In Their Own Words: Thomas Edison (2001) by George Sullivan
“I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.” These are the words of Thomas Alva Edison. They help to explain why he is the greatest inventor in American history. (After I read about Benjamin Franklin in the same series, I looking for more biography, holla! I found Edison!) Edison’s inventions changed the world. Edison amazed people with the first practical electric lightbulb with hairpin-shaped carbon filament. He called it his “bright idea.” The phonograph was another of his ingenious inventions. He invented a movie camera and projector too, and was one of the first people to produce movies.
Edison also did much more. He invented the business of inventing. He brought together teams of scientists and engineers. They are his masterminds to solve problems (even so, he like to solve the hardest problems by himself). In so doing, Edison introduced the idea of modern research laboratory which many companies use today. Throughout his life, Edison valued hard work. Since he was a kid he worked as a farmer, then as train boy selling newspapers and snacks for the passengers (he even have his own mini laboratory in the train), and learned to become one of the most famous telegrapher. His curiosity and inventiveness gives joy and fullness to his life (oh, and also disasters. When he was six, he started a fire in his father’s barn. When asked why, he later explained that he wanted to “just see what it would do”). He worked day and night on his projects. “Genius,” Edison said, “is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” I almost agree totally with this statement. I just don’t think the percentage division is accurate.
Sadly, he suffered a hearing loss as a young boy and grew worst as he became older. Amazingly however, Edison was the original positive thinker. He claimed that his poor hearing worked to his benefit. “I wasn’t easily distracted,” he said, “because I heard fewer sounds than other people did.” So he could concentrate better. During his lifetime, Edison was granted 1,093 patents in the United States (That mean on average, if we count from the day of his birth to death, 84 years old, he invented at least once per month!) That’s the greatest number ever issued to one person. What I admire about Edison was his honestly, passion, confident and positive mental attitude. It was told that he also seldom gloomy. For example, in December 1914, a fire broke out at Edison’s factory buildings in West Orange. Edison, then 67 years old, stood and watched the blaze. “Where’s mother?” he asked his son Charles, “Get her over here. Her friends, too. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” Not long after, he rebuild the factory again.
Lest I try to make Edison perfect, he was not. He was also very competitive, feel superior to other inventors and sometime very mean to his ‘enemies.’ However, I think maybe these characters what make him the Inventor of the Age. He died in 1931 but his legacy continue on until today. “Edison,” write George Sullivan, “was after all the wizard of electricity. His inventions had changed the face of the world.” Look at the light bulb and you see his idea shine on us.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.