February 11

Thomas Edison with his phonograph Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Today in Science

Thomas Edison's Birthday

Famed American inventor Thomas Alva Edison, who would receive 1,093 patents, was born on this day in 1847.

Growing up in Ohio, Edison was mostly taught by his mother. When he turned 13, he acquired a jobs as a newsboy, vegetable peddlar, and newspaper publisher, but continued to acquire knowledge, sneaking in odd bits of scientific reading during down moments.

Duing a stint as a telegraph operator, Edison began spending his off-hours tinkering on his own creations. However, his first patented invention, an electronic vote recorder intended for use in legislative bodies, proved unwanted. But out of that commercial failure grew Edison's plan to, from then on, invent only things he thought the public would use.

It was a lesson he learned well. He helped to improve existing items, such as stock tickers, telegraphs, fire alarms, and telephones. Then Edison went to work coming up with or contributing to unique ideas, making a name for himself as an energetic and ruthless leader of industry. He built a laboratory in New Jersey that he described as an "invention factory." The "Wizard of Menlo Park," as he became known, contributed to society a motion picture camera; the phonograph; records; an electric storage battery for cars, trains, miners' lights, and buoys; cement kilns; and incandescent electric lighting for the home.

At the time of his death he was searching for an alternative to rubber for car tires.

Want to learn more about Edison or inventions? Check out these related Science NetLinks resources:

Select a Date