Who Was Thomas Edison?

Thomas Alva Edison, who lived from 1847 to 1931, was one of the most important and prolific inventors in American and world history. Perhaps his chief accomplishment was the invention of the electric light bulb in 1879. His other inventions include the phonograph, telegraph, dictating machine, mimeograph and telephone transmitter.

Milan, Ohio, was the birthplace of the inventor. His parents, Samuel Edison Jr. and Nancy Elliott Edison, had seven children, of which four survived to adulthood. Thomas was the youngest child and was mostly educated at home. He went to work early in 1859, getting a job for a railroad company. His work as a telegrapher during the Civil War helped to fuel his future invention ideas.

Edison took up invention full-time in 1869, starting with inventions for the telegraph industry. He went on to invent a carbon transmitter, the phonograph and then, finally, the electric light. It took over 1000 experiments to arrive at the light bulb, and his efforts with this and other electric inventions led to the creation of the Edison Electric Light Company. This company later became General Electric which, as of 2015, has become a large company with global operations.

Upon Edison's death in 1931, cities across the United States dimmed their lights to show respect for the great inventor. By the time of his death, he had patented 1093 inventions.