Category Archives: All About Tom

Thomas Edison – An American in Paris

Dateline: Paris, France
Event: Universal Exposition
Year: 1889

The Back Story
August, 1889 finds the great inventor in need of rest and respite from: the stress of opening a massive new laboratory (1887-West Orange); the great growing pains of the new electrical industry; many business matters needing attention; exciting new areas for exploitation; recovery from a lab accident and burns; and a “double-super-secret” project underway in Room 5 in the invention factory. Edison is tired and finally listens to his wife to take some time off–a long holiday and a tour of Europe, starting with attending the Universal Exposition in Paris and later visiting Germany and London.

Paris in Late Summer
With his very young and lovely wife Mina at his side, and herself sporting a magnificent new $3,000+ gown, the Edison’s are the toast of the great city, with many dinners in his honor, awards bestowed upon his now graying mantle, and many well-wishers and dignitaries anxious to meet the great inventor. Edison, never one to enjoy formal dinners, weathers the storm with much support from his captivating and socially adroit wife.

Edison Paris exhibition

Edison Paris exhibition

His display of electrical products bedecked in red, white and blue lights illuminates a full acre of exposition space; and features a complete central lighting station. Much to the delight of 30,000 visitors, Edison phonographs are a big hit as well.

This large painting by Abraham Archibald Anderson was obtained in Paris, and now hangs in the grand staircase of the Edison Glenmont mansion. Mr. Anderson served as a friend and interpreter for Mr. Edison while in Paris.

This large painting by Abraham Archibald Anderson was obtained in Paris, and now hangs in the grand staircase of the Edison Glenmont mansion. Mr. Anderson served as a friend and interpreter for Mr. Edison while in Paris.

A tour of the new Eiffel Tower was a special highlight for the Edison family, as a special guest of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer and tower engineer. Coincident with Edison in Paris, famous American wild-west entertainers Colonel William F. Cody and Buffalo Bill happened to be visiting the great city, adding to the jubilant air of the late summer weather. Edison also found time to visit The Louvre (not to his general liking) and Louis Pasteur at the famous Pasteur Institute, fully appreciating the new “germ theory” advanced. A firm acolyte of basic research, Pasteur nevertheless took delight at how Edison made practical and important advances from basic science.

The Eiffel Tower-built in 1889-an original sketch, an advertisement for the exposition, and photo today.

The Eiffel Tower-built in 1889-an original sketch, an advertisement for the exposition, and photo today.

Next Stops…Germany and London
On to Berlin to meet with the famous scientist Hermann von Helmholtz, industrialist Werner von Siemens, and others, with time allotted to attend a scientific conference then in session. In London, Edison visits the landmark Edison central station at Holborn, using direct current generators delivering 110 volts of load serving voltage. Bittersweet this was, as it was apparent in London that other notable electrical designers were making rapid advances in AC power.

A Super Secret Pleasure Awaits
Arriving home in early October, a relaxed Thomas Edison is delighted to learn of the progress of the super-secret experiments conducted by trusted associates John Batchelor and W. K. L. Dickson, with a new, strange-looking building constructed on the eastern side of the West Orange complex.

That strange-looking building that greeted Edison upon his return from Paris---the original Black Maria, the world’s first motion picture studio.

That strange-looking building that greeted Edison upon his return from Paris—the original Black Maria, the world’s first motion picture studio.

There in the demonstration space was what appeared to be an optical lantern of sorts connected to a phonograph, and aimed at a projection screen. A flickering hand-cranked image of Dickson appeared, which eerily uttered “Good morning, Mr. Edison, glad to see you back”. This was the first operable motion picture camera…not just silent pictures, but with sound. Such sensational media would not be witnessed regularly in movie theaters until the late 1920s, but Edison and his team had shown it possible decades earlier. Welcome back indeed Mr. Edison!

Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison – Inspirational Quotes for Fall

Edison and his lovely wife Mina

Edison and his lovely wife Mina

In his time, Thomas Edison was the most famous man of his period when the major means of mass communication worldwide were newspapers and magazines. This was a far cry from today’s virtually instantaneous social media platform options.

As an entrepreneur extraordinaire, Edison was always sought out for interviews and comments. Reporters and journalists just loved his quotes about life, invention and work. Here are some inspirational quotes below, selected in honor of the new school season.

“My desire is to do everything within my power to free people from drudgery and create the largest measure of happiness and prosperity.”

“I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”

“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Edison and his Edison Effect device-the forerunner of the vacuum tube, and the taproot of modern electronics

Edison and his Edison Effect device-the forerunner of the vacuum tube, and the taproot of modern electronics

Here, Edison is telling us not to be afraid of failure……

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.”

“The world owes nothing to any man, but every man owes something to the world.”

Here is a surprise quote, stated by Edison in 1910:

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”

Talk about anticipating the energy future of the country!

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison – Interesting Facts

Young Tom, 1878, the year of his phonograph patent.

Young Tom, 1878, the year of his phonograph patent.

Readers always enjoy interesting facts about Edison, so here are some to ponder.

Edison nicknamed two of his children he had with his first wife “Dot” and “Dash” in honor of his early telegraph days.

Edison’s first patent was for the Electrographic Vote-Recorder, which was granted by the U.S. patent Office on June 1, 1869. At the time, Edison was 22.

Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the wireless telegraph, was Edison’s friend. He used the patents made available by Edison for his invention of the wireless telegraph.

Today’s General Electric Company was originally founded as the Edison Electric Light Company by Thomas Alva Edison to market his incandescent lamp and other electrical products.

At his legendary West Orange facility, (opened in 1887) Edison combines invention and manufacturing, creating the integrated manufacturing facility….. from rail-delivered raw materials to finished products for sale…with R&D labs as the inspiration for new product development. In 1910, he employed 10,000 workers on a manufacturing complex comprised of over 40 buildings, on 25 acres of land, to make his products for sale around the world.

Friends and camping buddies-Edison, John Burroughs (famed environmentalist) and Henry Ford posing in Ft. Myers, Fl.

Friends and camping buddies-Edison, John Burroughs (famed environmentalist) and Henry Ford posing in Ft. Myers, Fl.

Edison is responsible for creating the first re-chargeable alkaline storage battery—his famous nickel-iron battery, originally intended for the electric vehicle market; but expanded to include many other applications…quite likely his most prolific product.

In 1929, Edison was given one of the first honorary Academy Awards for his work in founding the motion picture industry. This celebration marked the approximate 40-year anniversary of the original motion picture achievements of Edison, and his building of the first motion picture studio—the Black Maria.

After leaving school at an early age, Thomas Edison was essentially home-schooled by his mother, who was actually a formally trained normal school teacher, then unemployed and caring for her family. She gave him four great things to remember and profit by:

  1. Do not be afraid to fail. Keep trying, learn from failure; and try again.

  2. It is OK to work with your hands and your head. Not everything important comes from books. Experience the world and learn from it.

  3. Read across the entire span of literature, not just what you like.

  4. Never stop learning, keep improving yourself.

 

Edison in his chemistry lab at West Orange- a picture of confidence and command.

Edison in his chemistry lab at West Orange- a picture of confidence and command.

Motion pictures, according to Edison in a prominent magazine interview, would be the new way to teach classroom students. This he proclaimed way back in 1911. Today with the advent of the Internet and smart boards, movies are commonplace in the classroom.

Today we boast how iPods and other recording devices free listeners from radio stations, practically decentralizing music. Edison did this originally with his phonograph which decentralized having to listen to music only from a live band or concert.

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Thomas Edison said, “If I were a school teacher, I would put lazy pupils to studying bees and ants. They would soon learn to be diligent.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison’s World Value

>Many people ask what was Edison’s value to the world. This is a popular question, especially among teachers and students.

Think first about what his four major inventions have done for our standards of living worldwide—recorded sound, motion pictures, electric light bulb and utility system, and R&D labs. Just these alone substantially changed our world. In 1996, Life magazine proclaimed him the “Man of the Millennium”. Let that sink in. That is the man of the last 1,000 years. Today is 2018. One-thousand years ago was 1018. What was the world and society like back then?

Thomas Edison’s legendary West Orange Labs where on 25 acres of land, 10,000 employees worked with the great inventor to change the world! Most of the buildings on the site were built using his special concrete.

Thomas Edison’s legendary West Orange Labs where on 25 acres of land, 10,000 employees worked with the great inventor to change the world! Most of the buildings on the site were built using his special concrete.

Thomas Edison died in 1931. His great inventions together represent 10% of the world’s gross national product; and since the world economy is about $60 trillion annually, Edison’s achievements today represent approximately $6 trillion worldwide. To further put this in perspective, the U.S. gross national product is about $20 trillion annually.

Consider what other economists have claimed about this man…..his achievements are probably responsible for one-fourth of all the current jobs on the planet. Since there now are about three billion jobs on planet Earth, that would mean 775,000,000 jobs are directly attributable to the genius of Edison and his system of turning raw ideas into marketable products. And there is the key….his system. Edison is the ultimate process guy, project manager extraordinaire, who reduces innovation to a series of simple steps, actually codifying the innovation process of the late 1800s into a technology-driven, team-based method of making new products. It does not matter which technology you chose to innovate upon, the steps are the same….a process for all time, as fresh today as at the inception of his invention factory (his early term for R&D labs).

Arguably the greatest building in the Thomas Edison pantheon, and to the world economy….the Edison invention factory….the first commercial R&D lab.

Arguably the greatest building in the Thomas Edison pantheon, and to the world economy….the Edison invention factory….the first commercial R&D lab.

This paradigm leads to commercial R&D Labs-which every major company in the world duplicates from Edison’s legendary West Orange Labs before he dies in 1931. It is copied at the federal level during World War II to counter the German U-boat threat; leads to the first national lab (U.S. Naval Research Lab), a model for the Manhattan Project during WWI and all the national labs that follow. Last year, the United States spent over $500 billion on research lab activity at all levels – private companies, academia, and federal labs.

In closing, consider how nationally the schools are revamping the middle school curricula to include studying what Thomas Edison did at West Orange. Students are investigating project design challenges using head and hands, and team-based activities to solve real-world problems. We call this curricula STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; and it is sweeping the nation and world. Teachers know the value of STEM and they are coming in record numbers with their students to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park [TENHP] in West Orange to learn about it.

Inside the invention factory is what can be considered the “first maker-lab”, Edison’s heavy machine shop, where prototypes were made and later tested. Today our children through their STEM programs have maker labs to make their 3D prototypes.

Thomas Edison is as relevant to today as he was when he started changing the world. His principles for change are dynamic, and continue to inspire today and future generations of inventors and entrepreneurs. At TENHP we now reach out to schools around the world using advanced telecommunication techniques allowing students and teacher around the world to enjoy a guided tour of the invention factory from the comfort of their classrooms. Thomas Edison would love this!

Thomas Edison said, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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