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9 Things you Didn’t Know About Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison named the New Jersey State Inventor

New Jersey Governor Makes It Official

On May 2, 2019, Thomas Alva Edison was officially designated State Inventor! Just goes to show, you should never underestimate the persuasive power of young ladies and their teacher. 4 years ago, Sarah Marion and her 4th grade students Rory, Zoe, Dylan and Emma at Stony Brook Elementary School in Hopewell, researched the great inventor and wrote a letter to the NJ legislature about recognizing the world’s greatest inventor. They fought to make it a law every since and even got Senator Shirley K. Turner to sponsor the legislation which has now become law. The Edison Innovation Foundation is so proud to have had a hand in this impressive example of perseverance and passion that this group has set!

The New Jersey State Inventor law is all thanks to this team of 4th grade students and their fearless teacher! Photo via NJ.com.

How did the kids present the idea of the bill to make Thomas Edison the “State Inventor” to you? What about that presentation convinced you to take action?

During our Social Studies unit on New Jersey Government, my students had learned all about the state symbols of New Jersey and were assigned a project to research and come up with a new state symbol. They had to have solid reasoning as to why this should be a symbol and present it to the class with the goal of persuading them that it should become a symbol. The girls put together a great presentation with facts to support why Thomas Edison should become our State Inventor. I saw tremendous possibility within this idea and after speaking with the girls, we did a bit more research and wrote a letter to Senator Turner expressing our thoughts. She quickly wrote back and told us that she was sponsoring our bill had requested that a bill be drafted to name Thomas Edison as New Jersey’s State Inventor! We were over the moon excited.

Now that the Committee & Senate have voted for the bill, what do you think the effects of making Edison the “NJ State Inventor” will be?

I think that a lot more attention will be on all of Thomas Edison’s accomplishments; not only for New Jersey, but also for the world. He was such an incredible inventor who drastically changed the lives of every single person living today. I also hope that when the public hears that a group of 4th graders (now 8th graders) was behind this becoming law, that everyone will realize the importance of their voice. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t let anybody prevent you from achieving something great!

Thomas Edison’s legendary West Orange Labs employing 10,000 people and shipping products all over the world—the place were R&D labs showed their true value to corporations.

What was your favorite part about the process of creating this bill?

My favorite part about creating this bill has been working side by side with the girls. They have never given up hope that we can make this happen, even after years went by. This process has truly proven that anything is possible and that every single person’s voice matters, no matter their age. My hope is that other students in Hopewell Valley, and hopefully the entire state will soon realize what can be accomplished when you don’t give up! We have met so many interesting people and government officials along the way that have motivated us and helped us to persevere. Aside from Senator Turner, John Keegan has been one of our biggest supporters since day one. When we were invited to Thomas Edison’s lab and awarded “The Tommy”, we felt like superstars! Who knew that it would take more than three years after that event to get this bill passed through both houses.

What were the major challenges you faced when pitching this bill?

The biggest challenge we faced was overcoming disappointment. After testifying at committee meetings we were always filled with so much hope that this would be the year that it would pass! We became filled with disappointment when sessions would end and we had to start all over again. Luckily, we didn’t let it keep us down for long! We got right back to writing letters and sending emails to those who could help us get this on voting agendas again.

Edison’s invention factory where prototypes were rapidly made for testing and evaluation-which is what we call makers labs today! Edison is the great grand-daddy of STEM

What can other students & teachers learn from this achievement?

Throughout this entire process, my hope has always been that students will realize how important their opinions are and also realize how essential it is to fulfill their civic duty by standing up for what they believe in. As educators, instilling the belief in students that they can accomplish anything at a young age will boost their confidence and help set them on a path for success. I believe in teaching my students the value of being a good person and this achievement can help them see the good that others are doing and make them want to work toward their goals as well.

Where are the students that worked with you to create this bill now?

Rory, Emma, Zoe, and Dylan are now in 8th grade! It is hard to believe that they will be entering high school next year. They are still excellent students and involved in many different activities. Aside from being great students, each one has a heart of gold and I feel so honored to have been a part of their educational journey and lives.

What is your favorite Thomas Edison invention and why?

My favorite Thomas Edison invention would have to be the incandescent light bulb. Every year we take our 4th graders on a field trip to the State House and they learn that Edison’s Electric Light Company installed the brass chandelier with 66 light bulbs that is hanging in the Assembly Chamber. All of my students have background knowledge of our current bill, so seeing their faces “light” up when they see something that his company actually installed is really awesome.

Do you have anything else to add, that you want people to know?

Never, ever, ever give up!  I repeat this phrase to all of my students endlessly throughout each school year. I want them to remember it as they move on from 4th grade and apply it to their everyday lives. Rory, Emma, Zoe, and Dylan demonstrated this day in and day out throughout this entire process. Throughout my teaching career, I have never seen a group of students work so hard and persevere for so long in something that they believe in. I encourage every single child and adult to stand up for what they believe in and chase their dreams. You are never too young or too old to achieve something great!

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Thomas Edison and The Pencil

Thomas Edison and the Pencil

The pencil is one of the oldest inventions that is still used today. School kids use them by the millions. Clerks have stored a pencil behind their ear for decades. A librarian would not be caught dead without the handy pencil – and either would Thomas Edison!

The pencil hasn’t changed much since Edison was using it. Once thing that has changed, though, is the lead in our modern day wooden cylinder. It is not lead at all, but a mixture of graphite and clay, in varying proportions to create different types of pencil marks or grades, from soft to hard. For example, the No. 2 pencil is a required for standardardized testing writing so that the grading machines will register it.

Edison writing in his notebook, using one of his special 3 and ½ inch custom pencils.

Many of Edison’s classic notebook entries and his sketches were done in pencil, from which his talented craftsmen were able to fabricate prototype models for testing; and ultimately Edison’s personal approval. One can easily imagine a pencil in Tom’s pocket at the ready to jot down ideas before they were lost. Tom ordered his own special pencils in large quantities from the Eagle Pencil Company [later renamed the Berol Company in 1969]. His pencils were extra soft, rated as a 5B grade, and designed to fit sideways in his vest pocket…about 3 & 1/2 inches long.

“The Pencil” by noted engineer/historian Henry Petroski, is a definitive tome on the history of the pencil-excellent reading for the aficionado. Petroski also mentions Edison’s use of specially made pencils; which of note are still in the artifact archives at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, NJ. Many great writers also preferred the use of pencils to write their story drafts–greats such at John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Lewis Carol, Virginia Wolf and Carl Sandburg.

Some Deep Dive Pencil Facts

  • An average tree can make 2500 pencils.
  • Pencils can write underwater and also be used in the zero gravity of space.
  • The word ‘pencil’ comes from the Old French ‘pincel’ meaning small paintbrush.
  • Though the exact date is not known for certain, the year 1565 marks the first record of a pencil consisting of a piece of graphite inserted into a wood shaft, making the first ancestor of today’s pencil.
  • In 1662, the first mass-produced pencils were created in Nuremberg, Germany.
  • In March 1858, the first design was issued for a pencil with an eraser on the end.
  • In 1861, Eberhard Faber built the first American mass-production pencil factory in New York City.

Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

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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Floor plan for a 3D printed home – [Image source: https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/americas-first-3d-printed-houses-99189/]

Thomas Edison Admires 3D Printed Homes

Rejuvenating an Old Dream

Imagine being able to custom order a house built in one day that is weather-proof, insect-resistant, storm-resistant, and cute as all-get-out. This is being done now with a grown-up size 3D printer, and a good supply of ready-to-build concrete. Not your average size classroom printer, but a superb example of relevant technology application.

This technology is a powerful argument for supplying durable and quickly built housing for those in need; for bulging populations in developing nations; and can be used for more than just houses…with application to building commercial structures. Think of quickly built hospitals in remote areas, or in cities in need of medical facilities. Concrete is everywhere in our modern world and can be used in so many places. This technology is now being discussed and employed all over the world. These homes can be quick replacements for those destroyed in hurricanes, tornados and other natural disasters.


Another innovator was working in concrete and building homes in the early 1900’s. Perhaps you heard of him…Thomas Edison…who in 1908 began experimenting with using large steel molds for building concrete structures–two of his pilot buildings were built on the site of his historic home at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park [TENHP] in West Orange, NJ. Both these structures remain in excellent condition today [a potting shed and a large garage]; and are toured by thousands of public and professional visitors to TENHP every year. 

A Thomas Edison designed concrete house being built with steel molds on four walls—circa 1919.
Edison’s beautiful 10-car garage, looks as good today as when built with his concrete in 1908!

Edison’s durable concrete was later used to build Yankee Stadium.  It is worth noting that Edison’s work in concrete revamped the entire industry, increasing typical manufacturing plant outputs by a factor of four. Did we mention he also used his concrete to build the many buildings in the manufacturing complex at his legendary West Orange facility!

Editor’s Deep Dive

https://www.sculpteo.com/blog/2018/01/03/concrete-3d-printer-the-new-challenge-of-the-construction-business/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison_Portland_Cement_Company

https://search.aol.com/aol/video;_ylt=A2KIbMdr9K1czSEAGI1pCWVH;_ylu=X3oDMTByMDgyYjJiBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMyBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?q=concrete+d+printed+home+videos+youtube&v_t=webmail-searchbox#id=37&vid=44bf5762a76a45b5698bdd53c71b5e78&action=view.

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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9 Things you Didn’t Know About Thomas Edison

9 Things you Didn’t Know About Thomas Edison

By: Nicole Peregrina (Guest Blogger)

You probably already know that Thomas Edison was the world’s greatest inventor. However, he was quite the character too! In fact, his daughter, Madeleine, said that the books written about her father weren’t satisfactory because they made you think “he was sort of a robot and never stopped working.” Below are some things about old Tom that make him a little more human, and a lot more relatable!

1. He loved to play checkers.

While the downstairs living room in Edison’s Glenmont Estate was used mostly for formal entertaining, the one of the second floor was where the interesting things happened. He enjoyed playing board games with his children in this room, particularly checkers. He is among many other notable historical figures that played this game of strategy such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and Edgar Allen Poe.

2. He preferred the country over the city.

When Edison moved from Menlo Park, the story goes that he gave his wife, Mina, the choice of whether to live in a NYC townhouse or a country home. She chose the country, much to Edison’s liking. He was once quoted in the NY Herald saying, “Oh, I don’t like the city. There is too much jar and excitement there for me. I love the country and quietness. I never go into the city if I can help it.”

3. He had a fear of public speaking too!

Edison had multiple business, was close friends with the celebrities from all over the world, and was interviewed countless times for newspaper articles. However, when it came to public speaking he was just like the rest of us when he said, “Please do not expect a speech from me, as public speaking is entirely out of my line.” He chalked this fear up to his “tendency toward stage fright” and “extreme deafness.”

4. He was homeschooled.

Although Edison received an honorary Doctorate from Princeton University, he never attended college nor high school. When Edison was asked about his education by Harper’s Bazaar, he responded, “School? I’ve never been to school a day in my life! D’you think I would have amounted to anything if I’d gone to school?” For most of his young life, Thomas Edison was homeschooled by his mother, Nancy Elliott. In fact, he credits him becoming an inventor to her and the “good effects of her training [he could] never lose.”

5. He secretly loved sweets!

Edison was as technical with his meals as he was with his inventing. He believed that eating should not be a pleasure and that every recipe should be based on scientific experiment. However, he admitted to his weakness for cookies in a diary entry 1885, “I do believe I have a big bump for cookies. The first entry made by the recording angel on my behalf was for stealing my mother’s cookies.” He also said that pastries, particularly apple pie, rejuvenated him!

6. He wasn’t a very good driver.

Have you ever noticed that many of the photos of Edison riding in a vehicle show someone else driving? There’s a reason for that. He  rationalized this away by claiming he used the riding time to think. However, legend has it that when one time Edison was forced to takeover driving for his son who had gotten a bug in his eye, they ended up in a ditch that a horse and buggy had to pull them out of.

7. He always had an excuse to leave formal dinner parties.

According to Edison’s daughter, Madeleine, he liked being around children but hated formal entertaining. He preferred to use his time for inventing! Before most of his wife’s dinner parties, he always conveniently didn’t feel well. Madeleine said, ““He would feign indigestion and skip dinner … being the only man to get indigestion before dinner!”

8. He co-wrote a sci-fi book.

He is much more well-known for his 1,096 patents and well versed in chemistry, however, he did have a hand in writing a science fiction novel too (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thomas-edisons-forgotten-sci-fi-novel-180967672/)! Although he didn’t finish the novel before he died, George Lanthrop went on to complete their collaboration called In the Deep of Time, which featured Edison’s ideas of the future!

9. He was quite the romantic!

When it came to his wife, Mina, Edison had a soft spot. He taught her Morse Code just so that they could talk privately when they were around her family. Eventually, he would propose to her in Morse Code too! Can you say -.– . … (YES!)?

Edison’s Deep Dive:

http://www.usacheckers.com/originofcheckers.php

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thomas-edisons-forgotten-sci-fi-novel-180967672/


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