EMINENT ENGINEERS THROUGHOUT HISTORY- Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931)
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Who is the most outstanding engineer of all time? That is an open question with no right or wrong answer, only opinions, theories and opportunities for debate. Thankfully, plenty of engineers had gone before us and paved the path to a modern world that grants us access to many inventions that make our lives easier. So, whether you agree with my findings regarding the most outstanding engineers, it will at least give you some food for thought.
Although the modern engineering industry owes gratitude to hundreds of innovators over time, those covered in this series must be the most influential engineers throughout history.
Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931)
Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman described as America's greatest inventor. He developed many devices for electric power generation, mass communication, sound recording, and motion pictures. These inventions, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and early versions of the electric light bulb, have had a widespread impact on the modern industrialised world. He was one of the first inventors to apply organised science and teamwork principles to the invention process, working with many researchers and employees. He established the first industrial research laboratory.
Edison was a poor student. When a schoolmaster called Edison "addled," his furious mother took him out of the school and proceeded to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, "My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had someone to live for, someone I must not disappoint." He was fascinated with mechanical things and chemical experiments at an early age.
In 1862, Edison rescued a three-year-old from a track where a boxcar was about to roll into him. The grateful father, J.U. MacKenzie, taught Edison railroad telegraphy as a reward. That winter, he worked as a telegraph operator in Port Huron. In the meantime, he continued his scientific experiments on the side.
1863 thru' 1886
Between 1863 and 1867, Edison migrated from city to city in the United States, taking available telegraph jobs.
In 1876, he established his first laboratory facility in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and developed his early creations.
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He later established a botanic laboratory in Fort Myers, Florida, collaborating with businessmen Henry Ford and Harvey S. Firestone. A West Orange, New Jersey laboratory featured the world's first film studio, the Black Maria. In addition, he was a prolific inventor, holding 1,093 US patents in his name and other countries. Edison married twice and fathered six children.
"Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration".Edison Quote
Edison set up an electric light factory in East Newark in 1881, then moved his family and himself to New York and set up a laboratory there the following year.
The first commercial electric light system to prove its viability was installed on Pearl Street in the financial district of Lower Manhattan in 1882, bordering City Hall and two newspapers. Initially, only four hundred lamps were operating; 513 customers used 10,300 lights a year later. Edison formed several companies to manufacture and operate the apparatus needed for the electrical lighting system: the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York, the Edison Machine Works, the Edison Electric Tube Company, and the Edison Lamp Works. This lighting system was also taken abroad to the Paris Lighting Exposition in 1881, the Crystal Palace in London in 1882, and the coronation of the czar in Moscow, and it led to the establishment of companies in several European countries.
The success of Edison's lighting system could not deter his competitors from developing their different methods. One result was a battle between the proponents of DC, led by Edison, and AC, directed by George Westinghouse. Both sides attacked the limitations of each system. Edison, in particular, pointed to using AC for electrocution as proof of its danger. DC could not travel over as long a system as AC, but the AC generators were not as efficient as DC. By 1889, the invention of a device that combined an AC induction motor with a DC dynamo offered the best performance, and AC became dominant. The Edison General Electric Co. merged with Thomson-Houston in 1892 to become General Electric Co., effectively removing Edison further from the electrical field of business.
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"I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that will not work".Edison Quote
West Orange and Fort Myers (1886–1931)
Edison moved from Menlo Park after his first wife, Mary, died in 1884. He purchased a home known as "Glenmont" in 1886 as a wedding gift for his second wife, Mina, in Llewellyn Park in West Orange, New Jersey.
In 1885, Thomas Edison bought 13 acres of property in Fort Myers, Florida, for roughly $2,750 and built what was later called Seminole Lodge as a winter retreat.
Due to the security concerns around World War I, Edison suggested forming a science and industry committee to provide advice and research to the US military, and he headed the Naval Consulting Board in 1915.
Edison became concerned with America's reliance on foreign rubber supplies and was determined to find alternative stores. Edison's work on rubber was primarily at his research laboratory in Fort Myers, designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark.
After testing 17,000 plant samples, he eventually found a good source in the Goldenrod plant. Edison decided on Solidago Leavenworth, also known as Leavenworth's Goldenrod. The plant, which usually grows roughly 3–4 feet tall with a 5% latex yield, was adapted by Edison through cross-breeding to produce twice the size and a latex yield of 12%.
During the 1911 New York Electrical Show, Edison told representatives of the copper industry it was a shame he did not have a "chunk of it". So the representatives gave a cubic foot of solid copper weighing 486 pounds with gratitude inscribed in appreciation for his part in the "continuous stimulation in the copper industry".
In his last few years, a popular fad diet influenced Edison; "the only liquid he consumed was a pint of milk every three hours". He believed this diet would restore his health. However, this tale is doubtful. In 1930, the year before Edison died, Mina said in an interview about him, "Correct eating is one of his greatest hobbies." She also said that during one of his periodic "great scientific adventures", Edison would be up at 7:00, have breakfast at 8:00, and be rarely home for lunch or dinner, implying that he continued to have all three.
In 1894, Edison's sister, Marion Edison Page, bought the house and added a bathroom and other modern conveniences. Edison became the owner of his birthplace in 1906, and on his last visit in 1923, he was shocked to find his old home still lighted by lamps and candles!
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Edison died of complications of diabetes on October 18, 1931, in his home, "Glenmont" in Llewellyn Park in West Orange, New Jersey, which he had purchased in 1886 as a wedding gift for Mina. Rev. Stephen J. Herben officiated at the funeral behind the home.
Edison's last breath is in a test air tube in the inventor's room shortly after his death.
Please view the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J39JgIDp7Jo&t=1s