Time to progress: Thomas Alva Edison

Time to progress: Thomas Alva Edison
Yareah Magazine

Edison was a close friend of Mark Twain. Both of them were fascinated by new techniques (as so many people at this time). In fact, Edison made a short film (2’) in 1909 performed by Mark Twain.


Thomas Alva Edison (Tom) was born in Milan, Ohio (USA), on the 11th of February in 1847.

February 11 was designated as National Inventor´s Day in recognition of the inventions which he contributed to mankind.

Edison’s family was of Dutch origin.

At the age of twelve, Edison became hard of hearing. He left school because his teachers called him scatter-brained! His mother had been a school teacher in Canada. She encouraged and taught him to read and do experiments.

Edison saved a boy called Jimmie Mackenzi from being run over by a runway train. Jimmie’s father was so grateful that he took Edison under his wing and trained him as a telegraph operator.

Written by Nieves Fernández

Edison’s Youth

He married a 16-year-old girl called Mary Stilwell. They had three children.

Edison became a North-American inventor and business man and developed many devices which have influenced our lives. He applied the principles of mass production to the invention process. He created the first industrial research laboratory. However, above all, he is considered to be one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding 1,097 patents in North America and many patents in France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

In 1871, he invented the “teleprinter” so stock-market news could be transmitted immediately. With the money he earned with this, he set up a research laboratory – he started earning a living out of his inventions.


Edison began his career as an inventor in New Jersey with the automatic repeater and other improved telegraphic devices. In 1877 Edison became known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park” due to the invention of the phonograph.

In 1878 Edison invented and developed the carbon microphone which is used in telephones and in radio broadcasting and public address system. He also developed the electric chair as a demonstration of alternating current’s (AC) which created a greater lethal potential against the direct current (DC). As a part of this campaign Edison’s employees electrocuted dogs, cats and an elephant to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current (AC). Nowadays, the alternating current is used to improve the efficiency of power distribution. High frequency AC (100.000 Hz) is used in medicine. DC has the advantage that batteries can maintain power through interruptions of the electric supply in elevators.

In the 1880s Thomas Edison lived next to Henry Ford, the automobile magnate/tycoon. They were friends until Edison’s death. Edison contributed to automobile technology.

Finally, in 1880 he invented the electric light bulb.

In 1940, his life was made into a film, “Edison, the Man”, which Spencer Tracy starred as Edison. The movie starts with this sentence by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882): “The true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the crops, but the kind of man the country turns out”.

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