Thomas Edison Inventions and Quotes

Updated on September 3, 2019
Kenna McHugh profile image

A former teacher and tutor, Kenna enjoys helping children live a better life, understanding the importance of helping them become leaders.

Civil War photographer Mathew Brady took this photograph of Edison sitting by one of his inventions, the phonograph, in April 1878.
Civil War photographer Mathew Brady took this photograph of Edison sitting by one of his inventions, the phonograph, in April 1878.

Inspirational Quotes

The fact that Thomas Edison grew up in the Midwest and was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio. His family moved to Port Huron, Michigan in 1854 is not what made him a successful inventor. Nor that he was the youngest of seven children. He was a shrewd businessman who knew how to get things done. He hired others to work in his lab, guiding and delegating his inventions and workload. It was his shrewdness that separated him from the other innovators and inventors like Nikola Tesla. Revered as one of America’s most famous inventors, he worked tirelessly creating 1,093 registered patents during his lifetime.

His hard work and his innovated inventions brought respect and admiration from people all over the world. His inspirational quotes share the knowledge of perseverance and never giving up until you succeed. Learning about Edison is a journey of discovery and amazement expressed from this point forward of understanding his greatness.

I am long on ideas, but short on time. I expect to live to be only about a hundred.

— Thomas Edison

Learning Difficulty

He contracted scarlet fever at a young age and almost completely lost his hearing. His hearing loss made learning difficulty in school hard. Edison seemed to have little attention for school, and his teacher assumed he was an inferior student. His mother thought the teacher was overly pedantic, so after three months, she took him out of the school and educated him at home. She encouraged him to read, so he would eventually learn on his own. He valued reading books about anything and read all the time. He was interested in how things worked conducting experiments with the help of his mother. He began learning on his own and liked taking things apart to see how they functioned

Favorite Quote

One of my most favorite Thomas Edison quotes is about educating children.

“The most necessary task of civilization is to teach people how to think. It should be the primary purpose of our public schools. The mind of a child is naturally active, it develops through exercise. Give a child plenty of exercise, for body and brain. The trouble with our way of educating is that it does not give elasticity to the mind. It casts the brain into a mold. It insists that the child must accept. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning, and it lays more stress on memory than observation.”

My mother was the making of me. She was so true and so sure of me, I felt that I had someone to live for - someone I must not disappoint. The memory of my mother will always be a blessing to me.

— Thomas Edison

Work Hard

Edison worked hard all his life and never gave up on a task, and his uncanny ability to foster success began at an early age. An example of his determination is at the age of 12. His first job was a success when he set off on his own selling daily news articles to passengers on the train near Port Huron. He acquired news bulletins from the telegraph office. He then rewrote them as news items, printed, and sold his broadsheet to the passengers.

“Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”

— Thomas Edison

One day when he was 15 years old while selling his broadsheets, he saved the life of a 3-year-old boy from being hit by a runaway train. The boy’s father was a prominent businessman, and he demonstrated his gratitude by hiring Edison for his next job that changed his life forever - working at the telegraph office. His experience at the office fascinated his way of thinking about cause and effect because here he studied electricity. He learned how it worked and conceived a faster technique to send telegraphs.

Three Acrobats - Slapstick Produced by Thomas Edison in 1890's

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

— Thomas Edison

Edison continued his innovations and became an accomplished young man, at the age of 22, he sold his first invention. Either it was the electric vote recorder or multiplex telegraphic system. The electric vote recorder became his first patent, but the telegraphic system solved a pressing problem. He continued working hard by establishing an industrial research facility in Menlo Park in New Jersey. He invented commodities like the phonograph to record sound, the movie camera, and the electric battery. A misnomer that he invented the lightbulb, his most significant invention was modifying the incandescent light bulb, so it worked better. The electric light bulb remained ineffective for some time until Edison developed an easier to use and less expensive bulb.

Not to make a large or a blinding light, but a small light having the mildness of gas. Object: Edison to effect exact imitation of all done by gas, so as to replace lighting by gas by lighting by electricity.

— Thomas Edison Note-Book

Edison's Greatest Invention

Notably, Edison’s greatest invention is the industrial research laboratory for creating an innovative commodity. He established machine shops as a production laboratory generating feasible inventions. He staffed his machine shops with skilled and talented men who worked on his ideas.

Like an assembly line beginning with invention, research, development, and commercialization, it impressed the twentieth century culture as a solution to getting an industrial problem solved.

Thomas Alva Edison in 1922
Thomas Alva Edison in 1922 | Source

Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.

— Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison Inventions

With the industrial research laboratory in place, he developed inventions faster and better. Here is a list of Edison’s most notable inventions.

  • Automatic Telegraphy - A machinery able to transmit telegraphic messages at higher speeds compared to human telegraph operators. Operators averaged speed was 25-40 words per minute. The machinery generated 500-1000 words per minute.
  • Ore Milling – The invention was not a long-term profit commodity, but worthy of efficiently separating ore producing the valuable iron through magnetic means.
  • Cement – Edison developed cement processing techniques that enable him to establish a cement processing company that supplied higher-quality cement to the construction industry and notably the Yankee Stadium.
  • Disc Phonograph – Though it was not a success, he developed a superior disc phonograph, but only recorded artists he felt were suitable. Not taking the consumer to heart, the company folded before making any headway.
  • Electric Lamp – Edison spent a great deal of time as well as his staff configuring an ideal electric lamp. He did achieve success and a valued commodity.
  • Electric Generator – He developed a generator that worked better with incandescent lighting. The technology didn't last when proven inefficient.
  • Electric Light and Power System – A huge undertaking Edison orchestrated electric generators to light up areas of small populations. He based this on direct current with fuses to break should the wires get too hot.
  • Electric Pen – The purpose of the pen was duplication, but it did not market well, and apparatus died. It returned to the market as a tattoo needle.
  • Fuel Cell – Edison constantly thought of ways to make electricity more efficiently developed and experiment with a fuel cell. Though nothing came of his developments, his notes and findings influenced the fuel cell-powered cars on the road today.
  • Loud-Speaking Telephone – Edison sold his telephone receiver to Britain because Alexander Graham Bell owned the American market.
  • Motion Pictures – Edison did not involve himself in the development of motion pictures, though his name was on the projector – Edison Vitascope.
  • Quadruplex Telegraph – One of Edison’s most useful and lasting inventions saved Western Union money by being able to increase messages to four on the current system without adding more hardware.
  • Stock Ticker – A lasting and useful invention is the screw with threading that enabled the tickers to work in unison.
  • Telephone Transmitter – His goal to improve Bell’s telephone system with a better transmitter proved a success and in place until the digital phone in 1980.
  • Storage Battery – Developing an efficient battery was Edison’s pet project. He developed the nickel-iron-battery for the electric car, but the battery arrived too late. Automobiles ran on gasoline by this time. The battery eventually became useful later in his life.
  • Tinfoil Phonograph – It distinguished Edison as an innovator in the eyes of the public and one of his most famous inventions.
  • Vote Recorder – Though it worked, the legislative body did not like it because of the slow process. They never implemented the recorder.
  • Wax Cylinder Phonograph – Not a successful invention at first, he later created the Ediphone, a dictating phonograph.

Do you think Thomas Edison was a Genius or Innovative Businessman?

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Laboratory Work

Some say a genius is born every thousand years. The success of Edison is not that he was a genius, but the fact that he developed the machine shop or industrial research laboratory. At this crossroad is where he began to produce and finalize his more valued inventions. His ability to get others to work for him and develop products that worked and sold is itself the brilliance of Thomas Edison.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Kenna McHugh

    Comments

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      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        6 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        I am noting the principle of delegation here.

      • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

        Kenna McHugh 

        6 months ago from Northern California

        Liz, Edison was brilliant because he delegated and worked hard to achieve the impossible. Thanks for your comment.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        6 months ago from UK

        I had no idea that Eddison had so many inventions to his name. This is an interesting article.

      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        6 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        Hi, Kenna, I always like your stories because there are lots of information therein. I appreciated your weighing in. Thanks.

      • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

        Kenna McHugh 

        6 months ago from Northern California

        Miebakagh, Thank you for reading my article. I am glad you like it.

      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        6 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        Hey, Kenna, I know Edison invented the electric bulb and the famous quote associated with it, that he did not fail a thousand times. But successfully eliminate all the issues and challenges a thousand times. But many of the others that touch our everyday life too, today I took note of. Thanks for sharing.

      • Larry Slawson profile image

        Larry Slawson 

        6 months ago from North Carolina

        Fascinating read. I never had an opportunity to read much about Edison, until now. Thank you for sharing. Learned a lot!

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