Thomas Alva Edison Biography


Inventor Thomas Alva Edison Biography

Download PDF
Bookmark added to your notes.
View Notes

Thomas Alva Edison was an American businessman and inventor whose most important inventions changed the world. Edison is known as one of history's most prolific inventors, with 1,093 U.S. patents and various patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. He sought practical knowledge with passion, took the initiative to prove his ingenuity beyond the technological norms of the time, and created many devices that had a major effect on life in the twentieth century and beyond.

In fields including electric power generation, mass media, sound recording, and motion pictures, he invented various devices. The phonograph, motion picture camera, and early models of the electric light bulb are among the innovations that have had a significant influence on the modern industrialized world. Working with a large number of researchers and workers, he was one of the first inventors to apply the concepts of organized science and collaboration to the method of innovation. He was the first to create an industrial research laboratory.

Thomas Alva Edison Information

  • Thomas Edison Full Name - Thomas Alva Edison

  • Thomas Edison Birthday - February 11, 1847

  • Thomas Edison Death Date - October 18, 1931

  • Burial Place - Thomas Edison National Historical Park

  • Nationality - American

  • Spouse(s) - Mary Stilwell ​(m. 1871; d. 1884)​

          Mina Miller ​(m. 1886)​

  • Children - 6

Who is Thomas Edison?

Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio in 1847, but moved to Port Huron, Michigan with his family in 1854. Samuel Ogden Edison Jr. (1804–1896, born in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia) and Nancy Matthews Elliott (1810–1871, born in Chenango County, New York) had seven children.

Thomas Edison Real Name: His patrilineal family line came from New Jersey, and his nickname was "Edeson".

Edison's mother, a retired schoolteacher, taught him reading, writing, and arithmetic. He just went to school for a few months. However, according to one biographer, he was a very curious boy who acquired the bulk of his knowledge by reading on his own.

At the age of twelve, Edison started to have hearing issues. His deafness was caused by a bout of scarlet fever as an infant, as well as recurrent untreated middle-ear infections. Following that, he concocted elaborate fabrications about the cause of his deafness.

Edison is said to have listened to a music player or piano by clamping his teeth into the wood to absorb the sound waves into his skull, despite being deaf in one ear and barely hearing in the other. Edison felt that his hearing loss helped him escape distractions and focus better on his job as he grew older. He may have had ADHD, according to modern historians and medical professionals.

Thomas Edison Scientist - Early Career

On the trains between Port Huron and Detroit, Thomas Edison started his career selling sweets, newspapers, and vegetables. By the age of 13, he had amassed a weekly profit of $50, the majority of which he used to purchase equipment for electric and chemical experiments.

After saving three-year-old Jimmie MacKenzie from being hit by a speeding train, he became a telegraph operator. Jimmie's father, Mount Clemens, Michigan station agent J. U. MacKenzie, was so thankful that he trained Edison as a telegraph operator. The Grand Trunk Railway in Stratford Junction, Ontario, was Edison's first telegraphy job away from Port Huron. He was found to be at fault for a near-collision.

Edison secured the exclusive right to sell newspapers on the lane, and he set in type and printed the Grand Trunk Herald, which he sold alongside his other journals, with the help of four assistants. This was the start of Edison's long career as an entrepreneur, as he discovered his abilities as a businessman. In the end, his business talents were instrumental in the founding of 14 businesses, including General Electric, which is now one of the world's largest publicly traded firms.

Edison moved to Louisville, Kentucky, when he was 19 years old, to work for Western Union on the Associated Press bureau news wire.

On June 1, 1869, he received his first patent for an electric vote recorder, U.S. Patent 90,646. Edison moved to New York City soon after, finding little demand for the unit. Franklin Leonard Pope, a fellow telegrapher and inventor, was one of Edison's early mentors, enabling him to live and work in the basement of his Elizabeth, New Jersey, home while Edison worked for Samuel Laws at the Gold Indicator Company. Working as electrical engineers and inventors, Pope and Edison formed their own company in October 1869. In 1874, Edison started working on a multiplex telegraphic device that could send two messages at the same time.

Thomas Alva Edison Discovery

In 1876, Edison founded an industrial research lab, which was his most important invention. It was founded with funds from the selling of Edison's quadruplex telegraph in Menlo Park, a part of Raritan Township (now called Edison Township in his honour) in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Edison was unsure if his initial proposal to sell the telegraph for $4,000 to $5,000 was correct after seeing it demonstrated, so he asked Western Union to make an offer. He was taken aback when he received a $10,000 bid ($226,000 in today's dollars), which he gladly accepted.

Edison's first major financial achievement was the quadruplex telegraph, and Menlo Park became the first organization committed to continuous technological advancement and development. While several workers carried out research and development under Edison's leadership, he was legally credited with the majority of the inventions made there. In conducting research, his staff was usually told to follow his instructions, and he pushed them hard to achieve results.

Nearly all of Edison's patents were utility patents, which were valid for 17 years and covered electrical, mechanical, or chemical inventions or processes. Around a dozen were design patents, which last for up to 14 years and cover an ornamental design. The inventions he mentioned were, like most patents, advances over the prior art. The phonograph patent, on the other hand, was the first to identify a system that could capture and replicate sounds.


Edison started his career as an inventor in Newark, New Jersey, with the automatic repeater and other improved telegraphic devices, but it was the phonograph, which he invented in 1877, that made him famous. This achievement was so unexpected by the general public that it seemed almost mystical. "The Wizard of Menlo Park" was Edison's nickname.

His first phonograph used tinfoil wrapped around a grooved cylinder to record music. Despite its poor sound quality and the fact that recordings could only be played a few times, Edison became a star thanks to the phonograph.

Carbon Telephone Transmitter

Edison invented a carbon microphone, which consists of two metal plates separated by granules of carbon that change resistance with the pressure of sound waves, in 1876 to enhance the microphone for telephones (at the time called a "transmitter"). A constant direct current is passed between the plates through the granules, and the varying resistance allows the current to modulate, resulting in a varying electric current that reproduces the sound wave's varying pressure.

Mice, such as those created by Johann Philipp Reis and Alexander Graham Bell, operated by generating a weak current up until that point. The carbon microphone operates by modulating a direct current and then transferring the signal to the telephone line through a transformer.

Many inventors worked on the issue of making a functional microphone for telephony by modulating an electrical current passing through it. Edison was one of them. Emile Berliner's loose-contact carbon transmitter (who later lost a patent case against Edison over the carbon transmitter’s invention) and David Edward Hughes' research and published paper on the physics of loose-contact carbon transmitters were both performed at the same time (work that Hughes did not bother to patent).

Electric Light

Edison started working on an electrical lighting system in 1878, aiming to compete with gas and oil-based lighting. He started by attempting to create a long-lasting incandescent lamp, which would be needed for indoor use. The light bulb, however, was not invented by Thomas Edison.

Warren de la Rue, a British scientist, invented a powerful light bulb with a coiled platinum filament in 1840, but the bulb's commercial success was limited by the high cost of platinum. Alessandro Volta's demonstration of a glowing wire in 1800, as well as discoveries by Henry Woodward and Mathew Evans, were among the many other inventors who devised incandescent lamps.

Humphry Davy, James Bowman Lindsay, Moses G. Farmer, William E. Sawyer, Joseph Swan, and Heinrich Göbel were among those who invented early and commercially impractical incandescent electric lamps.

Edison founded the Edison Electric Light Company in New York City in 1878 with the help of many financiers, including J. P. Morgan, Spencer Trask, and Vanderbilt family members. On December 31, 1879, in Menlo Park, Edison gave the first public demonstration of his incandescent light bulb.

Electric Power Distribution

On October 21, 1879, after inventing a commercially the viable electric light bulb, Edison established an electric "utility" to compete with the existing gas light utilities. He founded the Edison Illuminating Company on December 17, 1880, and in the 1880s, patented an electricity distribution system.

In 1882, the company founded the first investor-owned electric utility in New York City's Pearl Street Station. On September 4, 1882, Edison turned on the electrical power distribution system at his Pearl Street generating station, which supplied 110 volts direct current (DC) to 59 customers in lower Manhattan.

Thomas Edison Scientist, Inventor and his Other Projects

Fluoroscopy -

The first commercially available fluoroscope, a system that uses X-rays to take radiographs, was developed and manufactured by Edison. Until Edison discovered that calcium tungstate fluoroscopy screens provided clearer images than Wilhelm Röntgen's barium platinocyanide screens, the technology could only generate very faint images.

While Edison abandoned the project after nearly losing his eyesight and seriously injuring his assistant, Clarence Dally, the basic design of Edison's fluoroscope is still in use today.

Dally volunteered to be a human guinea pig for the fluoroscopy experiment and was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation; he eventually died (at the age of 39) from complications resulting from the exposure, including mediastinal cancer.

Telegraph Improvements

Edison's early reputation and popularity were built on his work in the field of telegraphy. He mastered the mechanics of electricity from years of training as a telegraph operator. This, combined with his chemistry studies at Cooper Union, allowed him to make a fortune early on with the stock ticker, the first electricity-based broadcast machine. His inventions included the invention of the quadruplex, the first device capable of simultaneously transmitting four messages over a single cable.

Motion Pictures

The motion picture camera, also known as the "Kinetograph," was granted a patent by Thomas Edison. He was in charge of the electromechanical design, while his photographer employee William Kennedy Dickson was in charge of the photographic and optical production. Dickson deserves a lot of credit for the invention. Thomas Edison invented the Kinetoscope, or peep-hole viewer, in 1891. People could watch brief, easy films on this screen, which was installed in penny arcades. The kinetoscope and kinetograph were both first seen in public on May 20, 1891.

The Vitascope, designed by Thomas Armat and produced by the Edison factory and sold under Edison's name, was first used to project motion pictures in public screenings in New York City in April 1896. Later, he showed motion pictures with cylinder recordings of voice soundtracks that were mechanically synchronized with the film.


Edison became interested in and associated with mining in the late 1870s. On the east coast of the United States, high-grade iron ore was scarce, so Edison mined low-grade ore. Edison devised a method that used rollers and crushers to pulverize rocks weighing up to ten tonnes. The dust was then passed through three massive magnets, which drew the iron ore from the sand. Edison used some of the materials and machinery from his mining business, the Edison Ore Milling Company, to make cement despite its failure.

Rechargeable Battery

Edison worked on developing a lighter, more efficient rechargeable battery in the late 1890s (at that time called an "accumulator"). He saw them as something customers could use to power their phonographs, but he also saw other applications for them, such as electric cars. Because the lead-acid rechargeable batteries available at the time were inefficient and the market had already been cornered by other companies, Edison pursued the use of alkaline rather than acid. He had his lab experiment with a variety of materials (over 10,000 combinations) before settling on a nickel-iron combination.

In 1901, Edison received the US and European patents for his nickel-iron battery, and he founded the Edison Storage Battery Company, which employed 450 people by 1904. The first rechargeable batteries they made were for electric cars, but there were numerous flaws in the product, which led to customer complaints.

When the company's capital was depleted, Edison used his personal funds to pay for it. Until 1910, Edison did not show a fully developed product: a highly efficient and long-lasting nickel-iron battery with lye as the electrolyte.

Thomas Alva Edison Information on Marriage

On December 25, 1871, at the age of 24, Edison married Mary Stilwell (1855–1884), a 16-year-old employee at one of his stores, whom he had met two months before. They were the parents of three children.

Mary Edison died on August 9, 1884, at the age of 29, from an unknown cause, possibly a brain tumour or a morphine overdose. In those years, doctors frequently prescribed morphine to women for a variety of reasons, and researchers believe her symptoms were caused by morphine poisoning.

Edison preferred to spend his time in the laboratory rather than with his family.

Edison married Mina Miller (1865–1947) in Akron, Ohio, on February 24, 1886, at the age of 39. She was the daughter of Lewis Miller, the inventor, and co-founder of the Chautauqua Institution, as well as a Methodist charity benefactor. They had three children together as well.

Mina lived longer than Thomas Edison, passing away on August 24, 1947.


To summarise, Edison created the phonograph, assisted in the creation of the light bulb, and created the first motion picture camera. In a wide variety of areas, including telecommunications, electric power, sound recording, motion pictures, primary and storage batteries, mining, and cement technology, he amassed a remarkable 1,093 patents.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Does Thomas Alva Edison Matter Worldwide?

Ans. Thomas Alva Edison was one of the most well-known and influential inventors of all time, contributing innovations such as the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera, as well as developing the telegraph and the telephone. His inventions are being used all over the world, even today.

Q2. Who is Thomas Edison’s Biggest Competitor?

Ans. Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist, was born on July 10, 1856. He is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. In the 1880s, the two rivalling geniuses fought a "Battle of Currents" over which electrical device would control the world: Tesla's alternating-current (AC) or Edison's direct-current (DC) electric power.