Thomas Alva Edison
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Famous Deaf People
Thomas Alva Edison:

Thomas Alva Edison

Parents: Samuel and Nancy Edison.
Born: 11th February 1847 in Milan, Ohio; the last of seven siblings.
Died: 18th October 1931.


Inventions and patents:
During his lifetime he patented 1093 inventions. The list of inventions are remarkable and to mention only a few:
acoustic gramophone 1877 – record player; the sound of the vibrating needle is amplified acoustically
adapted microphone (from A.G. Bell) - device for converting sound waves into electrical energy
mimeograph - rotary duplicator that uses a stencil through which ink is pressed
roentgenoscope - X-ray machine that combines a X-ray source and a fluorescent screen to enable direct observation
nickel-iron accumulator - storage battery having a nickel oxide cathode and an iron anode with an electrolyte of potassium hydroxide
cylinder phonograph - device in which rotating records cause a stylus to vibrate and the vibrations are amplified acoustically or electronically
disc phonograph - sound recording consisting of a disc with continual grooves
kinetoscope 1888 - device that gave an impression of movement as an endless loop of film moved continuously over a light source with a rapid shutter; precursor of the modern motion picture
film projectors 1893 (Projectoscope) - an optical instrument that projects an enlarged image onto a screen
motion pictures 1896 – to enacts an idea by a sequence of images giving the illusion of continuous movement
Kinetophone 1913 – a device to produce motion picture sound exactly simultaneous with the action

What is not general knowledge is that Edison improved and patented existing ideas to successfully commercialize such ideas for example:

telephone with Alexander Graham Bell 1877

fourfold telegraph 1874


electric distribution system 1880

incandescent light bulb 1879

He conceived the United States' entire electrical-distribution system. Solving problems, in one field, leads to inventions in another and in this, Edison was a genius. While designing the incandescent bulb, he had to solve numerous problems in order for it to work as the following suggests:

collimate electrical circuits

improved generators consisting of a coil (the armature) that rotates between the poles of an electromagnet (the field magnet) causing a current to flow in the armature

conductors and supply

regulated voltage


selectors to open/close supply

safety considerations


Matteucci Medal awarded in 1887
National Inventor's Day - 11th February, Edison's birthday
Edison Medal - highest award for excellence IEEE American Institute of Electrical
Engineers (1904) in honor of Thomas Alva Edison
Several USS (Navy) named in honor of Edison.
Several museums named after him
Besides his own vested companies, several others named after him.

Excluding the obvious enormous technological advantages his endeavors left behind, there is a specific quality of character we would like to scrutinize. What better source to exploit, than the inner circle, maybe not independent but nonetheless, his son, Charles Edison.

Referring to awards he remarked; 'Oh, yes, Mom's (his 2nd wife Mina) got a couple of quarts of them', he never sets store on accolades, as he believed all his life rather to act, a man remembered for “matchless courage, his imagination and determination, his humility and wit.” Always ready to explore, he encourages his children and employees alike, to reach for the limit, setting the example himself. He observed; 'Accomplishing something provides the only real satisfaction in life'.

Treating failures as opportunities he remarked: 'Shucks, we haven't failed. We now know 1,000 things that won't work, so we're that much closer to finding what will'. The secret of his success was to inspire by example, and he instilled the concept of scientific “team research” coupled to industry. Generally known as a loner, in fact he employed chemists, mathematicians, machinists and any expert he thought might solve a knotty problem, when the first substantial income of $40,000 was achieved and there, team research as it is known today was established.

An episode with an iron ore rock-crusher, the productivity of which he was not satisfied with, he insisted the operator to increase power. The operator protested and referred to the manufacturer's specifications, Edison was told the machine costs $25,000, he retorted 'Have we got that much money in the bank?' After affirmation he proceed to increase powering, and the machine broke down. 'Well, what did you learn from that, Mr Edison?', the foreman inquired and he retorted 'Why, that I can put on forty percent more power than the builder said she could stand – all but that last notch. Now I can build one just as good and get more production out of it'.

This episode was typically his attitude towards money. 'He considered it as raw material, like metal, to be used rather than to amassed.' Several failures and near bankruptcies did not deter him, in fact it inspired him to greater effort and energy, seeking opportunity to improve. He kept on investing as the following occurrences implied; One night in December 1914, a fire destroyed the plant from where they produced their films. His reaction was 'Where's Mom? Go get her! Tell her to get her friends! They'll never see a fire like this again!' and afterwards, getting the employees together at 5:30 the morning; 'We're rebuilding' and almost like an afterthought ' Oh, by the way, anybody know where we can get some money?' Later he explained; 'You can always make capital out of disaster. We've just cleared out a bunch of old rubbish. We'll build bigger and better on the ruins'.

He was referred to by the media as “the wizard of Menlo Park” which amused and at the same time angered him, stating; 'Wizard? Pshaw. It's plain hard work that does it' and 'Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.'

His family life was relatively restricted because of tremendous work schedule but his brilliant time management enabled him to satisfy expectations. He slept four hours out of 24 and catnapping in between, observing; 'Sleep is like a drug. Taking too much at a time and it makes you dopey. You lose time, vitality and also opportunities”.

For all purposes deaf as a teenager, this esteemed Deaf's hearing loss, started at a very young age with the onset of scarlet fever, an acute communicable disease (usually in children), characterized by fever and a red rash, and thereafter chronic middle ear infection. Attributed to his hard hearingness, he seemed distant, and it was reported that a teacher referred to him as "addled." His mother, Mina, angered by this, took him out of school and after only three months of formal education, continued to school him at home. About her, he later remarked; 'My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.' Mina taught him reading, writing, and arithmetic. After becoming a newsboy on the Grand Trunk Railway, he spent whole days in Detroit Free Library – which he read 'from top to bottom.' For the remainder of his life he advocated progress (education) by own effort.

Referring to his deafness and true to his wit, he told extravagant fables about being clobbered by a train conductor and later improved his reproduction as being lifted by the ears onto a departing train by the conductor. People asked him why he didn't attempt to invent a hearing aid and he replied; 'How much have you heard in the last twenty-four hours that you couldn't do without?' and ' A man who has to shout can never tell a lie.'






'The Electric Thomas Edison' author – son, Charles Edison.