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“Thomas Alva Edison”

 

 

Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an

inventor and businessman who developed many important devices. "The

Wizard of Menlo Park" was one of the first inventors to apply the

principles of mass production to the process of invention. In 1880

Edison founded the journal Science, which in 1900 became the journal of

the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Edison is

considered one of the most prolific inventors, holding a record 1,093

patents in his name. Most of these inventions were not completely

original but improvements of earlier patents, and were actually works of

his numerous employees. Edison was frequently criticized for not sharing

the credit. Nevertheless, Edison received patents worldwide, including

the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Edison started

the Motion Picture Patents Company, which was a conglomerate of nine

major film studios (commonly known as the Edison Trust).

 

Family background

 

Thomas Alva Edison's ancestors, the Dutch Edesons, emigrated to New

Jersey in 1730. John Edeson remained loyal to England when the colonies

revolted (see United Empire Loyalists). That got him arrested and nearly

hanged. He and his family fled to Nova Scotia, Canada, settling on land

the colonial government gave those who had been loyal to Britain. In

1811, three generations of Edisons took up farming near Vienna, Ontario.

Among them was Samuel Ogden Edison, Jr. (1804-1896), an erstwhile

shingle maker, tailor, and tavern keeper from Marshalltown, Nova Scotia.

He married Nancy Matthews Elliott, of Chenango County, New York. In

1837, Samuel Edison was a rebel in the MacKenzie Rebellion that sought

land reform and autonomy from Great Britain. The revolt failed and, like

his grandfather before him, Samuel Edison was forced to flee for his

life. Unlike his grandfather, he went south across the American border

instead of north. He settled first in Port Huron, Michigan, temporarily

leaving his wife Nancy and children behind.

 

Birth

 

Thomas Edison was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio to Samuel Ogden Edison,

Jr. and Nancy Matthews Elliott (1810-1871). Thomas was their seventh

child. When he was seven years old the family moved to Port Huron,

Michigan.

 

Early years

 

Edison had a late start in his schooling due to childhood illness. His

mind often wandered and shortly into his schooling, his teacher

Alexander Crawford, was overheard calling him "addled". This ended

Edison's three-months of formal schooling. His mother had been a school

teacher in Canada and happily took over the job of schooling her son in

his academics. She encouraged and taught him to read and experiment. He

recalled later, "My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so

sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not

disappoint.". Many of his lessons came from reading R.G. Parker's School

of natural philosophy'.

 

Edison's life in Port Huron was bittersweet. Partially deaf since

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