The Importance of Giving, According to Thomas Edison and His Son

Thomas Alva Edison’s son, Charles Edison was the Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New Jersey and a nationally recognized corporate executive. He died July 31, 1969, three days days shy of his 79th birthday. He was also the founder of The Brook Foundation (the “Brook”), a philanthropic institution created to support worthwhile endeavors in medical research, science education and historic preservation.

Charles named his foundation after a Sunday School song that he recalled from the days of his childhood. As we approach the holidays and Giving Tuesday 2022, we remember its words:

Give, said the little brook,
Give, oh give – give, oh give
Give, said the little brook,
Oh give, oh give away
I am little I know, but wherever I go
I give, I give, I give.
I am little I know, but wherever I go
I give, I give away.
Giving, giving all the day;
Give, oh give, oh give away.
Giving, giving all the day,
I give, I give away.

Although the fund doesn’t go by “The Brook Foundation” anymore, it is still active and serving its original purpose today under his own namesake, the Charles Edison Fund. His long-range goal for the fund was that of creating an institution capable of carrying on after his passing. 53 years later, the foundation still works hard to support the legacy of his father, Thomas Edison, and promote education, specifically careers in science and technology. We use our large collection of artifacts, Edison’s Intellectual Property and the Thomas Edison National Historical Park as the foundation for lighting the way to a brighter future. If you are confused how those missions go together, we will leave you with this important quote about history:

“History is important because it teaches us about the past. By learning about the past, you come to understand the present so you can make educated decisions about the future.”

Richelle Mead

In fact, the Charles Edison Fund now also has a sister fund, the Edison Innovation Foundation that is specifically devoted to educational goals. One of the foundation’s main programs is the annual Thomas Edison Pitch Contest. The contest was created in 2010 as a competition to honor Thomas Edison and encourage invention, innovation and entrepreneurship among students before they get to college. Every year, students in grades 4-12 submit their own invention to win prizes and gain the hands-on experience exclusive to our contest! We provide supplies, curriculum and stipends so they have all the support they need to solve a problem they see in the world today. Early registration for the Thomas Edison Pitch Contest contest actually begins next month on December 1st! You can go to the website to learn more:

The Charles Edison Fund’s motto is “Doing well by doing good.” The world is a better place with forward thinkers like Thomas Edison, and we are proud to be carrying on his memory and cultivating the next generation of pioneers (which we are ensuring will be made up of all genders and races) to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. Thomas Edison, himself, was also a humantarian.

Thomas Edison did not invent to make money…he made money to invent! He had a unique way of linking technological progress to society’s well being. He once said:

​“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

​Edison propelled his philanthropy through his business whether it was bio-manufacturing a new rubber plant when there were fears that the US would run out of the natural resource, developing low cost concrete houses to address housing shortages, or allowing the free use of his fluoroscope patent(s) for medical use.

Following the Edisons’ footsteps, we invite you to join us this holiday season in supporting students, entrepreneurs, scientists, historical preservation, medical advances, environmental causes, and more. If you are interested in donating to our cause, you can visit our website here:


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