Thomas Edison 1847-1931 death

February 26, 2020
Who Was Thomas Edison?



Thomas Edison was an American inventor who is considered one of America's leading businessmen and innovators. Edison rose from humble beginnings to work as an inventor of major technology, including the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb. He is credited today for helping to build America's economy during the Industrial Revolution. 

Early Life and Education


Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. He was the youngest of seven children of Samuel and Nancy Edison. 

His father was an exiled political activist from Canada, while his mother was an accomplished school teacher and a major influence in Edison’s early life. 

An early bout with scarlet fever as well as ear infections left Edison with hearing difficulties in both ears as a child and nearly deaf as an adult. 

Edison would later recount, with variations on the story, that he lost his hearing due to a train incident in which his ears were injured. But others have tended to discount this as the sole cause of his hearing loss.


In 1854, Edison’s family moved to Port Huron, Michigan, where he attended public school for a total of 12 weeks. A hyperactive child, prone to distraction, he was deemed "difficult" by his teacher. 

His mother quickly pulled him from school and taught him at home. At age 11, he showed a voracious appetite for knowledge, reading books on a wide range of subjects. In this wide-open curriculum Edison developed a process for self-education and learning independently that would serve him throughout his life.

At age 12, Edison convinced his parents to let him sell newspapers to passengers along the Grand Trunk Railroad line. Exploiting his access to the news bulletins teletyped to the station office each day, Edison began publishing his own small newspaper, called the Grand Trunk Herald. 

The up-to-date articles were a hit with passengers. This was the first of what would become a long string of entrepreneurial ventures where he saw a need and capitalized on the opportunity.

Edison also used his access to the railroad to conduct chemical experiments in a small laboratory he set up in a train baggage car. During one of his experiments, a chemical fire started and the car caught fire. 


The conductor rushed in and struck Edison on the side of the head, probably furthering some of his hearing loss. He was kicked off the train and forced to sell his newspapers at various stations along the route.

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