was to record the last words and wishes of dying people.
13. Edison attempted to create ghost hunting equipment, but he failed. One of his assistants even died while testing it.
14. During childhood, Edison narrowly escaped from drowning in the barge canal that ran alongside his home.
15. In 1954, at the age of seven, Edison attended school for a short period of 12 weeks. Being a hyperactive child and prone to distraction, Edison’s teachers could not handle him. His mother removed him from school and tutored him at home until the age of eleven.
16. The removal of Edison from school proved beneficial for his career, as he developed self-learning skills with his ever increasing appetite for knowledge and reading.
17. Edison was a fan of Shakespeare‘s plays and wanted to be an actor. However, due to his high pitched voice and his extreme shyness before every audience, he soon gave up on the idea.
18. Edison enjoyed reading and reciting poetry. His life-long favorite was Thomas Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard.”
19. Out of his curiosity and appetite to learn, he ready every book in the library, starting with the last book on the bottom of the shelf. However, his parents guided him to become more selective with his reading.
20. In the beginning of his life, Edison worked as a telegraph operator. The job inspired many of his inventions in the telecommunications field.
21. He was nearly deaf as an adult as he became affected with scarlet fever and ear infections in the early years of his life. However, Edison cited a train accident as the cause of his hearing loss.
22. At the age of 13, after selling newspapers for a short time, Edison decided to publish his own newspaper, the Grand Trunk Herald, and sell copies to his existing clients. He published up to date stories that became a hit with his customers.
23. He worked for The Associated Press for a while. However, he had to leave his job because of the progress of technology and his hearing disability, which made it difficult to work for the company.
24. Nikola Tesla was hired by Edison and promised $50,000 if he would improve Edison’s DC motors. When Tesla did that, Edison reneged on his word, dismissing the promise as “American humor.”
25. He publicly killed animals using electricity and helped fund the development of the electric chair in a campaign to make alternating current seem more dangerous than direct current.
26. Canadian Matthew Evans invented the first incandescent light bulb in 1874; five years before Edison’s U.S. patent. They then sold it to Edison for $5,000.
27. Jay Gould, a ruthless and corrupt man who inadvertently crashed the stock market trying to corner the gold market, declared that Thomas Edison had, “a vacuum where his conscience ought to be.”
28. The first every copyrighted motion picture in the United States was one in which one of Edison’s assistants, Fred Ott, was filmed sneezing in 1894.
29. Edison invented one of the earliest versions of a talking doll.
30. Edison’s first invention in Menlo Park was the tin foil phonograph. He was invited to demonstrate it to the President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes.