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THOMAS ALVA EDISON

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Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. He was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large teamwork to the process of invention, and therefore is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.

Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, and grew up in Port Huron, Michigan. He was the seventh and last child of Samuel Ogden Edison, Jr. His father had to escape from Canada because he took part in the unsuccessful Mackenzie Rebellion of 1837. (1) _______ .

In school, the young Edison's mind often wandered, and his teacher was overheard calling him "addled". This ended Edison's three months of official schooling. Edison recalled later, "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." (2) ______ . Much of his education came from reading R.G. Parker's School of Natural Philosophy and The Cooper Union.

Edison developed hearing problems at an early age. The cause of his deafness has been attributed to a bout of scarlet fever during childhood and recurring untreated middle-ear infections.

Edison's family was forced to move to Port Huron, Michigan, when the railroad bypassed Milan in 1854, but his life there was bittersweet. (3) _____ . He also studied qualitative analysis, and conducted chemical experiments on the train until an accident caused the prohibition of further work of the kind.

He obtained the exclusive right of selling newspapers on the road, and, with the aid of four assistants, he set in type and printed the Grand Trunk Herald, which he sold with his other papers. This began Edison's long streak of entrepreneurial ventures as he discovered his talents as a businessman. (4) _____ .

Edison became a telegraph operator after he saved three-year-old Jimmie MacKenzie from being struck by a runaway train. (5) _____ . Edison's first telegraphy job away from Port Huron was at Stratford Junction, Ontario, on the Grand Trunk Railway.

In 1866, at the age of 19, Thomas Edison moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where, as an employee of Western Union, he worked the Associated Press bureau news wire. Edison requested the night shift, which allowed him plenty of time to spend at his two favorite pastimes - reading and experimenting. Eventually, the latter pre-occupation cost him his job. One night in 1867, he was working with a lead-acid battery when he spilled sulfuric acid onto the floor. It ran between the floorboards and onto his boss's desk below. (6) _____ .

One of his mentors during those early years was a fellow telegrapher and inventor named Franklin Leonard Pope, who allowed the impoverished youth to live and work in the basement of his Elizabeth, New Jersey home. Some of Edison's earliest inventions were related to telegraphy, including a stock ticker. (7) ______ .

On December 25, 1871, Edison married 16-year-old Mary Stilwell, whom he had met two months earlier as she was an employee at one of his shops. They had three children. Mary Edison died on August 9, 1884.

On February 24, 1886, at the age of thirty nine, Edison married 20-year-old Mina Miller in Akron, Ohio. She was the daughter of inventor Lewis Miller, co-founder of the Chautauqua Institution and a benefactor of Methodist charities. They also had three children. Mina outlived Thomas Edison, dying on August 24, 1947.

Edison is the fourth most prolific inventor in history, holding 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. He is credited with numerous inventions that contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications. (8) ____ .


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