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Thomas Edison Concisus Genus
Thomas Ava Edison, prolific inventor, entrepreneur, and pioneer in industrial research, helped to electrify the world, lay the foundation for technical creativity in modern corporate enterprise, and, with his introduction of recorded sound and the movies, create the communications revolution that reshaped twentieth-century popular culture. Born in Milan Ohio in 1847, he moved with his family to Port Huron, Michigan, at age seven. He was educated at home by his mother, a former schoolteacher. Learning telegraphy at a young age, he worked in various Midwestern cities as a telegraph operator. Moving to Boston in 1868, Edison launched a series of businesses based on his innovative telegraph designs. These ventures led him to Newark, New Jersey in 1870, where he designed and produced stock tickers. In 1876, he opened a lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey. During the next five years he made a series of remarkable inventions related to the telegraph, telephone , phonograph, incandescent light bulb, and an electric power generating system. His invention of the phonograph in 1877 and success in 1879 in developing a practical incandescent lighting system attracted worldwide attention. In 1887 Edison built a new research lab—ten times the size of the Menlo Park shop—in rural Orange, New Jersey. Here he worked on the improvement and commercialization of the phonograph, production of cylinder recordings, development of motion-picture equipment, and production of movie films. With the involvement of financier JP Morgan, he founded Edison General Electric in 1889, renamed the General Electric Company in 1892. He worked on underwater sonic detection devices during World War I and in the 1920s marketed a line of small electrical appliances. His friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone supported his last project, a search for a natural substitute for rubber. Edison married twice (his first wife died) and had a daughter and two sons in each marriage. With 1093 patents, he stands as America's most prolific inventor. His innovations contributed to the establishment of at least a half-dozen important new industries. Edison extended his patenting, licensing, production, and marketing efforts to Europe and Latin America (he held patents in twenty-four countries), participating in America's emergence as a world industrial power. Edison was active in business right up to his death in 1931.