The modern world is an electrified world.The light bulb, in particular, profoundlychanged human existence by illuminatingthe night and making it hospitable to a widerange of human activity. The electric light,one of the everyday conveniences thatmost affects our lives, was invented in1879 by Thomas Alva Edison. He puttogether what he knew about electricitywith what he knew about gas lights andinvented a whole of electrical system.
Born on February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio;the seventh and last child of Samuel andNancy Edison. When he was seven hisfamily moved to Port Huron, Michigan andEdison lived there until he struck out on hisown at the age of sixteen. He had very littleformal education as a child, attendingschool only for a few months. He wastaught reading, writing, and arithmetic byhis mother, but was always a very curiouschild and taught himself much by readingon his own. This belief in self-improvementremained throughout his life.
He was a poor student. When aschoolmaster called him "addled," hisfurious mother took him out of the schooland proceeded to teach him at home.Thomas Edison said many years later, "Mymother was the making of me. She was sotrue, so sure of me, and I felt I had someone to live for, some one I must notdisappoint." At an early age, he showed afascination for mechanical things and forchemical experiments.
Thomas Alva Edison, one of the mostprolific inventors in history, produced morethan 1,000 inventions in his workshop inMenlo Park, New Jersey. Edison strove tocreate devices that could be the mostuseful to a majority of people. Hisinventions with the most impact contributedto mass communication, particularlytelecommunications, electricity and themotion picture industry.
TelegraphyAutomatic telegraphs transmit messages athigher speeds than those sent andreceived by Morse telegraph operators. In1874, improving upon several of hisprevious inventions, Edison invents thequadruplex telegraph for Western Union,which transmits four messagessimultaneously.
TelephonyBefore 1877, telephones used magnets,which produced weak currents that limitedthe distance over which it could be used, totransmit sound. Edisons invention of thecarbon transmitter for the telephone greatlyimproved the distance over which atelephone could be used. His basic designcontinued to be used until the arrival ofdigital telephones in the 1980s.
•Phonograph•In 1877 while working on the telephone transmitter, Edison noticed thatthe tape on the machine gave off a noise that sounded like words. Thishelped him to consider the possibility of recording and playing backtelephone messages. Within six months, Edison had developed a basicworking design. Initially the phonograph was treated as a machine fordictation. It was not until 1890 that it was used to record music.
Power SystemEdison knew that without a method todeliver electricity, his light bulb would beineffective. He modeled his system afterthe gas systems of the time. Edisondesigned a system of conductors, meters,lamp fixtures, sockets, fuses and current-switches.
Electric GeneratorIn 1879 Edisons research leads him to animportant discovery in improving thedesign of generators. His invention led togenerators that had more efficient poweroutput than those in existence at the time.
•Motion Picture Camera•Edison began working on motion pictures in the late 1880s. A memberof his experimental staff, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, played a keyrole in the development of the Kinetograph (a motion picture camera)and the Kinetoscope (motion picture viewer). In 1893, Edisondemonstrates his system for making and showing motion pictures. Inless than a decade, motion pictures become a popular and successfulindustry.
He invented it in the year 1869. Thepeople, instead of heralding it, criticized hisinvention severley due to which it wasrejected. But still he wasnt dissappointedand did not lose hope but decided that hewill not waste his time on inventing thingsno one wanted! What an attitude!!!
. The Electric ChairThe first practical electric chair wasinvented by Harold P. Brown. Brown wasan employee of Thomas Edison, hired forthe purpose of researchingelectrocution and for the development ofthe electric chair. Since Brown worked forEdison, and Edison promoted Brown’swork, the development of the electric chairis often erroneously credited to Edisonhimself. Furthermore, Brown’s design wasbased on George Westinghouse’salternating current (AC), which was thenjust emerging as the rival to Edison’s lesstransport-efficient direct current (DC),which was further along in commercialdevelopment
In 1887, Nikola Tesla, not Edison, wasamong the first to investiage the nature ofX-Ray’s using designs based on theCathode Ray Tube. Eight years later,Thomas Edison began investigatingmaterials’ ability to fluoresce whenexposed to x-rays. The fluoroscope hedeveloped became the standard formedical X-ray examinations. Nevertheless,Edison dropped X-ray research around1903 after the death of Clarence MadisonDally, one of his glassblowers. Dally had ahabit of testing X-ray tubes on his hands,and acquired a cancer in them sotenacious that both arms were amputatedin a futile attempt to save his life.
Although Edison claimed to have inventedwax paper, he did not. Waxed paper wasinvented by Gustave Le Gray in 1851.Used for hand-colouration, it allowed thecolour from the back of the photograph tobe seen from the front. The wax paperrevolutionized photography and alsobecame a commercially successfulhousehold product for, among other things,wrapping food.
The Storage BatteryWhat invention made Edison the mostmoney? The alkaline storage battery.Ironically, though, Edison did not invent thefirst storage battery, but combined newmaterials to create a storage batterysuitable for practical use. By the time heperfected the alkaline storage battery,electric-powered cars had lost out in thecompetition with gas-powered cars thatcould be driven far greater distances. Afailure as the motive force for automobiles,the alkaline storage battery was ultimatelya great commercial success as the powersource for train lights, marine appliances,and miners’ lamps. Prior to this invention,miners used candles or small oil lampsattached to their hard hats as their lightsource.