Thomas Alva Edison was born February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio (pronounced MY-lan). In 1854, when he was seven, the family moved to Michigan, where Edison spent the rest of his childhood. “Al,” as he was called as a boy, went to school only a short time. Al learned to love reading, a habit he kept for the rest of his life. He also liked to make experiments in the basement.
Al not only played hard, but also worked hard. At the age of 12 he sold fruit, snacks and newspapers on a train. He even printed his own newspaper, the Grand Trunk Herald, on a moving train. At 15, Al roamed the country as a “tramp telegrapher.” Using a kind of alphabet called Morse Code, he sent and received messages over the telegraph. Even though he was already losing his hearing, he could still hear the clicks of the telegraph.In his spare time, he took things apart to see how they worked
After the failure of his first invention, Edison moved to New York City. There he improved the way the stock ticker worked. By 1870 his company was manufacturing his stock ticker in Newark, New Jersey. He also improved the telegraph, making it send up to four messages at once. During this time he married his first wife, Mary Stilwell, on Christmas Day, 1871. They had three children : Marion, Thomas, Jr., and William. Edison moved from Newark to Menlo Park, New Jersey, in 1876.
The phonograph was the first machine that could record the sound of someone’s voice and play it back. In 1877, Edison recorded the first words on a piece of tin foil. He recited the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and the phonograph played the words back to him.
Starting in 1878, Edison worked on one of his greatest achievements. The electric light system was more than just the incandescent lamp, or “light bulb.” Edison also designed a system of power plants that make the electrical power and the wiring that brings it to people’s homes.
In 1885, one year after his first wife died, Edison met a 20-year-old woman named Mina Miller. Her father was an inventor in Edison’s home state of Ohio. Edison taught her Morse Code. One day he tapped a question into her hand: would you marry me? Mina tapped back the word “yes.”
Mina Edison wanted a home in the country, so Edison bought Glenmont, a 29-room home with 13-1/2 acres of land in West Orange, New Jersey. They married on February 24, 1886 and had three children: Madeleine, Charles and Theodore.
A year later, Edison built a laboratory in West Orange that was ten times larger than the one in Menlo Park. But Edison did more than invent. Here Edison could think of ways to make a better phonograph. This improved phonograph could then be sold throughout the world.
Not only did improve the phonograph, but he also improve on X-rays, storage batteries, and the first talking doll. At West Orange he also worked on one of his greatest ideas: motion pictures, or “movies.” The inventions made here changed the way we live even today. He worked here until his death on October 18, 1931, at the age of 84.
By that time, the whole world called him a genius. But he knew that having a good idea was not enough. It takes hard work to make dreams into reality. That is why Edison liked to say, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”