9 Things You May Not Know about Thomas Edison
Most know Thomas Alva Edison as perhaps the world’s greatest inventor. He had almost 1,100 U.S. patents in his name. He will forever be associated with electricity, the modern light bulb and the movie and recording industries. There are some interesting facts about Edison however, that are less widely known. Here are 9 things you may not have known about Thomas Edison.
- He saved the life of a three-year old that led to his first job. Thomas once saved the life of a three-year old boy from a runaway train. The little boy’s father was so grateful he taught Edison how to be a telegraph operator, which led to his first job.
- Edison was a terrific salesman. Even as a boy, Edison sold candy, making upwards of $50 a week, which he often poured into research tools and experiments. He secured exclusive rights to sell newspapers on the road and ultimately founded 14 companies, including General Electric.
- He had very little formal schooling. Edison spent very little time in school, instead being mostly taught at home by his mother. He did develop a passion for reading and read almost constantly.
- Edison was nearly completely deaf. He had no hearing in one ear and little in the other. One story had him being struck in the ears by a conductor who threw him off a train when one of his experiments caught fire in a boxcar. Edison later told the story saying the conductor picked him up by the ears. His lack of hearing led him to biting on the wooden frames of his early phonographs so he could better “hear” the vibrations it created through his teeth and skull.
- His first patent was for an electric vote recorder. In 1869 he received his first patent but there was little demand for the device. Destitute, he moved to New York City, eventually living in the basement of a fellow telegrapher in Elizabeth, New Jersey. There he developed a telegraph machine that could send two messages at the same time. Western Union bought the device for $10,000, nearly a quarter million dollars in today’s money.
- He had a favorite quote. Edison’s favorite quote was “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.” He displayed it on signs and place cards around his office and companies.
- Edison, like many of his contemporaries, wintered in Florida. Thomas Edison bought 13 acres of property in Fort Myers, Florida in 1885. He paid about $2,700 for the land on which he later built Seminole Lodge. This became his winter retreat. Not only was Edison an amazing inventor, he was one of the original snowbirds. Later, he and Henry Ford would become neighbors in Fort Myers.
- Edison film company made over 1,200 films. Many of these films included bizarre subject matters, including the electrocution of a circus elephant.
- His first wife was 16. Thomas Edison first got married at age 24, marrying one of his female employees. She was just 16 at the time. She died at age 29 of unknown causes, although some suspected either a brain tumor or morphine poisoning.
What we know about some historical figures is already interesting. What we didn’t know may be even more so. Thomas Edison is just one of those figures.