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Thomas Alva Edison
1847 - 1931

He Dazzled the World with More than a Thousand Inventions

Few Americans made such an impression on the people of his time than Thomas Alva Edison. "The Wizard of Menlo Park" fascinated everyone with invention following invention until he had more than 1,000 patents. ■ Edison was born February 11, 1847, at Milan, Ohio, of Scottish-English ancestry. His education was limited to only three months at the Port Huron, Michigan public school. At 15 he was earning his living as a telegraph operator. ■ He was soon experimenting in his spare time and turning out devices like an electrical vote recorder and a stock ticker. He automated telegraph systems and improved the telephone. ■ In 1877 he applied for a patent on a talking machine. The improved design of the phonograph with a cylinder and disc records gained instant popularity. This was followed by a dictating machine. ■ In 1879 he succeeded in making an incandescent lamp, or electric light bulb, burn for 40 hours. For the next decade he focused attention on electricity because he felt that his light bulbs were worthless without electricity to light them. ■ In the decade of the 1890s he developed the motion picture camera and projector and the film to go with them. He also developed a forerunner of radio by transmitting wireless signals from moving trains and between ships. ■ In 1927 the man with little formal education was admitted to the National Academy of Sciences. Edison represented man's insatiable curiosity at its best. He was engaged incessantly in discovery and invention for a half century, the later years in his Menlo Park laboratory. Many of the things we take for granted today were pioneered in the mind of Thomas Alva Edison. He died October 18, 1931, at West Orange, New Jersey.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546