Thomas Alva Edison, the wizard of Menlow Park, America's greatest inventor, has risen like a meteor, and shines with the steady glow of the fixed stars. Daily he adds to his triumphs. With an irresistible force he overcomes all obstacles, solving problems that have been declared by scientists to be insolvable. His birthplace is Milan, Ohio. At twelve years of age he began his career as a train-boy, soon having four other train-boys in his employ. He published a weekly newspaper on the train, it being the only journal that was ever printed on a railway train--a fact noted at the time by the London "Times." Telegraphy from the first took great hold upon him, and having one day snatched a station-master's child from in front of an approaching train, the grateful father taught him telegraphy; and from that time he became a systematic student. His ready ingenuity suggested all sorts of adaptations. One day the ice jam broke the cable between Port Huron and Sarnia (on the Canada side); the river at that point being a mile and a half in width, all communication by telegraph was cut off. Young Edison seized the valve of an engine that controls the whistle, which he tooted into long and short notes, like the dots and dashes in telegraphy. "Hallo, Sarnia, do you get me?" he tooted; no answer. "Hello, Sarnia, do you hear what I say?" A third and a fourth time the message was sent over, and finally came the answer from an engine on the other side; the connection had been made, and communication easily carried on until the cable was repaired.

Edison's many inventions are legion, but his phonograph, megaphone, the quadruplex and duplex systems of telegraphy, his telephone--which alone netted him over one hundred thousand dollars,--the electric railway and incandescent electric light, are but a few of the best known of his more wonderful and valuable inventions.

He now promises to place before the world his phonograph or "talking machine," perfected in such a manner as to faithfully record sounds of the human voice--utterances that can be readily reproduced many times.

The invention is also announced of a submarine telegraph, designed especially to prevent collisions at sea.

Mr. Edison resides at Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he continues his experiments and inventions in the application of electricity in the mechanical arts. His patents relating to telegraphy number nearly a hundred.

Edison was married in 1873 to Miss Mary Stillwell, of Newark. An incident of the honeymoon is related to show how absorbed this inventor becomes in his work. He was taxing his mind on some problem, oblivious of the fleeting hours, but roused himself and wearily asked the hour; "Midnight," was the reply. "Then," said this illustrious inventor, "I must go home. I was married to-day."

When Edison's phonograph was first exhibited at the Academy of Sciences, a murmur of admiration was heard, which was succeeded by repeated applause. Some of the skeptical members started the rumor that the Academy had been mystified by a clever ventriloquist, and repeated experiments were required to convince these incredulous persons that no chicanery was used, and that the "Talking machine" could be readily manipulated by anyone.

Further reading

The Edison papers at Rutgers

Edison's homepage

The Edison Innovation Foundation's edisomuckers.org, which tries "to current events to Edison — from inventions to ideas."

Herringshaw, Thomas W. Prominent Men and Women of the Day. 1888


Victorian Web Overview Victorian Science

Last modified 16 October 2010