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Thomas Edison

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Thomas Edison

Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio, the youngest of seven children born to Samuel and Nancy Elliott Edison. He began to lose his hearing after having scarlet fever as a young child. As he grew older his deafness increased until finally he was totally deaf in his left year and had only 10% hearing in his right ear. Edison did not consider this a "handicap" and said that it was rather an advantage as it gave him more time to think because he did not have to listen to foolish "small talk." By 1862 young "Al," as his father called him, was printing, publishing and selling The Weekly Herald on a train of the Grand Trunk Railroad out of Port Huron, Michigan. This was the first newspaper printed on a moving train. Later he learned to be a telegraph operator and worked at that trade throughout the Central Western states as well as Canada, always studying and experimenting to improve the equipment.

In 1868 Edison made his first patented invention, the Electrical Vote Recorder. Congress was apparently not interested in purchasing this as it counted votes too quickly. Edison vowed he would never again invent anything unless there was a "commercial demand" for it. at age 23 Edison sold his first invention, a Universal Stock Ticker, to General Lefferts, the head of the Gold and Stock Telegraph Co. Edison had decided that the invention was worth $5,000 but was ready to accept $3,000 when Lefferts said, "How would $40,000 strike you? In later years Edison reported that he had almost fainted, but managed to stammer that the offer seemed fair enough. That money was used to set up Edison's first business. Thomas Edison married Mary Stilwell on Christmas Day, 1871. He was 24 years old and she was 16. They had three children: Marion, born in 1873, Thomas, 1876 and William, 1878. Edison's wife died in 1884 from the after-effects of typhoid fever.

Thomas Edison's interests varied widely and he received patents in many areas. For example, in 1876 he patented his electric pen which was later used in mimeograph systems and in 1877 he applied for a patent on a carbon telephone transmitter that led to a commercial telephone and later radio broadcasting.

Considered his most original invention, the phonograph was patented in 1878. Edison sketched out this new and different idea he had, handed it to two men who worked in his shop, John Kuresi and Charles Batchelor, and they made the machine. Edison took tin foil, wrapped it around the cylinder and casually said, "This machine is going to talk." He recited "Mary had a little lamb" into the strange device and to everyone's amazement (even Edison's) the machine repeated the words exactly. Edison did not return to his work on the phonograph for another ten years for his mind and efforts were occupied with the development of his most well-known invention, the incandescent light bulb patented in 1879.

In 1885 while searching for the perfect material for the light bulb filament Edison discovered Fort Myers, Florida. Following the trail of bamboo

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