Thomas Alva Edison, a very famous inventor who lived during the 19th and 20th centuries, invented the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and over a thousand other devices. He was always thinking of new ways to do things. Perhaps his only invention that wasn’t an “improvement” of another device was the phonograph. Many of his devices paved the way for current technology, while others, although interesting, had no market for general use. He was one of the smartest, most inventive, productive, and persevering people in history. (Thomas Alva Edison Biography)
The first characteristic that is admirable is that Thomas Edison was very intelligent despite having only three months of formal education (Edison, Thomas Alva). At birth, he had an abnormally large head and was said to be very curious about things, even as a baby (Cousins 3). When he was twelve years old, his schoolteacher told his parents that he wasn’t very smart and couldn’t learn, so his mother began to home-school him. Years before that, Edison’s mother had taught him to read (Thomas Alva Edison Biography).
One of his main sources of learning came from reading. He came to love reading, particularly science books, but he would read anything he could find. Since he loved to learn, he always carried a book in his pocket (Cousins 22).
Another main source for learning came from his lab experiments. Later in his childhood, he built a lab to do science experiments, first in his basement, then on the baggage car of the train he worked on (Edison, Thomas Alva). He liked his experiments because he enjoyed finding things out for himself and tinkering with different things to find how they worked. Over time he also came to know how to make money through selling, first papers and food and later inventions (Thomas Alva Edison Biography).
Besides his lack of formal schooling, Edison also had to rise above another kind of disadvantage-by adulthood he was almost deaf. Early in childhood, Edison lost some hearing from scarlet fever. His hearing then got much worse when he was pulled onto a moving train by his ears and he “felt something snap.” He could have had an operation to fix his hearing, but later in life he said that not being able to hear well helped him concentrate. Despite his disability, Edison was able to later develop two devices that pertained to sound: the transmitter and receiver for the telephone and the phonograph (Thomas Alva Edison Biography).
Edison was very creative and inventive and continued throughout his life to think of new inventions and designs. Edison saw many ways to put things and ideas together in novel ways that made devices easier to use or more useful. Ideas didn’t just pop into his head, except for the phonograph (Thomas Alva Edison). He was always looking for solutions to problems. A premier example of this involved the light bulb. When Edison saw other inventors and scientists experimenting with light, he became excited and involved in trying to build a kind of electric lamp. Oil and gas lamps of that time were smelly, dirty, and required lots of fuel.
Edison figured that the world would one day be lighted by electric lamps that “turned night into day” (Cousins 90). He wanted to be the person who invented that electric lamp. He promised a good, cheap, safe electric light. Edison and his “company” worked long and hard on designing the light bulb. This was his most difficult invention, for it was a challenge to find the “right” filament. He spent several years experimenting and finally designed a light bulb that burned for nearly 100 hours (Cousins 65). In a section of New York City, he put the first electric system in place giving light to businesses and houses powered from a “monster” generator (Cousins 122). The incandescent light bulb is Edison’s most famous and the invention that most changed peoples’ lives (Thomas Alva Edison).
Edison also made several improvements to the telegraph machine. He designed an automatic telegraph that increased the speed and range of the existing telegraph. He made a machine that enabled two transmissions over a single line. After Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Edison invented the carbon telephone transmitter.