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The Greatest People in History Series - Thomas Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park

Updated on November 30, 2013

The Great Inventor - Thomas Edison


I've not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. - Thomas Edison

How Much Do You Really Know about Thomas Edison?

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The Phonograph


The Story of Edison

The Greatest People in History and What we Can Learn from Them - Thomas Edison

In the 19th century, America was well-known around the globe for it's 'inventiveness' and if there is any one man from that great country who stands out and personifies the word 'inventiveness', it is surely Thomas Alva Edison. He patented over 1000 inventions in America and thousands more in other countries.

Among those patents are some of the greatest contributions to modern life - inventions that helped usher in and define the industrial age. It was Edison, more than any other individual, who laid the foundation for the technological and social revolution of the modern electric world.

The Wizard of Menlo Park

In his day, Edison was known as the "The Wizard of Menlo Park," due to his ingenuity. That is astonishing when you consider that he only had 3 MONTHS of schooling AND suffered from deafness for most of his life. The lack of schooling alone would cause most people nowadays to shy away from the idea of starting their own business or pursuing a career in science or literature but not Edison, he taught himself the necessary skills and soaked up as much knowledge as he could in order to pursue his dream of becoming an inventor.

1880 - Thomas Edison's Light bulb Patent Application


Little Known Facts about Thomas Edison

  • At the age of ten, Thomas Edison built his first lab.
  • Although Edison was partially deaf, he said he preferred it that way as it helped him concentrate.
  • Edison proposed by way of Morse Code!
  • Edison only received 3 months of formal education.
  • He often dressed in dirty shirts and was unkempt.
  • The period of 1879 to 1900 was named the Age of Edison - the period of time when he produced most of his inventions.

Lesson One: It doesn't matter what your circumstances are, success is still attainable.

It is easy to make excuses and put your failure to be a success down to your lack of education or a circumstance that is out of your control. Too easy. Here is another example of someone who could have sat back and let life pass him by: Nick Vujicic was born with no arms or legs. Imagine that. He has more reason than most to just give up and settle for the very least he can get out of life, but guess what, he doesn't. He travels the globe, inspiring people to grow and improve themselves. He teaches people that it doesn't matter what you look like or what your circumstances are, you can still be happy AND successful. Compare his situation to yours and ask yourself whether you are living as fully as you are able to or taking the easy way out.

'Studies indicate that the one quality all successful people have is persistence.
They are willing to spend more time accomplishing a task and to persevere in the face of many difficult odds. There is a very positive relationship between people's
ability to accomplish any task and the time they are willing to spend on it.' - Nelson Boswell o- Dr. Joyce Brothers

Three Great Men - (left to right) Thomas Edison, John Burroughs and Henry Ford


Thomas Edison with his Phonograph


The Greatest Inventor

Edison was born on February 11, 1847 in the small town of Milan, Ohio, but his family soon moved to Port Huron, Michigan. His father, Samuel, was a shingle maker and land investor, but he was never very successful. From an early age, Edison displayed curiosity and inventiveness and one day when he was 5 years old, his parents found him sitting on a batch of chicken eggs. When pressed for a reason, he explained that he was waiting to see if they would hatch.

The Most famous Inventor of Them All!


Edison's Mimeograph



At the age of 6, Edison decided he wanted to know what a bonfire looked like and so eagerly set about building one, which caused the family barn to catch fire and collapse. Furious, his father dragged him to the public square and thrashed him in front of shocked onlookers. Edison still mentioned that incident some 60 years later.

Dim and Unresponsive at School

Edison's parents enrolled him in a local grammar school when he was just 7 years old, but complications soon arose due to his apparent lack of interest in learning the school curriculum. He was easily distracted and had a very short concentration span, being distracted by the slightest of disturbances much to the chagrin of his teachers, who labelled him 'slow' and 'unresponsive.' To make matters worse, due to his quiet and subdued nature, Edison was taunted and ridiculed by the other children. At this point, Mrs. Edison pulled her son out of school and resolved to tutor him herself.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration - Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison - The Good and The Bad

The Good
The Bad
Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb.
Edison stole Joseph Wilson Swan's idea for the light bulb by first making Swan a partner, forming the Ediswan United Company, and then buying Swan out completely. In doing so, he bought all records of the light bulb and claimed sole credit for its invention
Edison invented the first commercially available X-Ray.
Edison's assistant, Clarence Dally, volunteered to be Edison's guinea pig and later died of injuries due to over exposure to massive amounts of radiation.
Thomas Edison illuminated the world with his incandescent light bulb.
In order to prove the dangers of Tesla's AC current and the safety of his DC current, Edison publicly electrocuted an elephant to death in front of 1,500 people on Jan 4th, 1903.
Is the fourth most prolific inventor in history.
Invented the first electric chair in order to prove the dangers of Tesla's AC current, and had a prisoner on death row executed.
Edison employed Tesla before Tesla became a famous inventor.
Once, Tesla fixed Edison's DC generator and was promised beforehand that he would receive $50,000. Edison never paid him and instead offered to up his salary from $18 a week to $25 a week.

Thomas Edison's Birth Place

Milan, Ohio,:
Milan, OH, USA

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The place where the great inventor was born and raised.

Lesson Two: Never lose sight of your dream, despite what people say about you.

Edison was ridiculed, labeled slow, unresponsive and unteachable but he wasn't any of those things, truthfully. He was a young man with a dream, he was more interested in sketching and doodling, than following rigid, tedious lesson plans. His mind was sharp and he preferred real thinking and reasoning to the boring lessons he received at school.

Sights Firmly on His Goal

Despite all the harsh words and treatment he received for being different as a youngster, Edison never allowed it to cloud his vision and disrupt his future, he left those things in the past where they belonged. No matter what people say, or do, it means nothing to the attainment of your goals. If you have a goal and a desire to achieve that goal, focus on what needs to be done to achieve it and listen to your 'own' inner voice for guidance. Don't allow others to tell you who you are, when you know who you are better than anyone else.

You know what you want, so leave past negative experiences behind you and resolve to go for your dream.

"To dream anything you want to dream, that is the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do, that is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits, that is the courage to succeed." - Bernard Edmunds

Greatest People Poll

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    • stevarino profile image

      Steve Dowell 

      5 years ago from East Central Indiana

      I'm am on the final chapter of Paul Israel's "Edison; a Life of Invention" and I still flunked your quiz! Thomas Edison was a prolific American though he apparently was on the self centered side and certainly had his share of enemies. He didn't treat his 2 older sons very well either, according to the book.

      Interesting article - Thanks!

    • Richawriter profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard J ONeill 

      5 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Hey there Paulzee,

      Thank you for commenting. I appreciate it.

      You seem to have misunderstood the intent of this article however. This series of articles is for inspirational purposes only and in no way seeks to discredit or condemn.

      Your opinion is welcome though and I have accepted your comment.

      Have a great day.


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Look Inventors invent, for the most part they are not businessmen, If they think things through they hire the people to do that end, along with marketers, salesmen, bankers, distributors etc.

      Henry Ford did not invent the auto but he knew how to mass produce, ( He also had the backing and encouragement of people Like Thomas Edison ).

      You can not condemn someone of doing the best they can. They, just like us live in a world system called capitalism. If it was not for these risk takers the very ideas and inventions that make modern life work would not be there.

      You would still be plowing with an ox (if you could afford one ), and squatting over a hole in the ground with a page of the Sears catalog in your hand.

      One thing an inventor does before they invent something is they think, this is something many don't do before they write.

      Thank you for allowing me to post my comment.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Despite the nature of your comment, Eduard, I shall accept it because everyone is welcome to their opinion.

      I'm not seeking to discredit and stir controversy through these articles, if I were, I would never have created the article above.

      This is simply a story covering the life of one of our greatest people, (human beings, not Americans) and to help others by giving them hope for their own lives.

      Nonetheless, thanks for the comment.


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      thomas edison only buyed patents from other invetors. The bulb light in carbon was inveted one year before by Joseph Swan in England.

      Swan's initial findings from tinkering with carbon filament electric lighting, and his preliminary designs, appeared in an article published by Scientific American. Without a doubt, Edison had access to, and eagerly read this article.

      Swan, felt quite differently, as he watched Edison line his pockets with money made from his invention, and took Edison to Court for patent infringement. The British Courts stood by their patent award for the light bulb to Swan, and Edison lost the suit. The British Courts forced Edison, as part of the settlement, to name Swan a partner in his British electric company. Eventually, Edison managed to acquire all of Swans' interest in the newly renamed Edison and Swan United Electric Company.

      Here is the greatest American invertor!!!

      And what about bell?? he didn't inveted the phone but an Italian invetor of Name Marconi did it.



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