Thomas Edison

An important person in science history


February 11, 1847: Thomas Edison is born in Milan, Ohio.

1863-1867: Edison works as a telegraph operator in various cities of the Midwest, becoming a first-class press-wire operator and experimenting with telegraph instruments.

1870: Edison moves to Newark, New Jersey, and with money from a contract with the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company, he opens a telegraph manufacturing shop where he also conducts his inventive work.

December 25, 1871: Edison marries Mary Stillwell, one of his employees, before heading back to the lab to continue work on important improvements in stock ticker technology, several of which he has devised this year.

1874: Edison invents the quadruplex telegraph for Western Union, which transmits four messages simultaneously (two in each direction).

1875: Edison separates his laboratory from the manufacturing shop. He invents the electric pen, an early copying device, and works on various telegraph inventions. He also announces the discovery of "etheric force," not realizing that he has observed the behavior of radio waves; his controversial claim is not accepted by the scientific community.

1877: Edison invents the carbon transmitter, a crucial improvement in telephone technology, and the phonograph, which he demonstrates at the offices of Scientific American on December 7.

1879: Edison invents the carbon-filament lamp and a direct-current generator for incandescent electric lighting. A New Year's Eve demonstration of his system is held for the public at Menlo Park.

1880: Edison hires a larger staff to help him develop the components of his electric lighting system for commercial use and sets up a factory for the manufacture of electric lamps at Menlo Park.

1881: Edison leaves Menlo Park and opens new offices in New York City. He establishes factories to make various parts of the electric light and power system and begins construction of the first permanent central power station, on Pearl Street, which opens in September 1882.

1883-1884:Mary Stillwell dies. Edison marries Mina Miller.

1888: Spurred by the graphophone, Edison develops his "perfected" phonograph.

Edison engages in a "war of the currents" with George Westinghouse as he challenges the safety of the new alternating-current electric systems with evidence from animal electrocutions conducted at his laboratory.

1892: The Thomson-Houston Company and Edison General Electric merge to form General Electric. Edison leaves electric lighting and spends the rest of the decade attempting to develop a method for processing low-grade iron for use by eastern smelters, which fails after the discovery of rich new mines in the Midwest.

1896: Thomas Edison Introduces the Home Phonograph, an inexpensive, spring-motor phonograph.

1909: Edison markets his alkaline storage battery, which is used extensively in a host of commercial applications after the market for electric automobiles declines.

1927: Edison begins an effort to find a natural substitute for rubber that can be grown and processed quickly in case of shortages caused by war, eventually settling on goldenrod as the best material.

1929: Edison re-enacts the invention of the incandescent light at the Golden Jubilee celebration in Dearborn, Michigan, where Henry Ford has reconstructed the Menlo Park laboratory.

October 18, 1931: Edison dies in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey. The nation dims its light bulbs for one minute on the day of his funeral.


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

- Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

- Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

- Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

- Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.

- I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun.

- To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.

- Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.

- There is no substitute for hard work.

- I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world.


"American Experience: TV's Most-watched History Series." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 04 May 2016.