An argument can be made that Benjamin Franklin may be the most famous American inventor, but without a doubt the most prolific and influential American inventor was Thomas Alva Edison. It is indeed difficult to imagine the modern world without scientific contributions and inventions of Edison. Nevertheless, Edison did have failures, including his failed support of DC power over AC power, but Edison never let failure stand between him and success. Known as the Wizard of Menlo Park, Edison received over one thousand US patents, the first of which was filed on October 13, 1868, when he was the tender age of 21. Perhaps Edison’s most famous inventions were the phonograph, motion pictures and the light-bulb. Truth be told, however, he really didn’t “invent” the lightbulb, but rather he improved upon the technology by developing a light-bulb that used a lower current electricity, a small carbonized filament, and an improved vacuum inside the globe. Edison’s invention lead to a reliable, long-lasting source of light.
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The Lifeof Thomas A. Edison (Library of Congress) – One of the most famous and prolific inventors of all time, Thomas Alva Edison exerted a tremendous influence on modern life, contributing inventions such as the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera, as well as improving the telegraph and telephone. In his 84 years, he acquired an astounding 1,093 patents. This page contains a brief sketch of an enormously active and complex life full of projects often occurring simultaneously.
The Inventions of Thomas Edison (About.com) – This site has a tremendous amount of information, and covers more than just the inventions of Thomas Edison. This site has numerous links to other information available on the Intenret, details Edison’s inventions and his life as well. Those familiar with About.com will know that it is an excellent source of information, but difficult to navigate. Additionally, you will have to deal with annoying pop-up ads, but all this trouble will be worth your while.
Thomas A. Edison Papers (Rutgers University) – The Thomas A. Edison Papers is a documentary editing project sponsored by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and the New Jersey Historical Commission.
Edison, His Life and Inventions (University of Virginia) – This is an online book. The authors explain in the introduction that the “desire on the part of the public for a definitive biography of Edison” was the motivation for this project.
Here are a number of excellent pages, containing a wealth of information about Thomas Edison, hosted in the IEEE Virtual Museum.