Theodore Edison was born at Glenmont, New Jersey home of the Edison family, on July 10, 1898, the son of Thomas Edison. He was named after Mina Edison, beloved brother, who had just died in the Spanish-American War. He also was the last living child of Thomas Edison before Thomas’ death at 93 years old.
As a child, Theodore was called “the little laboratory assistant” by the family. He showed an early interest in science and performed many experiments at Glenmont. Thomas Edison said, “Theodore is a good boy, but his forte is mathematics. I am a little afraid. . . he may go flying off into the clouds with that fellow Einstein.”
He went on to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), from which he earned his physics degree in 1923, being the only member of the Edison family to graduate from college.
Despite Edison’s worries, Theodore did work for his father’s company after graduation. Starting as an ordinary lab assistant, he worked his way up to Technical Director of Research and Engineering for Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Theodore earned over 80 patents in his career. His first independent patent, in 1932, was for a device that worked to eliminate vibration in machinery!
He married Anna Maria Osterhout in 1925, a graduate of Vassar. Theodore also went on to open his own engineering consulting firm, Calibron Industries, Inc., and built his own smaller laboratory in West Orange. They were the original producers of the “Calibron 12”, a difficult puzzle for adults to test their minds and also a very clever marketing ploy to promote his company’s name.
In his later years, Theodore began to follow in his mother’s footsteps and became an ardent environmentalist; as well as an opponent of the Vietnam War and advocate of Zero Population Growth.
In fact, he is responsible for preserving most of the beautiful Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine. Theodore began purchasing many plots of land as they became available when he heard of plans to divide, build and sell the Island where he spent many summers as a child in the wilderness. In 1954, he donated all of this land to a Trust, the Monhegan Associates, with their promise to preserve them in years to come. That Trust still protects the woods and headlands today (which makes up about three quarters of the island) and Theodore is buried there with his wife.