Edison, Thomas Alva 1847 - 1931


Thomas Edison, full name Thomas Alva Edison, was born on 11 February 1847. At an early age he developed hearing problems, which have been variously attributed but were most likely due to a familial tendency to mastoiditis. Whatever the cause, Edison’s deafness strongly influenced his behaviour and career, providing the motivation for many of his inventions.

He began his career in 1863, in the adolescence of the telegraph industry, when virtually the only source of electricity was primitive batteries putting out a low-voltage current. Over the course of his career he held a world record 1,093 patents, playing a critical role in introducing the modern age of electricity. His inventions included the phonograph, the carbon-button transmitter for the telephone speaker and microphone, the incandescent lamp, a revolutionary generator of unprecedented efficiency, the first commercial electric light and power system, an experimental electric railroad, and key elements of motion-picture apparatus, as well as a host of other inventions. He also created the world’s first industrial research laboratory, Menlo Park.

Edison died on 18 October 1931 and remains perhaps the most famous inventor in American history.