Thomas Alva Edison

A Scientific Revolutionary

Introduction to Brilliance

Edison famously said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration" (Adkins 63). Determined, a risk-taker, and inspirational: most people in this world consider themselves one of these three words. Many of people may consider themselves two. But there are only a handful who can justifiably be considered all three. These people are what we consider revolutionaries. Thomas Edison was determined, a risk-taker, and inspirational and was a scientific revolutionary that changed the world.

Background History

"Born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio, Thomas Edison rose from humble beginnings to work as an inventor of major technology." (Thomas Edison Biography, Biography.com) He was the seventh and youngest child of Samuel Edison Jr. and Nancy Elliott Edison, and would be one out of four to survive to adulthood. Edison didn't have much formal education, and left school when he was only 12 years old. He started working on the railroad between Detroit and Port Huron, Michigan. (Adkins 20-21) While working on the railroad, Edison created his first work, the Grand Trunk Herald. This was circulated to over 400 railroad employees. Not long after, Edison became a telegraph operator. He was taught how by the father of a child, whom he had saved the life of. Due to his deafness, he was excused from military service. (Thomas Edison Biography, Advameg, Inc) Edison did not have a good home life and often didn't leave the lab for weeks. His first wife, Mary Stillwell Edison, died in 1884 of "brain congestion" and he wondered why he couldn't invent a way to help her. (Adkins 94-95)

How Was He a Revolutionary

Thomas Alva Edison was very innovative and had 1093 patents (Thomas Edison’s Philosophy) which is more than anyone else. He always seized opportunities and made connections. He was known as the young wonder and could solve any problem. A telegraph expert said, “Edison’s ingenuity inspired confidence, and wavering financiers stiffed up.” (Adkins, 52) This shows that Edison was a great persuader which is one thing that makes him a revolutionary. Contrary to popular belief, Edison did not invent the light bulb. Instead, he improved upon their design and made them longer lasting and more economical (Adkins 78-79). Edison was a risk taker and was not afraid of failure. In response to his missteps, Edison once said, "I have not failed 10,000 times- I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work" (Hendry). This also shows his determination. Another way that Edison took risks was he invested money from investors and also his own money from earlier patents on his new inventions (Adkins 89). Edison was also determined and often made the best of failed inventions. One example of this was how he used technology from his electromagnetic ore separator to make a concrete business (Adkins 112). While Edison is most known for inventing the phonograph, improving the light bulb and his motion picture machine, his most revolutionary invention was to systematize the process of invention that is still used today (Thomas Edison’s Philosophy). Before Menlo Park, invention was a cottage industry but Edison wanted to leave the manufacturing problems to others and devote everything to discoveries. He inspired his workers to put in long hours to solving scientific problems, uncovering new knowledge and making new tools (Adkins 61-62).

How His Inventions Are Used Today

While everyone may know what the incandescent light bulb and phonograph are, other inventions of Edison's such as the Kinetoscope sound so strange that people may not make the connection between that invention and the motion picture industry today. While the fields of industry and entertainment have progressed, Edison's work was the foundation for much of the technology we use today (Thomas Edison's Inventions in the 1900s and Today). The electric pen was considered a failure at the time but it was the predecessor for the mimeograph machine and the modern tattoo machine (Hendry). Edison also improved on the "literary piano" to make the Remington typewriter (Adkins 59) that is like the QWERTY keyboards used today. It is obvious that Edison's work impacts modern life and that his work was revolutionary.

A Revolutionary Conclusion

Thomas Edison helped revolutionize the modern world. Some of his inventions are still used today and his determination and method for scientific discovery were truly revolutionary. Edison overcame a limited education and his hearing loss, to become one of the greatest inventors of the 20th century. He was a scientific revolutionary that was determined, a risk-taker, and was inspirational.