Inventors are humanitarians-beneficially affecting society years into the future, creating the most precious gifts of all … jobs. Inventor-humanitarians create wealth, improving the standards of living. Case in point-Thomas Edison.
His exploits and value to the American economy and society are legendary-the man who gave us motion pictures, the phonograph, the light bulb and electric power industry, and vastly improved telephones and telegraphs. He helped put us in touch with each other. His establishment of commercial R&D labs that all Fortune 500 companies use today gave birth to an endless march of new products, for they are cradles of continuous innovation. He is the man most associated with technology based progress. Many years after the creation of these products his accomplishments are still responsible for one-tenth of our gross national product today, as well as about one-fourth of all the jobs on the planet. Creating jobs is an important aspect of one’s commitment to technological prosperity. And this outcome leads to widespread humanitarian benefits. The creative work of inventive men like Edison inspires generations of men and women to change the world for the better, which in turn generates wave after wave of humanitarian benefits.
“My desire is to do everything within my power to free people from drudgery and create the largest measure of happiness and prosperity.” -Thomas Edison
In 1996, Life Magazine proclaimed Thomas Edison the “Man of the Millennium’ … not the decade or century, but the millennium-1,000 years-a very bold statement, not spoken lightly! Recently, Time magazine lavishly praised his relevance and worldwide accomplishments. Today, our young ones are studying him with great passion, for what he did at his amazing West Orange Laboratories 130 years ago forms the very basis of what is known as the modern educational paradigm of STEM/STEAM; and like Edison, this program promises to change the fabric of education worldwide—making school ever more meaningful in the eyes of tomorrow’s decision-making citizens. Companies are clamoring for more STEM/STEAM graduates-a wonderful vindication of the humanitarian aspect of inventors in society. This is the powerful message for peace through prosperity, linking technological progress and society’s well-being, something Edison felt viscerally.
Let us also examine the classic philanthropic virtues of Edison:
- Worked during WWI with the US Navy to reduce the impacts of the German U-boat scourge
- Loaned free of charge his patents to Marconi to begin the development of radio telegraphy/wireless and later radio
- Allowed the free use of his fluoroscope patent(s) for medical use
- Promoted the use of solar energy [as early as 1910] as a new energy resource
“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.” -Thomas Edison
- Biomass farming to develop plant species for making artificial rubber
- Use of natural materials in his inventions as much as possible
- Development of low cost concrete houses to address housing shortages.
These humanitarian aspects of Edison continued in his family:
- Wife Mina, gave great service to educational, civic and social concerns in her home county
- Son Charles, governor of NJ, Secretary of the Navy, patron of the arts
- Son Theodore, ardent environmentalist- like his mother Mina, a leading protector of riparian lands in Florida and Georgia
- The Edison family gave freely and generously of themselves to the country.
After Thomas Edison’s death, his family gave his invention factory and their Glenmont home to the American people, to celebrate Dad’s work and as a classroom for future entrepreneurs. Humanitarian principles ran deep in the Edison family.
Thomas Edison said … “My main purpose in life is to make enough money to create ever more inventions … The dove is my emblem … I want to save and advance human life, not destroy it … I am proud of the fact that I have never invented weapons to kill …“
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