Thomas Edison

Hojae Jung

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Brief Biography

  • Thomas Alva Edison
  • Born on February 11th, 1847, in Milan, Ohio
  • Father: Exiled political activists in Canada
  • Mother: an accomplished school teacher
  • Last of seven children
  • Wife: Mary Stilwell
  • Second Wife: Mina Miller
  • Three children: Marion, Thomas, and William
  • Died on October 18th, 1931, in West Orange, New Jersey

Early Life

  • He performed poorly at school
  • ->Was kicked out of school
  • ->He was taught by his mother at home
  • His mother, as a skilled teacher, led Edison to the path to a successful scientist
  • He was always learning or experimenting
  • Loved reading
  • Caused an accident on train
  • Suffered from deafness(scarlet fever) - He enjoyed!
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  • Created various kinds of electronic inventions (bulbs, battery, etc.)
  • Enhanced lifestyles of people all over the world
  • Motivation was his geniusness


  • Improved Stock Ticker - his first invention

  • Electric vote-recording machine - not used until later

  • He set up an "invention plant" - more opportunities to the inventors

  • Made electric bulb popular and cheap - better lifestyle for people

  • Many inventions that enhanced lifestyle - electric dynamo, the storage battery, the dictaphone, the mimeograph, the microphone, etc.

  • Xrays - blinded him & took away employee's hand

  • Tried to build a house with concrete

  • Chaired the Naval Consulting Board during WWI - invented weapons

  • "Edison Effect" - important for radios

Defining Quote

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

"Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration."

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

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How would he have been perceived?

Until he became an adult, he would have been perceived to be non-intelligent person, since he was not qualified by other people yet.

After his first invention, others would start noticing his importance in that time period, and most of educated people would be thankful to Edison who made their life easier.

And, now, he is perceived as a figure who was strong enough to overcome his failures and result in success. He gives moral guidance of dealing with failures to us.

What if I was Thomas Edison?

  • Frankly, even if I had his intelligence, I am not sure if I could use it as much as he did. If I had his talents in modern time period, I would go to extremely good college and work in a nice company, make enough money and live happily with my family.
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Parallels to Time Period

He was in a period of economic depression, and it was before the education reform was successful. It was understandable that he was kicked out of school, which would not be if the time period was modern day. And, he could make all the inventions because the technology back then was not advanced as much as right now, and I personally think he would not have made that much number of inventions if he lived in modern time period.
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Thomas Edison <-> Franklin Roosevelt

They were similar in that they did not fear failures. They both have a lot of failures.

The figure on left is Edison, and the figure on right side is Roosevelt.

Background color is black, since the circumstances before their trials were dark: physically dark for Edison, and economically dark for Roosevelt.

Historiography (Summation)

The Shock Treatment is an experiment that has been controversial over time. Started with the first death on an electric chair, the danger of alternating current(AC) was signified by Thomas Edison.(periodic sentence) The incident of Kemmler's electric execution was a huge opportunity for Edison. Since Edison was promoting direct current(DC) as an electrical system, his criticized intending to denounce alternating current and gain popularity of his idea. As a method, he performed several experiments on from dogs to elephants as objects of experiments, leaving the results of his experiments to be more used in the execution method.(participial phrase) However, by supporting the execution, Edison could grab people's attention to the result of alternating current's practical application in extreme situation. Despite his efforts, as a result, Edison lost the battle of popularity and the alternating currents became the most prominent electric system. With those facts, the author, Richard Moran, utilizing exact data and the appeals to emotion(participial phrase), criticizes Thomas Edison's experiments while keeping moderate and neutral tone. The author, with this article, informs readers of the historical events and the consequence: victory by George Westinghouse who supported alternating current, not Edison.

Most Important Contribution to Country

Made bulb cheap enough for mass production, which brightened people's life.

Moral Decisions

He had a lot of failures when he was trying to find a material that fits for the bulb's filament. However, he decided not to give up until he finds an answer. He kept trying and trying, until he tried more than two thousand materials and found good enough material for bulb's filament.

During he was working on the weapons for American participation of World War I, he met moral challenge. He had to make weapons for American troops, but he had a moral indignation: no violence. In order to compensate with both his moral indignation and his job, he decided to only work on defensive weapons which allows American troops to dodge or counter enemy's attack. And then he later became proud that he never invented weapons to kill.

Synthesis Questions

Prompt: Edison effectively used people's fear with extreme method in order to warn the dangers of alternating currents(AC). Use your moral sense and analyzation of following sources to defend, qualify, or challenge the prompt.

Secondary: Critical Thinking Video Series: Thomas Edison Electrocutes Topsy the Elephant, Jan. 4, 1903

Secondary: Tesla vs. Edison - An attractive human story, but this isn't engineering. about 70% from top

Secondary: Topsy: New book tells how Thomas Edison electrocuted an innocent elephant at Coney Island 1st~5th paragraphs

Secondary: Thomas Edison Facts 5th Bullet Point

Primary: What's the Difference Between AC and DC Electric Shocks?

Primary: Topsy the elephant electrocuted for murder (Photography)

The History of Thomas Edison - a Short Story

Works Cited

Ed. Dagobert D. Runes. the diary and sundry observations of Thomas A. Edison. New York: Philosophical Library, 1948. Print.

McGuire, William, and Leslie Wheeler. "Thomas Edison." American History. ABC-CLIO,, 2015. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

"Thomas Edison: A Hard-Working Genius." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.

Marshall, Jim. "General Electric Company." American History. ABC-CLIO,, 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.

Raven, Abbe. “Thomas Edison Biography.”, 2012. Web. 13 March 2015.