Inventor, entrepreneur, U.S. serviceman, and proud American – Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is best known in our history books for creating the incandescent lightbulb. During this development process he navigated 10,000 failed attempts to discover the fiber that would illuminate the bulb for an extended period of time. Many do not know the broad genius of this storied American inventor.

Edison was board on February 11, 1947 in Milan, Ohio. He attended public school briefly, then was home schooled by his mother Nancy in the subjects of reading, writing, and mathematics. Edison never attended college, he gained his knowledge through reading and experimenting.

Edison was an honest and honorable man. He started many business, some of which failed due to his appetite to take risks. Friends often stated “Thomas did not see money as anything of value unless it was invested in technology.”

He spent two years in the U.S. Navy, heading up development of their first research labs. Edison was a self-proclaimed pacifist until the German U-boat sinking of the passenger filled steamship Lusitania off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915. This motivated him to join American efforts in WWI. Edison’s 49 war-related inventions included: creating batteries for submarines; naval tactical strategies including smoke screens, zig-zag maneuvers, and smaller ships dropping anchors for quick turns to avoid incoming torpedos; sonar to detect submarines; and a telephone network for ships to talk with each other.

Thomas Edison’s breadth of inventions broadly included: dictating machine, violin amplifier, radio telephone receiver, a devise that allowed you to listen to eruptions of sunspots, power plants, tornado proof concrete houses, slick candy wrappers, miners safety lamps, self-starting combustion engines, and the electric pen.

His inventions included the areas of entertainment where he created: the Kinetograph, the Kinetograph projector, and even moving pictures with sound and color. Though he had failing sight and hearing challenges, Edison earned 134 patents while in his sixties, and 64 in his seventies.

As Edison neared the end of his life he stated in a speech to graduates, “My message to you is to be courageous. I have lived a long time. I have seen history repeat itself time and again. I have seen many depressions in business. Always, American has come back stronger and more prosperous.”

As we return to full scale celebrations of our Independence Day, we need to also celebrate the American’s who inventions and contributions have helped develop the society we live in today. Thomas Edison was a self-made man, a person with a thirst for knowledge, courage to learn from failures and persist in their efforts to achieve success, and a philanthropist that believed in sharing the fruits of their success with others. Happy Independence Day Thomas Edison, your inventions have made it much brighter for us all.

Dr. Steve Patchin is Superintendent of Hancock Public Schools. Programs he has contributed to creating include Mind Trekkers and CareerFEST, helping students explore their talents and associated careers in STEM. His research has focused on increasing development of self-efficacy in individual students.


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