Thomas Edison was one of the greatest inventors in human history. He was famously dubbed "The Wizard of Menlo Park" by a local journalist, after the location of his vast laboratory complex.
Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, on February 11, 1847, to Samuel Ogden Edison, Jr. and Nancy Matthews Elliott. With 1093 US patents and several British, German and French patents in his name, Edison is one of the most prolific inventors of all time. His contributions to mankind put us all in his eternal debt. Here is an account of some of Edison’s important inventions, and when he invented them.
Thomas Edison is best known as the inventor of the electric light bulb. Edison’s design of the electric bulb was not the first one ever made, but it was the most practical, and went on to become wildly successful.
Thomas Edison’s Inventions
1868: He invented an automatic vote recorder. This was Edison’s first patent.
1869: He invented several telegraphic devices, such as a stock ticker. During this period Edison worked as a telegrapher, which resulted in his early inventions being centered around the profession. In the next 2-3 years, he bettered his early telegraphic inventions several times.
1874: He invented the quadruplex telegraph, which transmitted four (‘quadru-‘) messages simultaneously. Edison sold the rights to this invention to Western Union for $10,000. In the next few years, he also invented a sextuplex telegraph, which could transmit six messages.
1875-1877: He made several inventions during this period, including the perforating pen (an early copying device that created stencils of the necessary document), a carbon rheostat, and paraffin paper. The perforating pen is the predecessor of modern tattoo guns.
1877: He invented the phonograph and the carbon transmitter, which was a crucial improvement in phone technology and also facilitated early radios. Edison’s design of the phonograph was the first one to allow ‘playback’.
1879: His most celebrated design, the electric light bulb, was patented in 1879. The first bulb stayed luminescent for 40 hours. Contrary to popular misconception, Edison didn’t invent the light bulb from scratch; his design was simply the most practical, and thus became wildly popular, incorrectly etching his name in history as its inventor.
He was responsible for the commercialization and spread of electricity, and invented the now-standard apparatus of electrical instruments: sockets, switches, insulating cables, and the first generator to provide electricity for incandescent bulbs.
1880: He demonstrated an electric railway in Menlo Park. Edison didn’t invent the electric locomotive, but made various innovations in the technology, including an early version of electromagnetic brakes.
1881: Carrying on from his invention of the electric bulb, he invented the electric chandelier, and built a regulating motor to control the current.
1881-1887: He invented a system of wireless telegraphy to be used to and from moving trains. He also invented a wireless system of communication for nautical use.
1887-1890: He made major improvements on brown-wax and black-wax cylinder phonograph.
1891: He invented and patented the motion picture camera. Although this design was nowhere near the digital giants of today, it was the first to actually show motion.
1898-1900: He Invented the most practical version of the fluoroscope, a diagnostic imaging equipment. Improving on Wilhelm Röntgen’s original invention, Edison used calcium tungstate plates to create brighter, clearer images.
Edison abandoned his work on this machine when his assistant died of radiation poisoning from an exposure to the fluoroscope’s ionizing radiation.
1901: He invented an early version of the alkaline battery, although it was also invented independently around the same time by Swedish inventor Waldemar Jungner.
1905: He invented a new type of dictating machine that enabled the dictator to hear repetitions and make corrections.
1900-1909: He made many important inventions relating to the processes involved in the production of pre-cast buildings. This was done in course of his new venture, the Edison Portland Cement Company. Edison was excited about the project, but eventually he had to give it up in the Great Depression.
1910-1914: He invented the diamond point reproducer and the ‘indestructible’ record.
1912: He invented the Kinetophone, or talking motion picture. Although this was one of the very first true ‘movie’ apparatuses, the sound and video weren’t synchronized. The device was created by simply placing a kinetoscope (an early video camera) and a phonograph together.
1914: He invented the Telescribe. It was done by joining a telephone and a telegraph machine, and could be used to record both sides of a telephonic conversation. This was the predecessor of the pager.
1915: He invented the first synthetic form of carbolic acid (C6H6O -benzol). He later built plants for its production, since the demand was high in wartime US.
WWI: Edison declared that he would act as a consultant to the navy in the First World War, but only on defensive equipment (later, Edison proudly noted that he had never invented a killing machine). He subsequently worked on various naval projects regarding sound ranging, sonar, construction of ships, naval camouflage, etc.
Edison passed away at the age of 84 years in West Orange, New Jersey on 18th of October, 1931. His death took away from us one of the greatest inventors, businessmen and scientists of all time.