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.


This Bioconcrete Would’ve Impressed Thomas Edison

Concrete is everywhere we look in our modern world. Thomas Edison even innovated the concrete making process, improving the output of rotary kilns by a factor of four; and then going on to develop poured concrete houses and other large structures. He also worked in biology to discover a new natural resource for rubber when there were fears that it would run out.

He once said, “Great forces, material forces, undoubtedly exist, under our very noses, of which we know at present absolutely nothing about.”

Bioconcrete technology is the exact kind of bioengineering that Edison took an interest in later in his career. It is concrete that heals itself using bacteria.

A circular piece of bioconcrete which is great with black and brown dots all of it
A piece of bioconcrete created by Henk Jokers to heal itself
Image source: cnn.com

Henk Jonkers, of Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, has designed a new type of concrete that can fix its own cracks. His secret sauce involves calcium lactate, setting the bacteria and calcium lactate into capsules made from biodegradable plastic and adding the capsules to the wet concrete mix.

When cracks eventually begin to form in the concrete, water enters and opens the capsules. The bacteria then germinate, multiply and feed on the lactate, and in doing so they combine the calcium with carbonate ions to form calcite (limestone) which closes up the cracks. The concrete mending process may take a few weeks to complete.

Dark slab of concrete with crack that you can see crystalizing to heal itself
Bioconcrete fixing a crack on its own with new technology from Delft University
Image source: cnn.com

We have all seen those rust-brown streaks that stain things like bridge abutments, pillars, and many other concrete objects. The real problem with concrete cracks is water in-leakage and the rusting of reinforcing bars that can weaken the structural integrity of the concrete structure.

Bioconcrete is a good way to address the problem of water leakage and rusting of reinforcing bars. It is a prime example of how nature and engineering can work well together.

Work continues with this technology to develop a spray-on healing liquid for large surface areas. Who knows? Maybe they would have used this technology on the old Yankee stadium, if it was still around, which was built with Edison Portland Cement.

Yankee Stadium circa 1923 with man walking down dirt road next to itDescription automatically generated
Yankee Stadium built by Edison Portland Cement early 1923

How Thomas Edison Celebrated His Birthday, February 11

February 11th is the birthday of the world’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison. In fact, people around the country celebrate it as “National Inventor’s Day” in his honor!

Edison, however, did not stray very much from his regular day when he celebrated this day. On Edison’s 73rd birthday, he reported to his desk bright and early ready to work. Age meant little to him. 

According to Edison, “There is no reason why men should not live as old as the Sequoia trees of California if they take care of themselves”. 

However, 73 was a special year for him. Since he started his career as a telegraph operator, Edison knew very well that 73 signified “all good wishes” in Morse Code! This would be the first real celebration he had in years.

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10 States that Know How to Invent Like Thomas Edison

In his lifetime, Thomas Edison received 1,093 patents in the United States alone. His record wasn’t surpassed until 2003 by a Japanese inventor, 72 years after Edison’s final patent application. Today, we have come a long way with about 1,762 patent applications filed across the world each day.

According to the U.S. Patent Office, 161,809 patent applications were filed in the United States in 2018. A majority of those patents, about 68%, were filed in the Top 10 Invention States of all time…including Thomas Edison’s home state of New Jersey! Based on analyzed data from the U.S. Patent Office, below is the ranking of the states with the most patents awarded to its citizens from 1963 to 2018:

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