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: