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Thomas Edison 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.
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