Thomas Edison was the great genius inventor of the electrical age. His hundreds of inventions made him a giant
public figure in American and around the world at the turn of the 20th century. Among Edison's most famous
inventions are the first practical long-lasting light bulb and the phonograph; he also helped refine and develop
other inventions like motion picture cameras, the stock ticker and the typewriter. By the end of his life Edison
had registered 1093 patents and had made millions from his inventions and the businesses he built on them. He
is especially known for his work with electricity, and the story of his struggles to find the right filament for the
first working light bulb are legendary. Edison's labs were located in Menlo Park, New Jersey, leading to his
nickname of "The Wizard of Menlo Park." Edison is also famous for being a dogged worker: he often slept no
more than four hours per night and made the famous statement, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-
nine percent perspiration."
Edison became close friends with another inventor/businessman, Henry Ford -- the two often vacationed
together and had adjoining winter homes in Fort Myers, Florida... Edison's name lives on in several modern
companies including Consolidated Edison ("Con-Ed")... Edison had a public rivalry with another electrical
genius, Nikola Tesla, and battled in the marketplace ("Battle of the Currents" in the press) with George
Westinghouse... Louis Lumiére is another man who helped make movies a part of modern life.
Edison was the most prolific inventor of all time, receiving 1093 patents in the United States alone and laying
the groundwork for many technological innovations of the 20th century. His major inventions include the
phonograph, introducing the idea of recording sound, and an incandescent lamp that had a carbon filament
sealed in a glass globe containing a partial vacuum. Edison also planned the first electricity distribution system-
-with dynamos, insulated underground cables, meters for measuring consumption, outlets, and switches--to
carry electricity to houses. In addition, Edison patented the first machine to produce motion pictures. Yet
another major invention, the nickel-alkaline storage battery with lithium, came in 1908. Edison also discovered
that heat causes an electric current to flow between his lamp's filament and a separate electrode inside the lamp-
-the Edison effect.
A pioneer in team industrial research, Edison made significant innovations in communications technologies
(telegraph, telephone, phonograph, and motion pictures) and in electric lighting and electric power systems.
Edison's laboratories in New Jersey and his worldwide acclaim as a successful inventor reinforced an aura of
American industrial progress through research that fostered application of systemized research to military
technology in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1915, naval secretary Josephus Daniels enlisted Edison
to organize and chair a Naval Consulting Board to provide technical counsel to the navy. Edison lent his name
to board activities, personally engaged in sonic research for detection of submarines, and vigorously promoted
creation of a Naval Research Laboratory. His group was outflanked, however, by the National Academy of
Science, representing younger, academically oriented scientists. They created a presidentially appointed
National Research Council, led by the politically astute George Ellery Hale, which attained a power and
influence that eclipsed the Edison group and ultimately led in World War II to establishment of Vannevar
Bush's powerful Office of Scientific Research and Development. Nevertheless, some of the Edison's companies
were organized into the General Electric Company, which became a major defense contractor.