American Inventor, 1847 -1931
Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio. With only three months of formal education he became one of the greatest inventors and industrial leaders in history. Edison obtained 1,093 United States patents, the most issued to any individual.
Edison's greatest contribution was the first practical electric lighting. He not only invented the first successful electric light bulb, but also set up the first electrical power distribution company. Edison invented the phonograph, and made improvements to the telegraph, telephone and motion picture technology. He also founded the first modern research laboratory.
Edison was also a good businessman. He not only designed important new devices, he created companies worldwide for the manufacture and sale of his inventions. Along with other manufacturing pioneers of his era, Edison helped make the United States a world industrial power. He and Henry Ford became friends after Edison encouraged Ford to use the gasoline powered engine for the automobile.
Edison was also a ruthless businessman who fought viciously to defeat his competitors. One of the most notorious examples of his competitive vigor were the lengths he went to to discredit Nicola Tesla's Alternating Current system, which is the system of electrical distribution in use today.
Edison had great faith in progress and industry, and valued long, hard work. He used to say, “Genius was 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Edison believed that inventing useful products offered everyone the opportunity for fame and fortune while benefiting society.
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