Edison, inspiration for engineers
Thomas Alva Edison was a versatile American electrical engineer, businessman, inventor, inspiration for engineers. His significance can be exemplified by the fact that since 1983 his birthday is the National Inventors Day in the USA. He was referred to as a genius, to which his reaction was: „Genius is hard work, stick-to-it-iveness, and common sense.”
The inventor Thomas Edison has created such great innovations as the incandescent lamp and the phonograph. He was a workmanlike businessman, and had control over many electrical engineers and engineers, additionally he patented over 1,000 inventions.
Perhaps we are not surprised by the statement that Edison was not average as a child. In the early stage of his life he lost a part of his hearing as a result of scarlet and some ear infection, basically he almost became deaf. Unlike normal children, he started school two years later due to his illness, and studied there only for 3 months. His teachers labeled him as “confused head”, so that Edison’s education was entirely left to his mother (who was also a teacher).
Edison said this many years later: “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint.”
The young engineer
Irregularly, at the age of 11 he had a great thirst for knowledge, he was reading books in various subjects, for instance Richard Green’s Parrot Natural and Experimental Philosophy book. In this book, a number of home-made experiments were described, and these experiments were the ones that aroused his interest in observing physical and chemical phenomena. In this loose, widespread curriculum, Edison had developed a self-learning process that served him throughout his life.
At the age of 12 (1859), he decided to start working, even though his parents would have been educated him. But little Edison was a pioneer in his childhood. He sold fruit, snacks and newspapers on the Grand Trunk railroad. (The train was the latest travel method at this time, crossing the american wilderness). Taking advantage of his access to everyday news, he began publishing his own newspaper, the Grand Trunk Herald. This was the first of what would become a long string of entrepreneurial ventures where he saw a need and capitalized on the opportunity.
Edison set up a small laboratory in the baggage car to carry out chemical experiments. In one of his attempts he caused a chemical fire, causing his laboratory (and the baggage car) to catch fire. This did not impress the railroad company. Edison was kicked off the train, so he had to continue his business at the stations. Some people associate his deafness with this incident.
At the age of 15 (1862) he traveled through the country as a „tramp telegrapher”. Using Morse-abc, sent and received messages over the telegraph. Even though he had already lost his hearing almost entirely, he could still hear the clicks of the telegraph (the deaf genius hear the sound of science). In the following seven years he moved dozens times, usually working all night, sending messages for trains, and even for the Union Army during the Civil War. During his spare time he experimented with telegraphic technology and got acquainted with the science of electrical engineering. Finally, he decided to invent things himself.
Example for engineers
After the failure of his first invention (electrographic voice recorder), Edison moved to New York. He presented here his latest great invention, the exchange rate indicating telegraph, which allowed people to be informed directly about the exchange rates of the New York Stock Exchange. This was his first major breakthrough. This invention impressed the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company so much, that it paid 40,000 dollar for patent rights. With this success he had finished his work on telegraphics, so that he could spend all his time on inventing.
At the beginning of the 1870s, Thomas Edison was a well-known inventor. In 1870 he founded his first laboratory and factory in Newark, New Jersey, where he worked with several electrical engineers and mechanical engineers. As an independent entrepreneur, Edison had developed a number of products for companies offering the highest bid. Often, the highest bidder was Western Union Telegraph Company, but at the same time Western Union considered Edison as a rival. In one of these cases, Edison worked with Western Union on the quadruplex telegraph, which was able to transmit two signals in two different directions on the same wire. But at the last minute, he sold the invention to railroad tycoon Jay Gould, who paid over 100,000 dollar in bonds and cash, generating years of litigation. We can see clearly that Edison was not only a great inventor but a great businessman too.
In December 1877 Edison developed the phonograph. Although it was not commercially viable for a while, the invention provided him a worldwide reputation.
Thomas Edison, electricity and light bulb
Though Thomas Edison was not the inventor of the light bulb, he invented the technology that brought it to the masses and made it widely usable.
After the acquisition and development of the patent of Woodward and Evans (the original inventors of the light bulb), Edison patented his own improved incandescent lamp in 1879, then he started producing and selling it. In January 1880, Edison founded a company that supplies electricity and illuminates the cities of the world. In the same year, Edison founded the Edison Illuminating Company, which later became General Electric Corporation. In 1881, he left Menlo Park to establish facilities in several cities in order to install electrical systems. In 1882, the Pearl Street generating station provided, for example, 110 volts of electricity for 59 consumers in Manhattan.
His later inventions and businesses
In 1887 Edison set up an industrial research laboratory in the West Orange region of New Orange, which served as the primary research laboratory for Edison lighting companies. He spent most of his time supervising the development of lighting technology and energy systems. He also perfected the phonograph, developed the motion picture camera and the alkaline battery.
Over the next few decades, Edison was more of a leader, he supervised the work of engineers instead of the former inventor role. The West Orange lab was 10 times larger than the Menlo Park, and half of his patents were born here. He also employed Tesla.
During his lifetime, Edison acquired 1093 patents and another 500-600 applications were submitted that were unsuccessful or rejected. When he got his first patent for the electrographic voice recorder, he was only 21 years old in 13 October 1868.
His unsuccessful engineering ideas
Edison was successful almost every time, no matter what kind of business he started. However, in his forties, according to the law of great numbers, he started businesses that did not bring the expected result.
For example,he had this bizarre idea of creating a device that manipulates electric energy in such a way as allow communication with the dead. His entrepreneurial vein appears here, as after the horrors of the First World War, there were a lot of people left without their loved ones who wanted to talk to their deceased relatives and friends again. Edison wanted to fill this niche.
The theoretical basis was that there is an invisible power source that connects the dead to the living. No scientist, electrical engineer or physicist could prove the existence of this source so far.
His talking doll was another bizarre failure. It was an idea far ahead of the technology of the era. The phonograph was invented in 1877, and 1889 Edison decided to make a talking doll using his phonograph. Although the doll had sound, but it aroused rather fear than sympathy. This business went bankrupt (since the technology was not able to produce high quality sound in a doll, so the result was more like a terrible noise).
Edison’s success story has made him a national hero in America. At the same time, he was a very controversial man: sometimes he was cheerful, sometimes egotistical, selfish and tyrannical with his colleagues and his family.
By the time he died, had become the most famous American, with the help of many young engineers and electrical engineers. He was the main part of the American technology revolution and the one who prepared the world stage for the era of modern electricity.