Category Archives: Did You Know?

Louis Latimer: Black Inventor and Thomas Edison Associate

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928)

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928)

Born the son of a freed slave, Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928) is an outstanding role model for young folks-how to overcome whatever odds against success and succeed. In his 80 years he was an inventor, patent expert, draftsman, engineer, author, poet, and musician.

During the Civil War he joined the U.S. Navy, serving aboard a side wheel gunboat, the U.S.S. Massasoit, until the war’s end in 1865. Returning home, he soon taught himself mechanical drawing, subsequently holding a job in this capacity, preparing formal drawings submitted to the U.S. Patent Office. He helped prepare the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s original telephone patent.

Later, in 1880, he would work for Hiram Maxim, a prolific inventor and contemporary of Bell and Edison, who like Edison was working on electric lighting. While with Maxim, Latimer patented a process for making carbon filaments for bulbs, and taught workers to make the filaments. This knowledge soon mushroomed into Latimer setting up and consulting in Maxim factories here and abroad.

In 1884, Latimer was named a draftsman-engineer in Edison’s New York operations; and in 1889 as an expert electrical engineer, wrote a highly regarded technical book of its time, “Incandescent Electric Lighting—A Practical Description of the Edison System”. In that same year, he penned a book of poetry, celebrating his life-long love of creative writing. Latimer also served as an expert witness for Edison, testifying on behalf of the great inventor in many court cases challenging Edison’s electrical system.

Diagram of Latimer’s bulb (1883) and acclaimed book (1889)

Diagram of Latimer’s bulb (1883) and acclaimed book (1889)

By 1892, Latimer was involved in consulting roles with General Electric, Westinghouse, and finally a prestigious New York engineering/patent law firm-eventually retiring from that firm in 1924 at the age of 75. While at the law firm, the “Edison Pioneers” was formed, a group dedicated to keeping alive the ideals and aims of Thomas Edison. Latimer was one of the original members.

Today, Latimer is considered one of the top ten black inventors, up there in stature with the great George Washington Carver who held many patents. Latimer was a great man, and patriot … a role model for all students … a man who never stopped learning and improving himself.

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said …  “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent…”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.


Edison-Einstein-Disney: Three of a Kind

BREAKING NEWS: Edison and Einstein appear in cameo shots in a trailer promotion for Disney’s new film, “Tomorrow Land”, a movie to premier soon in Japan. George Clooney stars in the movie. 

Edison-Einstein-Disney: Three of a Kind

When you hear these names your mind naturally associates them with people who changed the world. They tend to bring smiles to your heart and mind-three men who did some really cool things; and who shared some very interesting commonalities you can read about below.

  • All three had issues with formal schooling-experiencing problems with the emphasis on rote memory; and little room for other ways of learning. They
    may have all suffered from dyslexia, and related learning problems.
  • These great achievers valued hard work, creativity and imagination in their pursuits.
  • Persistence characterized their work, bringing forth ideas in spite of repeated failures; and learning through failure.
  • With an eye on the future, these innovators knew how valuable it was to be pushing the envelope of thought; and doing so in the service of humanity.
  • They all went beyond conventional problem solving– ”disruptors”, as we would say today.
  • Read and learned from a wide variety of fields and literature.
  • Kept advancing and refining their ideas.
  • Were playful, humorous, and even played practical jokes on friends/co-workers.

Consider some quotes from these gentle, giant, applicators:


“I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent …“

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

“Surprises and reverses can serve as an incentive for great accomplishment. There are no rules here, we’re just trying to accomplish something”




“Try to become not a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

“The aim [of education] must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, see in the service to the community their highest life problem.”




“If you can dream it, you can do it.” [Walt once quipped, the whole Disney adventure started with a mouse and a dream.]

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”


Thomas Edison on Time Magazine

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

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.


Giving Tuesday: December 2, 2014



Please consider making a contribution on Giving Tuesday to the efforts of the Edison Foundation to run the competition, give awards to the winners and stipends to their teachers.  There are no donation minimums but anyone donating before December 31, 2014 will receive one (1)  free music album download (up to $15.00) on Apple I-tunes for each $100.00 contribution.

Edison Innovation Foundation is a non-profit based in Newark, New Jersey that supports science and technology education and the Edison Legacy.

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Thomas Edison in Your Classroom ... Attention Teachers!On October 2014, we announced our 5th Annual Edison Invention Challenge for grades 6 to 12. Students and others are encouraged to create a new invention using alternative technology (wind, solar or fuel cell technology).

In the spring of 2015, the winners and their school and teachers will be announced at an awards event. If you are in grades 6 to 12, you can join the invention challenge. December 8, 2014 is final entry date.

Learn more details by logging


Edison and Tesla – Experts Weigh in

It seems somewhat fashionable today, especially among young folks, to believe Thomas Edison took unfair advantage of Tesla … but it’s not true. The experts and archivists at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, NJ cannot find anything on file to indicate acrimonious exchanges between these two great inventors. For a brief period of months, Tesla worked for Edison at one of his New York City shops on a specific project, and when that project was closed down, Tesla left. He did not even work directly for Edison. Somehow, the conspiracy theories continue to grind out all sorts of terrible things that Edison was purported to have done.

Edison versus Tesla: The Truth Behind the Edison/Telsa Controversy as Discussed by Experts

A very well documented book [Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age] by W. Bernard “Bernie” Carlson, noted technology author and professor at the University of Virginia, carefully analyzes this complex man. Consider some salient points Carlson makes about one of America’s first celebrity scientists.

Tesla was an astute self-promoter and gifted showman who cultivated a memorable and dramatic public image as an eccentric genius. He promoted his inventions by creating [fanciful and perhaps unrealistic] visions of future peace and prosperity. Unlike Edison, who started with an idea and drove it all the way through to establishing companies to manufacture his products- a classic vertically integrated entrepreneurial approach- Tesla preferred to patent, promote, and sell his inventions to investors and businessmen. What escaped Tesla was the need to do the nuts and bolts engineering, manufacturing optimization, and incremental improvements needed to make a product customer worthy.

Edison and Tesla saw the world very differently. Edison practiced what is called market-pull innovation, letting the demands of the customer drive the economics and such. Tesla practiced knowledge-push innovation, creating a vision for his technology and selling it that way.

Tesla advocates, often young folks, tend to see Tesla as the ultimate geek, unsullied by profits and debased by the give and take of the business world.

In many ways we have a need to cast comparisons of Tesla and Edison as good versus evil, but Carlson shows it is just not that kind of comparison. They are two men who looked at the world of invention from two distinctly different standpoints. Both men helped propel a young America forward, stimulate technological development and instill in millions of Americans the benefits of technology. Both men…giants of the times … succeeded … and, that is really what we need to remember.

See for yourself in the video below what the experts say about these two giants of electricity. Bernie Carlson and Leonard DeGraaf, archivist at the Thomas Edison National Historic Park, recently shared the dais at the Mark Twain historic home in Connecticut to discuss the Edison-Tesla interactions. Enjoy.

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said … “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others … I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent …”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.