LEVELED READER • UThomas EdisonA Reading A–Z Level U Leveled Reader Word Count: 1,457 Thomas Edison Written by Joanne C. Wachter Visit www.readinga-z.com www.readinga-z.com for thousands of books and materials.
Table of ContentsA Curious Boy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4Young Al. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5Edison the Inventor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8A New Lab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Edison once said, “I never pick up an item without thinking of how I might improve on it.”Important Inventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10A Special Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 A Curious BoyOther Exciting Ideas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 “Why?”A Remarkable Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 That was Thomas Edison’s favorite questionGlossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 from the time he learned to talk. He spent hisIndex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 whole life exploring why and how things work. Once he knew how something worked, he tried to figure out how to make it work better. Thomas Edison invented or improved over a thousand things, some of which we use every day. 3 4
Young Al Not only did young Al develop the skills of an inventor, but he also learned to be a businessman. Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, He grew vegetables on his parents’ land and 1847. He was the youngest of seven children. Al, sold them. Al’s parents allowed him to take a job as he was called as a boy, lived in Ohio with his with the railroad when he was just twelve family until 1854, when they moved to Michigan. years old. He sold food and newspapers to the Although he was smart and curious, Al did passengers. Al used the money he earned to buy not do well in school. In those days, students books and science supplies. The young boy’s hard memorized facts, and this bored Al, who wanted work impressed his boss, who liked him so well to ask questions and explore. After several that he allowed Al to set up a science lab in a months, Mrs. Edison took her son out of school baggage car. and taught him at home. Al’s mother taught him When he was fifteen, Al got another idea for to love reading, and his father encouraged his making money on the trains. He bought an old reading by giving himDo You Know? ten cents for every classic printing press, a machine used to print books As a child, Edison and newspapers, and book he read.developed a hearing published his ownproblem. By the time he At ten years old, one paper. He includedwas an adult, people stories about world of Al’s favorite bookshad to shout in his ear was a collection of science events along withto be heard by him.Edison did not consider experiments. He took jokes, train schedules,his deafness a problem, the book to the basement, and other articles tothough. He said it set up a simple lab, and interest train riders.helped him work without People bought the did every one of thedistraction and allowed experiments. He also paper for eight centshim to sleep better. built working models, a month. including a steam-powered sawmill, a railroad engine, and a simple telegraph Young Thomas Edison machine. 5 6
That same year, Al’s quick thinking saved a Edison the Inventoryoung boy’s life. Al saw the boy wander onto the After a few years, Thomas Edison decidedtracks as a train steamed toward him. Al raced to that what he really wanted to do was becomethe tracks, scooped up the child, and carried him a full-time inventor. Some of his early inventionsto safety. The child’s grateful father, who was were improvements on the telegraph machine.a telegraph operator, offered to teach Al his job. For example, he found a way to send four messages at once instead of just one. Do You Know? The telegraph was a The first patent that Edison received was way to communicate before for an electric vote counter. Edison thought that the invention of telephones. state lawmakers wasted a lot of time counting It used a code of dots and votes by hand. He made a machine that allowed dashes to form letters to lawmakers to press a button to tell whether they make a message sent over were for or against a bill. The results of the vote wires. The code was called showed on a large board. The lawmakers were Morse code. Here are the words “Morse code” in not enthusiastic, though. One said, “Young man, Morse code. that is just what we do not want.” Such a critical response would have upset most people, but not Edison. He once said, “I never allow myself to become discouraged under any circumstances.” As Edison grew older, he traveled aroundthe country as a telegraph operator. He now A New Labpreferred to be called Tom. He continued to As ideas continued to flood his brain, Edisonbe interested in science, and spent much of the needed a new place to work and people to helpmoney he earned on books and supplies. He him. He built a lab for his science experimentsliked to work the night shift and use his days in Menlo Park, New Jersey, in 1876 and calledfor experiments. it his “invention factory.” This barnlike wooden 7 8
Edison improved existing devices, including the telephone.Edison in his lab, which he called his “invention factory” Important Inventions The first big project Edison and his teambuilding was the first for-profit research lab did at Menlo Park was finding a way to improvein the world. There, Edison worked twenty hours Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Peoplea day, only stopping to take short naps on a cot. had to shout into the first telephones to make themselves heard. In 1877, Edison found a way Thomas Edison believed that teamwork was to make a caller’s voice louder and clearer.a key to success. Edison sketched his ideas innotebooks and gave the sketches to his twenty- Do You Know?five workers, who then made working models. In 1871, Edison married Mary Stilwell. TheEdison filled 3,500 notebooks with ideas for couple had three children, Marion, Thomas, Jr., andinventions. Not all of these ideas worked, but William. Mary died in 1884, and Edison marriedEdison said, “Negative results are just as valuable Mina Miller a few years later. There is a story that Edison used the telegraph operators’ code to askto me as positive results. I can never find the Mina to marry him. Their children were Madelaine,thing that does the job the best until I find the Charles, and Theodore.ones that don’t do it.” 9 10
From what Edison learned by working on A Special Projectthe telephone, he got another idea. Could he Edison wasted no time getting started withfind a way to record voices to listen to later? his next project. For fifty years, people had triedHe sketched an idea and gave it to one of his to find a practical way to use electricity to makeworkers, who then made a model. The words to light. Many inventors created light bulbs, butthe nursery rhyme “Mary had a little lamb,” were the bulbs either burned too brightly, too dimly,recited into the machine. Much to everyone’s or burned out tooamazement, the machine played back the words. fast. In 1878 Edison This invention, called the phonograph, was became determinedvery simple compared to modern tape recorders to solve this problemand CDs, but it was quite exciting to people in and boasted that hethe 1800s. As soon as people heard about this would produce ainvention, Edison became famous. practical light bulb in six weeks. Edison with his experimental bulb The onlyproblem was that Edison said, “The three things that are mostno one was sure essential to achievement are common sense,what to do with the hard work, and stick-to-itiveness.” The Edisoninvention. Edison team stuck to the task as theytried experiments worked around the clock. Thesuch as putting a challenge was to find a materialtiny phonograph filament to use for the filament, the part ofinside a doll to the light bulb that glows. Edison’smake it “talk,” but workers tried thousands of differentthe toy soon broke. materials until they found one Thomas Edison with first phonographIt was not until that worked. The discoveryyears later that Edison realized that his invention took longer than six weeks, butcould be used to record and play music. The finished bulb Edison’s team had succeeded. 11 12
Edison opened the lab for visitors to see Other Exciting Ideaswhat his team had accomplished. People were By 1886, Edison needed more space, so heamazed as they walked up a path lined with moved into a larger lab and hired sixty workers.electric streetlights and entered the lab brightly The team turned its attention to another excitinglit with electric lights. Soon, everyone wanted project. Edison found that if he recorded manyelectric lights. still pictures and then showed them very fast, In 1881 Edison moved to New York City to the images looked as if they were moving. Thishelp start the first electric power plant. Before led to the invention of the movie projector, whichlong, power plants in hundreds of communities played manywere making it possible for people to switch images quickly.from dangerous, smelly, dirty gas and oil lamps The firstto electric lights. films Edison recorded were only thirty seconds long. Thomas Edison with film projector He tried to link the phonograph with this new invention but found it too hard to get the sound and pictures to match, so his films were silent. Edison continued to pour ideas into his notebooks and work with his team to make his dreams come true. Some of his other inventions included machines for mining, improved batteries, and new uses for cement, such as building Yankee Stadium.Edison’s lab was the first building to be lit by electricity. 13 14
These are just a few of Edison’s Glossary important inventions: distraction (n.) something that takes a 1868 Electric vote recorder 1869 Universal stock ticker person’s mind away from (kept track of stock market) the task at hand (p. 5) 1872 Improved telegraph to send more messages 1877 Improved the telephone to be easily heard filament (n.) threadlike part of a light bulb Phonograph that glows (p. 12) 1879 Electric light bulb 1891 Motion picture camera for-profit (adj.) set up to make money (p. 9) 1896 Fluorescent electric light 1900 Alkaline battery patent (n.) a document granting the 1914 Electric miner’s head lamp right the get profit from an invention (p. 8) stick-to-itiveness continuing to work on A Remarkable Man (n.) a problem until a solution is found (p. 12) Throughout his life, Edison obtained 1,093patents, which is more than anyone else, evento this day. He continued to work until he was Indexmore than eighty years old. batteries, 14 movie projector, 14 Thomas Edison died on October 18, 1931.President Herbert Hoover asked everyone in the Bell, Alexander phonograph, 11 Graham, 10country to turn out his or her lights for a short Stilwell, Mary, 10time to honor Edison. Sitting in the dark for a electric light, 12, 13 telegraph, 5, 7, 8,few moments, people could think about the great electric vote counter, 8,changes Thomas Edison had made in their lives. telephone, 7, 10, 11 filament, 12 As Edison once said, “If we did all the things Menlo Park, 8we are capable of doing, we would astoundourselves.” Thomas Edison’s accomplishmentsstill astound us today. 15 16