Autobiography of Thomas Alva Edison
We will learn the autobiography writing of Thomas Alva Edison. Today we are living in the age of technology. The moment we get up to the moment we go back to sleep, we are surrounded by technology. This progress started when humankind finally managed to invent the wheel. With the invention of the wheel and the ability to make fire, man forged ahead in the course of history and achieved many great things. But there was a time when a man faced a great dilemma.
Although man can create fire and draw heat and light from it, he is yet to learn how to use it in a controlled way. The man was yet to understand the concept of electricity and use it to illuminate their future. This was achieved by one of the greatest American inventors of all time Thomas Alva Edison, a visionary who was much ahead of his time. Despite the limited resources he had in his time, he still managed to invent some of the most incredible machines that paved the way to the latter modern marvels we have today.
Frankly speaking, if Edison were not around, we would not be enjoying the brilliant motion picture that we love so much at the theaters. Also, all your favorite music records would not have been there if Edison had never managed to come up with the technology of sound recording.
But who was this great man?
Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847. For more than one reason, he is regarded as the most significant American inventor of all time. He had significantly contributed to various fields such as electric power generation, mass communication, sound recording, and motion pictures. Some of his most famous and noteworthy inventions are the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and early versions of the electric light bulb. If you consider the era he was born and began working, you can easily understand how difficult it would have been for him to invent all these things. Consider the primitive version of the light bulb he had invented. Just imagine the impact it had left on the industrial belt back then, and you can still understand his legacy in the modern industrialized world. He was a pioneer in the true sense of the term, and that’s why he was the first person ever to use the principles of organized science and teamwork in the process of invention. Basically, he showed the way for working with many researchers and employees together as a team, a very common practice today!
Thanks to him, the world had seen the first industrial research laboratory.
He was raised in the American Midwest, and he had started his career as a telegraph operator. This professional experience later inspires some of his earliest inventions. As I said, he was thinking way ahead of his time, and thus, he established his first laboratory facility in Menlo Park, New Jersey, in 1876. This was the place that witnessed many of his early inventions.
But that was not all; he went on and established a botanical laboratory in Fort Myers, Florida. This was done in collaboration with businessmen Henry Ford and Harvey S. Firestone. Also, he left a significant impact on the world of cinema when he set up a laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. This place had the world’s first film studio, the Black Maria.
Throughout his life, he was a prolific inventor and had 1,093 US patents to his name on top of several other patents in other countries.
Writing an autobiography of such a prolific inventor in such a small space is very difficult. However, I am trying to showcase the most significant moments starting right from his early life and inventions.
And let there be light…
My father told me that I was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio; however, I can’t remember any memories of that place since I had my childhood in Port Huron, Michigan, when my family moved there in 1854.
I was the last child of my parents, and before me, there were six other siblings. My father was called Samuel Ogden Edison Jr., and my mother was Nancy Matthews Elliott.
My mother was a school teacher, and it was a huge advantage for all of us. She was the one who had taught me to read, write, and also the basic concepts of arithmetic. I have a very vague memory of schools since I had only been there for a few months. Frankly, I have no intention to blow my own trumpet by I was kind of a self-taught person for the most part of my life, and from a very young age, I was absolutely fascinated by the mysterious and intriguing ability of technology. Right when I was a child, I used to spend hours working on experiments at home.
But my life wasn’t always so smooth. Around the age of 12, I developed some hearing problems. Some suggested that this happened due to a bout of scarlet fever I had during childhood and some infection of the middle-ear left untreated. But I never liked either of these versions about my illness, so I had the knack of fabricating stories around that. I was completely deaf in one ear, and the other ear was barely supportive. Much later in my life, I came to absolute peace with this fact and thought of it as a boon. I couldn’t hear anything, so I was much less distracted by the things happening around me. It allowed me to concentrate more on my work!
As far as higher studies are concerned, well, for a brief period of time, I was enrolled in a chemistry course at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. It was only to support my work on a new telegraphy system along with my then collaborator Charles Batchelor.
Early career of Thomas Alva Edison
I started humble, and my few first jobs were odd jobs like selling candy, newspapers, and vegetables just like any other regular Joe. By the time I was 13, I was making a sweet $ 50 dollar profit per week and used to spend that buying different kinds of equipment for my experiments. But fate had something else in store for me, and that’s why I had a chance encounter with a poor boy named Jimmie MacKenzie.
I am saying poor because when I met Jimmie, he was about to get struck by a runaway train. Fortunately, I managed to save him. He was the boy of the station agent J. U. MacKenzie of Mount Clemens, Michigan. The old man was very grateful, and in return, he agreed to train me as a telegraph operator. That’s how I managed to get my first real job as Telegraph Operator at Stratford Junction, Ontario, on the Grand Trunk Railway. But my knack for experimenting never left me, and I used to conduct chemical experiments on the train before leaving the job.
I was perhaps the first person to get the right to sell newspapers on the road. I managed to get four young lads like myself together and started typing and printing the Grand Trunk Herald. This was one of my very first entrepreneurial ventures, and I slowly discovered the nitty-gritty of the business. But back then, little did I know that one day, I would play the key role in forming some 14 companies, like General Electric.
Although I was experimenting a lot, I was yet to get a patent. Fortunately, I managed to get my first patent with my invention of the electric vote recorder. But very soon, I realized that it had very little demand in the current world, and thus, I had moved to New York City shortly after that. Around that time, one of my fellow telegraphers and inventor named Franklin Leonard Pope helped me a lot, and he was a kind of mentor to me. Together, Pope and I had founded our own company in October 1869. It was around that time I started working on a multiplex telegraphic system with the aim of sending two messages simultaneously.
But some of my most significant innovations were yet to come, and with that goal, I finally managed to establish an industrial research lab in 1876. It was built in Menlo Park, and henceforth, it was called the Menlo Park Laboratory.
I felt the need for some other smart men in the lab to work with me. One of them was named William Joseph Hammer. He was a consulting electrical engineer who started working as a laboratory assistant in December 1879.
He really helped me a lot in many of my later inventions, such as the telephone, electric railway, iron ore separator, phonograph, electric lighting, and many others. But his most immense contribution was in developing the incandescent electric lamp. I had made him in charge of testing the prototypes and recording them. Due to his hard work and dedication, I appointed him as the chief engineer of Edison Lamp Works. Within the very first year, he, along with the help of the plant in charge, Francis Robbins Upton, managed to turn out 50,000 lamps. It was at that moment; I knew that this was just the beginning!
And the rest is history!
On October 18, 1931, Thomas Edison died due to complications of diabetes in his home, “Glenmont”, in Llewellyn Park in West Orange, New Jersey. But even after decades of his passing, his legacy lives on!
You can check our few interesting essays for further study,