Saturday 9 July 2016

Thomas Edison: An Insatiable Curiosity

"Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% inspiration." (Thomas Edison, 1903)

Edison, Thomas Alva [Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.]

A young Thomas Edison courtesy 

While Thomas Edison's most famous patent is the electric light bulb, he is credited with over 1000 inventions.  While he had many brilliant ideas, he credits his work ethic as the reason for his success.

Growing up in Port Huron, Michigan, a young Edison would often rock his parents' basement with his experiments (  He continued his experiments while working as a newsboy on the Port Huron-Detroit train route, a practice which led to his firing after a fire broke out.  His curiosity never satiated, Edison would read at the Detroit Library while he waited for the train to return to Port Huron.  Finally, he narrowly averted disaster when he almost blew up the telegraph office in his hometown.  

Thomas Edison at Menlo Park courtesy 

That insatiable curiosity drove Edison's experiments as an adult at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey where he experienced some of "his finest hours".  It was here that Edison invented one of his chief patents, the phonograph, along with his most famous invention, the electric lightbulb.  The brilliant scientist attracted a loyal supply of workers in his laboratory.  A reconstruction of his Menlo Park Lab can be visited at Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan

Edison went on to perfect Nikola Tesla's AC current invention which he used to light 100,000 incandescent lamps at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 (see "Devil in the White City" at  Over 27 million people visited the "City of Light" and realized that electric light was the wave of the future.      

It seems that Edison's near disasters in his parents' basement, on the train and at the telegraph office, were all part of his natural curiosity.  His curiosity coupled with his perseverance, were a recipe for success.

U.S. Stamp circa 1947 on the 100th anniversary of Thomas Edison's birth courtesy

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