Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Thomas Edison

Innovators week continues here at OPOD with this fine photograph of Thomas Edison, taken in 1904. Edison was one of History's most prolific inventors, having patented the phonograph machine, recording machines, motion pictures, and the much loved light bulb. These are just a few of his more noteworthy inventions. Others had worked on some of these things, but he patented practical versions. Edison was interesting in that he was very much of a garage shop type inventor. He disdained mathematical analyses, and preferred to try all possibilities and keep the ones that worked. This often helped him to achieve practical inventions, as they were based on hands on work. At the same time, it sometimes led to huge inefficiencies, and tragic mistakes.


  1. My dad recently visited Thomas Edison's museum and laboratory in Florida while he was there on a trip with my sister.

    I have a cute photo of him standing next to a life-sized statue of Edison.

  2. Nikola Tesla came to the USA and went to work for Edison with a promise of a big bonus if he could solve a problem that stumped Edison. When Tesla solved the problem and went to Edison for his bonus, Edison laugh at him, and told him nobody was worth that kind of money.
    Tesla went to work for Westinghouse, and made a big name for both himself and Westinghouse

  3. Edison also thought DC was the electricity of the future. He didn't like AC - maybe because he didn't invent it.

  4. +JMJ+

    We want Tesla! We want Tesla!
    (just a suggestion!)

  5. Yes, Tesla proved the advantage of alternating current and Edison was quite envious of Tesla.

    Edison made sure he secured patents for his developments; whereas, Tesla was more interested in providing practical solutions without financial gain being his primary focus.

    This is not to say that Tesla held no patents. He often did not pursue with litigation those who used his mechanizations.

  6. Not so fast! Sure, Westinghouse and Tesla may have won the battle, but the war may not be over yet!


    Personally, I enjoyed hearing baout Edison vs. Westinghouse and the electric chair. I'm guessing that this wasn't a friendly rivalry!

  7. So far I like the picture of Alexander Graham Bell the best. I like the fact that Bell is surrounded by house plants. (I even went so far as to identify each plant - the Boston Fern was easy).

    I like this picture of Edison, although, I must say it, his pants are too tight! Do you suppose he just gained some weight and didn't want to buy any new clothes? Or perhaps he was looking in an old trunk and found the pants that were his favorite when he was yet in school and was trying to prove he could still get into them. My theory is that the photographer secretly despised Edison and bet he couldn't fit into those pants. Then, he told Edison he looked mighty dapper, and suggested he take a picture of the occasion. Maybe the photographer was jealous because Edison married such young ladies.

  8. While Edison was inarguably brilliant, he had serious character flaws that, in my opinion, dismiss him as a person to admire.

  9. Edison WAS one of my favor hands-on inventors and holds a special place in American's consciousness as a "common man" who made good as an American success story by working up from obscurity to the top of the heap. He did invent many, many MECHANICAL devices of note (telegraph items and phonograph) and "invented" the concept of the modern laboratory by bringing together many scientist and engineers (rather than just one working in isolation) to solve a problem. He was also very good at mass marketing and promotion.

    BUT...he only truly invented mechanical devices and used brute force to "invent" others (like the light bulb). He put his name on patents that he had only a passing involvment in (if at all).

    He also was not very technical - while he understood DC, he hadn't a clue about how AC works. The prime advantage of AC is that it can travel 100's of miles without loosing much energy while DC can only travel blocks. When Tesla went to Westinghouse and was able to take most of the power business away from Edison, Edison retaliated with an AC/Telsa smear campaign.

    All this means I no longer admire Edison as I used to.