7 Modern Industries Thomas Edison Created

Throughout his life, Edison created and radically altered not only the lighting industry, but many others that created the American economy. In fact, $8 to 12 billion of the US’s economy today can be tied to Thomas Edison’s innovation. Here are 7 main industries in which he had a major impact:

1. Lighting Industry

One of the earliest catalogs of the Edison Lighting Company, circa 1887

Probably his most iconic invention, the light bulb gave birth to a huge industry for providing lighting across a wide variety of illumination needs. Along with creating the lighting industry, many writers credit Edison’s light bulb with promoting the productive capacity of humanity, increasing nighttime safety, and making evening entertainment events more popular.

2. Music & Radio

Theo Wangemann recording in Edison Laboratory Music Room, circa May 1905 

The ability to record sound and re-play it is one of the world’s great pleasures; and it stems from Edison’s phonograph and the world’s first recording studio at Edison’s West Orange labs. Here, the first great recordings fostered an ever prospering desire to create new sounds and rhythms. Think of the national awards and accolades we bestow upon recording artists every year at show like the Grammys, American Music Awards, and more! Not to mention the booming podcast industry of the modern era.

3. Motion Pictures

Black Maria, the World’s First Recording Studio, built by Thomas Edison in West Orange, NJ

Just a few hundred feet from Edison’s recording studio, the invention of the motion picture camera took place in West Orange, NJ; and about a block away, Edison built the first motion picture studio, unlocking the world’s fascination with movies. We enjoy movies today on large and small screens everywhere. Again, think of the awards we celebrate every year for this highly creative and expanding industry.

4. Battery Industry

The lineup of Edison Storage Batteries, Edison’s more profitable invention!

We hear so much today about the value of battery energy storage for electric vehicles and the storage of solar generated electricity. We can thank Edison for his development of alkaline storage batteries in the early 1900’s for battery technology today. They were not only the back bone of mining helmet lights or his own electrical car in his time, but also for our cell phones, modern electric vehicles, and large scale utility system applications today!

5. Research & Development

Thomas Edison in his West Orange research and design lab, the first of its kind

Probably his most important innovation was Edison’s commercial research labs. This became the basis for R&D labs in every major company in the and served as the model for the network of national labs which drive our America’s science and engineering legacy. In 2019, America spent about $550 billion on organized research in all sectors of the economy!

6. Electric Power Industry

Thomas Edison exhibiting in his hand a replica of his first successful incandescent lamp which gave 16 candlepower of illumination, circa October 1929

Our entire electrical energy system is based on the model Edison demonstrated  in 1882 at Central Station in New York City. Improved over the years and converted from DC to AC, this industry provides the power for our homes, industrial practices, internet connection, and keeps our cell phones and other hand-held devices charged.

7. Electronic Devices

The first “electronic” patent circa 1883

Did you know that Edison filed the first “electronic” patent in 1883? It was a phenomenon that Edison observed in 1875 and refined later while he trying to improve the incandescent lamp. They call it the “Edison Effect.” This discovery was applied to modern electronics like transistors, microchips, phones, televisions, and x-ray sources.


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