Appreciating all that makes America special

Person: Thomas Edison

Edison owned 1,093 U.S. patents, and among his many accomplishments, established the electric utility industry. Uploaded by

Want to go to the movies? Or would you rather stay home and read, or listen to music? Whichever you choose, you have the genius of Thomas Edison to thank for the motion picture camera, the phonograph, and the light bulb.

Of course, all those technologies have progressed dramatically since Edison’s time. But his ingenuity and inventions helped lead the way to a world where iPods and video cameras on cell phones would be possible.

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Edison was such a prolific inventor that he held 1,093 U.S. patents, as well as patents in many other countries. These successes came from his Menlo Park research laboratory, generally considered the first of its kind. Over the course of a decade it expanded to cover two city blocks.

Perhaps his greatest enduring success came from the creation of the first electric power generating and distribution system. He set up his first power station on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, serving 59 customers primarily with nighttime lighting. Then, as others began using electricity in more applications, he developed a network of power stations and a company called Edison General Electric.

Edison was home schooled, because he did so badly in school. His teacher even called him “addled.” His mother knew better, and she believed he had an undiscovered gift. “My mother was the making of me,” Edison said. “She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint.”


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