Thomas Edison’s Successful Inventions
In the Beginning
Thomas Edison had many inventions. However, in 1868, at the age of 22, Thomas Edison invented an “electrical vote recorder“. This was Edison’s first patent. This recorder was a very simple concept. It was for Congress to record their votes. The recorder was also an electrical system containing a dial for each legislator. Each of these dials would have a “yes” and “no” option. Also, after the votes were made the clerk would record the results. Furthermore, the system would add the votes of both choices to obtain final results.
Edison was the first inventor to see invention as far more than simply embodying an idea in a working artifact. His vision encompassed what the twentieth century would call innovation—invention, research, development, and commercialization. In the process, he helped to create a new institution for invention—the industrial research laboratory, which might be considered Edison’s greatest invention.
In 1876 Thomas Edison moved his family and resources out of Newark and into Menlo Park New Jersey. There he established a research facility. This facility was the first of its kind. It included top of the line equipment and resources. Therefore, creating new opportunities for other inventors to establish their own labs. Furthermore, Edison’s Menlo Park Lab is thought of as one of his greatest inventions. Along with opening the door for other inventors to create labs, it also gave Edison the perfect place to continue his own work.
Thomas Edison’s Favorite Creation
In 1877 Thomas Edison spent his time inventing his favorite invention. It was the first phonograph. The phonograph was the first stage in recordable music. However, it’s original purpose was to record voices. Edison utilized the vibration of speech. The vibrations created markings on tin foil with a needle. Later he would use the same type marking on cylinders and discs to record music. Edison’s favorite creation was the first step in the recordable music we know today.
Out of the Darkness into the Light
One of the most well-known inventions by Thomas Edison is his incandescent light bulb. However, Edison was not the first inventor to work with electrical lighting. Some inventors were very successful with their lighting inventions. Many of these other inventors were focusing on industrial lighting. Therefore, the real challenge for Edison was to create electrical lighting for home use.
Due to this need, Edison began his search for safe reliable lighting that could be used in homes. Incandescent lighting was the perfect solution. However, it took Edison a year and a half to invent the bulb. Edison had to ensure that it was not only economical but safe to use in a home. The biggest sign of success was with a lamp. It included a filament that was made by carbonizing a thread. This thread allowed the bulb to stay on for thirteen and half hours. Therefore, his work with light bulbs started the electrical system that we know today.
In December 1879 Edison showed how functional his incandescent bulbs were. He established a lighting system and installed it in Menlo Park. Therefore, establishing the first step in the creation of the electric industry. In September 1879 the first commercial power station began its operations. This station provided power and electrical lighting to one square mile. The beginning of The Age of Electricity was its result.
The Failed Inventions of Thomas Edison
When asked about his failures in an interview Thomas Edison stated:
“I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
Failure is Not the End
Thomas Edison did not like to refer to his inventions as successes or failures. In the field of inventing, it is possible to get bogged down by creations that don’t turn out the way you want. However, Edison was not one to focus on what went wrong. He would rather focus on what he could learn or improve. His first patent for the Vote Recorder is a specific example of this.
Electrical Vote Recorder
Thomas Edison was very young when he invented the Vote Recorder. Due to this, Edison thought it was a sure thing. He believed his recorder would make life easier. Therefore, he took his invention to Congress. Due to its efficiency, however, Congress feared voters would not take the time to think through their votes. Therefore, it was promptly denied. Due to Congress’s denial of his first patented invention, Edison could have easily walked away from the profession. However, he didn’t see Congress’s dismissal as an ending to his career or passion.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison
The phonograph was Thomas Edison’s favorite invention. He took the time to perfect it. He wanted it to not only record voices but music as well. Edison thought that he could take this technology and implement it into toys. He developed a housing for the machine. It was small enough to be placed inside doll bodies. Edison even had children record the voices for the dolls. This was so they would be more relatable. However, the quality was not great. It was even considered frightening. Due to crackling and hissing families thought that the dolls sounded like monsters. Therefore, his idea for the talking doll did not take off at the time. However, like the talking dolls of today, Edison opened the door for other modern technology.
Modern offices all have copiers. However, during Edison’s time, there was no easy way to make multiples of the same work. The only way was to handwrite them. Handwritten copies had disadvantages. Along with misspellings, there was also a concern that the writing would be illegible. Therefore, Edison thought of a better solution. He believed an electric pen could change how offices, schools, and churches conducted business.
Edison combined a small motor and battery with a needle. The motor would then power the needle to move up and down. This movement caused the needle to poke holes through a stencil. Ink could then be rolled over the markings. It was then possible to make multiple copies of one written work.
The mechanics of the pen worked. However, it was heavy to work with. It was also loud for a business or academic environment. Therefore, Edison made improvements. He improved the sound and weight, but it wasn’t enough. The pen required a battery. The battery required maintenance. Therefore, specific chemicals had to be poured into the machine. A process that was very messy.
Edison’s electric pen was not the best match for businesses, schools, and churches. However, it did introduce new possibilities to a different industry. The tattoo industry. He did not hold the patent for the early tattoo gun. However, Edison’s electric pen holds the credit for having a strong influence on the design.
Thomas Edison had a tattoo. It was five dots arranged how the number five is represented on a dice. However, no one is sure where Edison received his tattoo. Many people wonder if he tattooed himself using his own electric pen.
Concrete, it’s Not Just for Sidewalks
After developing a lightbulb for home use Edison was determined to continue to make life better for others. Edison came up with a way to pre-build pieces of homes out of cement. Therefore, keeping the cost low for struggling families. The idea was to pour the pieces for the houses. Then those pieces could be quickly assembled for those in need of housing. Due to their material, these homes would also be fireproof. However, there was resistance among the communities. The houses were eyesores. Furthermore, his target audience did not like the fact that everyone would know their financial situation.
In addition to creating cost-effective housing, Edison had the belief that he could develop cost-effective furniture. Therefore, Edison’s idea for concrete homes became an idea to create concrete furniture. The belief was that newlyweds wouldn’t want to spend too much on furniture that wouldn’t last. The hopes were that they would flock to buy his cost-effective alternative that would last a lifetime. However, concrete was too expensive to be an alternative for other material. Also, people didn’t like the look of the furniture.
Even though Edison’s idea for concrete homes and furniture didn’t take off it wasn’t a complete failure. Edison’s concrete company held the contract to build Yankee Stadium. Therefore, even though his concrete homes did not work out there was value to his idea of building concrete structures. In addition to Yankee Stadium, the few concrete homes he did sell, still stand today.
The Edison Spirit Phone
Another interest of Thomas Edison’s was the spirit world. He spoke about an invention that was a combination of technology from the telephone and the telegraph. The concept of this new invention was to cross the line between the living and the dead. It was also Edison’s hope that it would make it possible for people to have conversations with the dead.
However, there was never any proof that the invention was real. Even after Edison’s death, no record of a spirit phone was found. Therefore, it has become a belief that there was never any intentions of creating such a device. The only evidence of such a phone was Edison’s mention of it in an interview. This is now seen as being a joke that he pulled.
Even without evidence, there are still people who believe that Edison had such a creation. It is some of those same people, who believe that he kept it to himself. They also believe he never shared his plans with any of his coworkers or fellow inventors. Whether it was real or just a grand joke Edison definitely peaked interest with the possibility of this invention. This is Due to people often being intrigued by the thought of communicating with their passed loved ones.
The Iron Ore Separator
Thomas Edison had multiple inventions. Many of which that can be thought of as failures. However, there is none like his Iron Ore Separator. Edison spent money, time, and resources on developing technology for his separator. The end goal was to be able to separate the iron ore from lower grade ores that were unusable. Edison worked for ten years on his separator project. He invested all of the money he had earned from his work with General Electric. In the end, all of the money he had invested had been for nothing. Edison ended his project when iron ore prices dropped. Also, iron ore became an obsolete substance. If not for his sustainable success of the phonograph Edison would’ve been left with nothing after the separator incident.
Successes and Failures in Inventing
Thomas Edison is seen as one of the greatest inventors that ever lived. He had multiple successes and failures. However, his failures never stopped him. His life was about his inventions. He was continuously seeking answers and solutions. Edison was an inventor until his death. He stuck with his passion for inventing. Even when his inventions didn’t turn out how he thought they would. Also, there were times he was able to change his idea to suit what the situation needed at the time.
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Helpful Links About Edison’s Life
- To learn more about Thomas Edison’s life you can have an extensive look at the Thomas Edison Biography.
- Also, you can find out more facts from The Rutgers Thomas Edison Papers.
- Interested in where Edison came from? There is a sight just for your! Check out The Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum.
Links About Edison’s Inventions
- Not all inventions succeed. However, it is how you handle those failures. Edison had many failures but he did not give up. Take a look at the 7 Epic Fails of Thomas Edison. You can also check out America’s Story From America’s Library: Thomas A. Edison.
- Want to learn more about Edison’s inventions? Take a look at the Edison Muckers page!
- Also, you can find out about inventions you’ve never heard about here How Stuff Works: Thomas Edison Creations that You’ve Never Heard of.
- Science and innovation have always gone hand and hand. You can learn more about this here at Thomas Edison: The Science of Innovation.