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Thomas Edison

I chose Thomas Edison from my microphone timeline because he was a great inventor and one of the most influential and accomplished people I've ever heard of as far as modern development is concerned. 

He was born on February 11th, 1847 in Milan, Ohio. Here he's pictured as a school-aged kid. At age 7 he was removed from his one room school house of about 38 kids because his teacher couldn't stand his incessant questioning and seemingly self centered behavior. Probably ADHD, but his mother decided to home school him. His forehead was unusually broad and had a considerably larger head size than most children his age. Because his brain was so big, right?  

Edison's mother was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and she was an accomplished educator in her own right. She taught her son basic reading, writing, arithmetic, and the Bible, of course. Edison's worldly father encouraged him to read the classics and gave him 10 cents every time he finished one. Awesome parents.  

Thomas loved Shakespeare and considered becoming an actor but his high-pitched voice and intense shyness prevented this from happening. He maintained his love for reading and reciting poetry and could often be heard regurgitating a stanza from Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard

"The boast of heraldry of pomp and power, All that beauty all that wealth ere gave, Alike await the inevitable hour. The path to glory leads but to the grave"

At age 11, his parents taught him how to use the local library as a resource for his education. Tom started with the last book on the bottom shelf and read every book in the library. 

Unfortunately, his parents couldn't feed his insatiable appetite for science. They scrounged up enough money for a tutor to teach him about Isaac Newton's studies. This experience affected Edison negatively in that he was turned off by the classical aristocratic terms in Newton's research because the average person would not be able to understand it. He developed a strong dislike for this kind of "high-tone" language and obviously preferred things to be explained in laymen's terms. 

By age 12 he had started his own business selling fruits and vegetables. 

At age 14, Thomas started a newspaper called "The Weekly Herald" which was teletype into the station each day and contained little scoops on the famous pre-Civil War debates between Lincoln and Douglas. He had over 300 commuters subscribe to his paper. This was the first publication ever to be type-set, printed, and sold on a train. At it's peak, this paper netted Edison more than 10 dollars a day. Which in 1860 was a lot of money. He used this income to outfit the chemical laboratory he had set up in the basement of his mother's home. After his mother complained of the odor, he had moved some of the chemicals to his locker room on the train. The train hit a bump and the car caught fire. The conductor was so angry he hit Edison on the side of the head, worsening his hearing loss. (he was already nearly deaf) He also had a bout of Scarlet Fever, and was unteachable in any traditional setting solely because he could not hear. He had the opportunity for surgery many years later to correct his hearing and refused stating, "he would have difficulty re-learning how to channel his thinking in an ever more noisy world." I can totally understand that. He missed the sound of singing birds so much that he later owned an aviary with over 5,000 of them. 

One day when Tom was on the train, the stationmaster's son wandered onto the tracks in front of an oncoming boxcar. Tom saved the boy and was rewarded by the boy's father with learning Morse code and the telegraph. By age 15 he had mastered it. He came up with his first invention at age 16 while working in a telegraph office. It was called the "automatic repeater" and it transmitted telegraph signals between unmanned stations allowing anyone to translate their own code at their convenience. Edison never patented the original idea. 

He went on to work for Western Union in Boston. He there met Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Bredding, and George B. Stearns who all had a part in creating the world's first long distance telephone system. 

At age 29 he invented the carbon button transmitter, which is why he's the person I chose in relation to my microphone poster. 

He also came up with the world's first economically viable system of electrically generated heat, light, and power. In 1890, he invented the vitascope, which led to the first silent motion pictures. 
Edison also invented the first practical dictaphone, mimeograph, and storage battery. After creating the "kinescope" and the first silent film in 1904, he went on to introduce The Great Train Robbery in 1903, which was a ten minute clip and his first attempt at blending audio and silent film to produce "talking pictures". 

Edison set out to prove all things with his own research, examination and experimentation. He had an incredible physical and mental stamina. There are some arguments that he had a more serious mental condition that was related to his hearing loss but who cares. 

"I accept almost nothing dealing with electricity without thoroughly testing it first."

Say what? 

He was also neighbors with Henry Ford. No big deal.

Thomas Edison's Catnaps

“I enjoy working about 18 hours a day. Besides the short catnaps I take each day, I average about four to five hours of sleep per night,” stated Edison.
During some of his nap sessions he did more than recharge his internal batteries, he used his imagination to work on creative problems. Working naps required sitting upright in a chair.  Sitting up made it harder for him to fully sleep and made it possible to stay lightly conscious during these sessions. To further assure that he would not lapse into sleep, he would hold a steel ball bearing in each hand. On the floor, placed directly below his closed hand would be a metal saucer. If he should fall completely asleep, his hands would relax and each ball bearing would fall to the floor, striking the metal saucer, making a noise loud enough to wake Edison.
Edison was utilizing what was named hypnagogia. Hypnagogia is the state (actually a variety of states) that can be experienced as we hang onto consciousness while moving towards sleep. It involves bodily relaxation and the easing of the grip of cognitive/emotive focus. In hypnagogia we get the benefit of a sort of emotional and cognitive wandering. This wandering can be gently guided, as Edison did, or left open to go where it wants to go. 

Thomas Edison obtained his last patent (no. 1,093) at age 83. He died the next year at 84. 

"The only time I really become discouraged is when I think of all the things I would like to do and the little time I have in which to do them."

Sources:  http://www.thomasedison.com/biography.html