Thomas Edison

220px-Thomas_Edison2Thomas Alva Edison (American; February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) Holding 1,097 U.S. patents in his name, Thomas Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history. He can be credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory, and was dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park” by a newspaper reporter – reflecting the amazement of many who witnessed his seemingly “magical” inventions. Some of Edison’s most notable inventions are the stock ticker, phonograph, motion picture camera, and the kinetoscope (a forerunner of the modern movie projector), but his largest achievement was the development of the incandescent lighting system. The original idea for an incandescent lamp was not his, however he worked with incredible persistence to overcome the technical obstacles and produced the first usable system that could be sold to the public. The issue was finding a filament for the lamp that could be electrically heated to incandescence without self-destructing from the heat and oxidation. His first success came through the use of a wire made of carbon operating inside of a glass bulb that had been evacuated of air. This “burned” for only a few hours, but further refinements extended the useful life of the lamp to something that was practical for use by the general public. Building on the success of this, he and his team went on to design a complete system to include centrally located DC generators, underground cabling to his customers, electric metering devices so he could “charge” his customers, and lamp sockets that allowed for the bulbs to be replaced after failure. Having excellent business savvy, he chose Wall Street, New York as the location for his pilot project – knowing that he needed to impress the investors in order to realize his dream. With investment capital from J. P. Morgan he built the Edison General Electric Company – later to become General Electric. At this same time an inventor named Nikola Tesla (one of Edison’s former assistants) was working with businessman George Westinghouse to design and build a competing electrical system that was based on the use of alternating current instead of direct current. This competition developed into was is known as the great “battle of the currents”. Alternating current has the advantage that it can be transformed to very high voltages, allowing it to be transmitted for much greater distances than direct current. Mainly for this reason alternating current eventually won the battle, and continues to be what is used today. Probably due mostly to stubbornness Edison refused to embrace this new technology, and eventually got out of the electrical business. He continued to be a great inventor, however, and inspired many to persist and invent right up to his death. One of his most famous quotes is; “Success is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration”. Read more…

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