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Thomas Edison: a man for the ages

There are a number of sayings that I think are gold nuggets when it comes to being applicable to our successes and struggles in life. “Where there is a will, there is a way,” is one, and another is “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
As I have read about the lives of men who have contributed much to society and the modern way of life, I believe one person stands out among many. That person is Thomas Alva Edison: Inventor extraordinaire. I’m not saying he is the greatest person who ever lived, but he certainly is up there among the greats of all time.
He put both of those sayings into practice as he went about inventing many items that have made our lives easier and better over the years. In fact, the latter of the sayings I mentioned at the outset of this column is credited to Edison. I don’t know the origin of the first one.
Many folks have failed not because they didn’t have the ability but because they didn’t have the will. Many failures can be traced to the person’s lack of persistence. Many give up before they get started. Another saying comes to mind: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.” Often beginning a task is the most difficult part of accomplishing it.
Edison’s persistence shows in his invention of the electric light bulb. He tried many different substances before he finally found a filament that would last a long time and give off an acceptable light without burning up. He also figured out how to distribute power over distances which was a major contribution to the electric industry.
He gained a great deal of fame by developing a sound recording machine (phonograph). His original design used cylindrical sleeves coated with tinfoil that fitted over a smaller cylinder. A needle followed the grooves in the cylinder as the cylinder turned thereby producing sound. Wax replaced the tinfoil as a better coating of the cylinder. Edison later developed a disc form for reproducing music. I have one of the old cylinders but it is in poor condition.
The recording industry made possible by the phonograph has become very important in the entertainment and business world. Edison was also instrumental in developing the movie camera and the movie projector as well. Those inventions made possible the motion picture industry and we know how large an industry it has become.
Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, on February 11, 1847. His formal education consisted of three months in the public school of Port Huron, Michigan. At 12 he became a railroad newsboy and after the age of 15 he earned his living as a telegraph operator. He applied for a patent for his “phonograph or speaking machine” in 1877. The patent was granted.
For over 50 years he utilized his workshop and laboratory at Menlo Park, New Jersey and later at West Orange, New Jersey to perfect many inventions. Those inventions have made a great difference in our lives. What would the world be like without electric lights, the movies, the ability to record sound and many other inventions by Thomas Edison?