Thomas Edison grew up at a time when children went to work to help support their families. At age twelve or thirteen, he sold newspapers on the train that ran from his hometown, Port Huron, Michigan, to Detroit.
In his free time, Thomas like to read all about science and technology. He also liked to experiment with chemicals. He set up a laboratory in his basement. And he even conducted experiments in the baggage car of the train he worked on.
At age sixteen, he became a telegraph operator for the railroad. But he had to leave his job after a train accident was blamed on him. He then worked for the Associated Press at night. This job allowed him to read and work on experiments during the day.
His first invention was an electric vote recorder. The recorder could be used by members of legislatures to count their votes on bills right away. But it was a failure. Thomas discovered that politicians did not want a fast way to count their votes.
Thomas’s first successful invention was a stock ticker that improved on earlier ones. His stock ticker let investors know quickly what was happening in the stock market.
Thomas Edison’s first big invention was the phonograph. It recorded and produced sound that people could hear clearly. This invention made him famous all over the world. He became known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park.” Menlo Park was his research laboratory complex in New Jersey.
Now it was time for his greatest invention, the incandescent light bulb. Inventors had tried for years to come up with an electric light bulb that would replace gaslight. But no one had found a practical way to do that.
First, Thomas set up the Edison Electric Light Company. Then he worked for years trying to perfect a light bulb. He failed many times until he tried a platinum filament. The light bulb burned for 13 1/2 hours. But Thomas wanted a bulb that would burn much longer and would be cheaper to make.
He had been fishing with a bamboo pole made from bamboo threads. Thomas decided to try a carbonized bamboo filament. And eureka, his light bulb lasted for over 1,200 hours. And it was affordable too. Thomas demonstrated his light bulb by lighting up his Menlo Park laboratory complex.
Thomas Edison wasn’t satisfied just inventing a practical light bulb. He wanted to light up everyone’s home, business, and factory. He started the Edison Illuminating Company. His first power station went into operation in Manhattan. It lit up a one-mile square area. It was only a matter of time until electric light lit up the world.
Thomas Edison also invented a motion picture camera and a Kinetoscope to project the images on. He invented the first alkaline battery for electric cars. It was the forerunner of the alkaline batteries we use today.