Life On The Job

Thomas Alva Edison (1847 - 1931) - Inventor

Thomas Edison


As a young boy, Edison was constantly asking people "how does this thing work?" Due to his persistent questioning, his school teacher lost patience with him and his mother
was forced to withdraw him from school at age 7. His mother then began to teach him herself - homeschooling Thomas.

At the age of 12, he left schooling behind completely and spent the rest of his life teaching himself and inventing things for other people.


At age 12, Edison's first job was selling newspapers, vegetables, snacks, and candy on the local railroad. He then decided to begin writing his very own newspaper called "The Weekly Herald", which he published and sold to passengers on the trains. It was the first ever newspaper to be printed and sold on a moving train.

At age 14, he learned to be a telegraph operator. He was interested in the equipment he used in this job, and was always studying and experimenting ways to improve it. The experience he gained from this job lead him to produce his first patented invention in 1868. He subsequently quit telegraphy to become a full-time inventor.


When he was young, Edison contracted scarlet fever and became 80% deaf in one ear and totally deaf in the other. He used the silence that came with his deafness to increase his power of concentration.

Edison had very little schooling when he was a child and was mainly self-taught.

Edison's work as a telegraper was what got him interested in the field of electrical engineering.

As a telegrapher, Edison liked to experiment with equipment to figure out how everything worked. However, he was fired from many jobs because he often preferred to concentrate on his own interests rather than working.

After becoming a full-time inventer, Edison's had many spectalur inventions. Just some of these include:
an electrical vote recorder, the automatic telegraph, the typewriter, the carbon telephone transmitter, the phonograph, the light bulb, galvanic batteries, and the electric motor.


Whilst at a train station, Edison saved the station master's child from being hit by a train. As a way of thanking him, the station master taught Edison how to use Morse code and the telegraph.

Edison left home to work as a telegrapher at a prestigious Western Union Company in Boston.

With no job and no money, Edison walked off the street and was able to fix a broken down stock-ticker for a finance company. He was given a job at the company and later he invented his own stock ticker. A corporation paid him $40,000 for some of his patent rights to this invention.

Edison became business partners with some of richest people in New York, J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts. Together they formed the Edison Electric Light Company, which is now known as General Electric.

Edison got to exchange ideas with such people as Charles Lindberg, Marie Curie, Graham Bell, Henry Ford, and President Herbert Hoover.


Apart from being trained to become a telegrapher, Edison received very little formal training. He was mainly self taught and was interested in experimenting with new things on his own.



Thomas Edison's Home Page


Thomas Edison: Library of Congress

Thomas Edison: Library of Congress

Edisonian Museum

Edisonian Museum
How Christmas Lights Work

How Christmas Lights Work
Thomas Edison - Biography
Edison's biography
Are fluorescent bulbs really more efficient than
normal light bulbs?
If they are, why?

Efficient light bulbs?
Lighting Facts: Who Invented the Lightbulb?

(Submitted by Samantha - thank you so much!)

Who Invented the Lightbulb? Inventors: Thomas Edison


Did You Know?
Thomas Edison

Edison founded 14 companies, one of which, General Electrics is one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world.

Due to his many inventions, Edison is credited with holding 1,093 patents and is the only person to have a patent every year for 65 consecutive years.

Edison was voted Life magazine's "Number One Man of the Millennium"

When he was young, Edison's love of Shakespeare lead him to seriously consider becoming an actor.

When Thomas Edison died on October 18th, 1931 (age 84), at the time of his burial, many communities throughout the world dimmed their lights to pay their respects to the great inventor.


Presenting Thomas Edison

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle 

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking 


The Inventions of Thomas Edison

Inventions of Thomas Edison

Taking one of the three inventions listed here [in this website]:
Light Bulb; and,
Motion Pictures,

1. Describe the invention

2. Find a photograph of the invention

3. Find an audio or YouTube video about your invention eg.
Mary had a little lamb recording

4. Create a timeline of your chosen invention

5. Describe the impact of this invention on the world.

6. Create a presentation [PowerPoint or Prezi] about Edison's invention. 

Edison vs Westinghouse: A Shocking Rivalry!

High SchoolSecondary

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking
Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

Ethical Understanding Australian Curriculum General Capability: Ethical Understanding

1. Read over the following article from the Smithsonian: Edison vs Westinghouse: A Shocking Rivalry:

Smithsonian Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, more than a century ago, engaged in a nasty battle over alternating and direct current, known as the “War of Currents.”

Both men knew there was room for but one American electricity system, and Edison set out to ruin Westinghouse in “a great political, legal and marketing game” that saw the famous inventor stage publicity events where dogs, horses and even an elephant were killed using Westinghouse’s alternating current.

The two men would play out their battle on the front pages of newspapers and in the Supreme Court, in the country’s first attempt to execute a human being with electricity.
(Source: Smithsonian)

As you read this article, write down 5 interesting facts that you encountered.

2. With a partner, list the arguments and counter arguments put forward in the article. Mind map the facts, arguments, and, counter arguments. Share with the class.

3. As a class, debate the question: "Were the tactics used by Edison ethical?"

Material sourced from 
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates
Thomas Edison's Home Page
Wikipedia - Thomas Alva Edison

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