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date: 13 December 2019

Edison, Thomas (Alva)locked

  • William Brooks
  •  and George L. Frow

Extract

(Alva)

(b Milan, OH, Feb 11, 1847; d West Orange, NJ, Oct 18, 1931). American inventor. He had only a few months of formal schooling before becoming successively a newsboy, a food hawker on trains and a telegraph operator. In 1870, with money received from the sale of telegraphic inventions, he founded a research laboratory. There he constructed the carbon telephone transmitter (1876), the cylinder phonograph (1877) and the first practical electric light (1879). These devices brought him instant fame, and he spent much of the rest of his life in their improvement; he also aided the creation of the myth that surrounds his achievements. The phonograph was a badly flawed novelty when it was first introduced, and Edison abandoned it until the late 1880s when, challenged by Charles Tainter’s graphophone, he organized his own recording company. Although he portrayed himself as financially naive, Edison displayed ruthlessness and skill in the subsequent battles between companies. He clung stubbornly to his original ideas, accepting such innovations as disc records and spring-driven machines only under the pressure of competition. He also held strong opinions about music, despite his congenital deafness, and these sometimes adversely affected his choice of artists. Although his vision of the phonograph as a viable recording device for music was largely realized by others, Edison continues to be regarded, in the public mind, as the creator of the recording industry....

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