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Edison: Inventing the Century.

He invented the phonograph, light bulb, motion picture camera, and registered 1,093 patents. He was to the telegraph technology of his day what Bill Gates is to computers today. He married twice and neglected his six children. He was the Wizard of Menlo Park and his life story is compellingly told by Neil Baldwin in this illustrated, well-researched (almost one hundred pages of notes and bibliography) biography.

Thomas Edison is credited with saying that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. He never lacked for either. When the idea struck he worked 18 hour days for months at a time. His first wife (she was a sixteen year-old bride) was often left a lonely lady. His second wife (Edison was widowed at age thirty-seven) knew he wasn't going to be home very much.

Edison's remarkable career was accomplished with only three months of formal schooling. He recalls that one day, as a young child, he heard the teacher tell a visiting school inspector that the boy was "addled" and it would not be worthwhile for him to remain in school. His mother obliged by teaching Tom at home. She did pretty well, for besides his inventing prowess Edison was a voracious life-long reader.

His first invention was an electrical vote counter which he tried to sell to Congress. He learned a valuable lesson when they rejected it, saying they had no need to vote quickly. His second major effort, a stock market ticker tape machine, was created after determining there was a real need for it. But he was not successful in everything. For example, he lost most of his money in a failed scheme to separate iron ore magnetically (this enterprise earned the sobriquet "Edison's Folly"). However, right after that, at age 53, he began a very successful cement company that gained him money to finance other projects.

Edison was hard to discourage. After more than 10,000 unsuccessful experiments to perfect a storage battery he said, "I haven't failed, after all I've found 10,000 ways that don't work." This can-do spirit, his stamina, and his genius at recruiting dedicated, smart assistants ensured lots of successes. If you want to learn more about them, and the failures too, but you aren't ready to "perspire" and read this 500 page biography, I suggest buying or renting the A&E Biography video on Edison. It's very well done and could inspire you to read the book.
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Author:Levinson, Martin H.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1997
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