An American inventor and businessman, Thomas Alva Edison was born 169 years ago on February 11, 1847. His inquisitive mind and scientific inquiry resulted in the invention of the phonograph, motion picture camera, and the photo electric light bulb. He is also credited for creating the world’s first industrial research laboratory.
It is said that Edison was the key individual in creating our modern world. No individual to date did more to shape our present day civilization than Thomas Edison. He was truly the most influential man of the last millennium.
Thomas’ mother, Nancy Edison, pulled her son from school and home schooled him because Thomas’ teacher said, “he’s too stupid to learn.” The first thing Nancy did was to teach Tom how to use the resources of the local library.
By the time he reached ten Tom had read History of England, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and many texts in physics and chemistry. He even set up his own chemical laboratory in the basement of his home. To pay for needed supplies, he got a job as a newspaper boy selling newspapers, candy, books, and fruit to passengers on trains.
Near the site of one of his jobs, Tom saw a boy playing along the tracks with a train headed right at the child. Tom rescued the boy and the child’s father, a railway stationmaster, was so grateful for young Edison’s heroism he taught Tom the art of telegraphy. (That was like teaching Steve Jobs how to operate a computer.) By the age of 17 Thomas was an expert telegraph operator.
Though Edison had only three months of formal education, his self-studies could be equated to several college degrees. However, he knew he couldn’t achieve his goals alone and hired over 60 chemists, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and skilled mechanics to work on his ideas. During his 84 years Edison patented more than 1100 inventions and invigorated a nation’s economy during its early years.
“The Wizard of Menlo Park” invented the light bulb after failing more than 10,000 times. Once the light bulb became practical, Edison installed a lighting system in New York City and lit it up, making New York the first city in the world to light the night’s sky. Truly the work of a wizard!
Thomas Alva Edison led no armies. He was not a U.S. president nor did he enslave a race of people. He unraveled the power of electricity and its potential. In so doing, the name Edison commands respect world-wide.
If there is anything we can learn from Thomas Edison’s life, it is to never give up. Building a life that others admire is an on-going process. It takes time and effort to become more than what we are. Are you up to the challenge?