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Who is Thomas Edison?

Thomas Edison invented the first commercially viable light bulb.
Thomas Edison was a telegrapher at age 15.
Thomas Edison has been called the "Greatest Inventor Who Ever Lived."
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  • Written By: Cathy Rogers
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2014
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A young Thomas Edison, born 11 February 1847, displayed a hyperactive personality, suffered from a hearing loss, and was at times nearly destitute. However, he overcame all those obstacles to become a famous American inventor, holding over 1000 patents. Born to middle class parents in Milan, Ohio, Edison moved to Port Huron, Michigan, at the age of seven.

At that same age, Edison’s teacher in a one-room schoolhouse became frustrated with his non-stop questions and rather disruptive behavior. Edison’s mother chose to homeschool him thereafter. As he became a voracious reader and exhibited a special interest in the sciences, his parents hired a tutor to assist him in understanding Physics.

Even as a youth he was very industrious, starting a fruit and vegetable business and even publishing a newspaper. He used his income to create a chemical lab. At the early age of 15, Thomas Edison was trained as a telegrapher and created his first invention, the automatic repeater. In 1868, he moved to Boston to work for the Western Union Company.

When Edison moved to New York a year later, his first impromptu task was to repair a broken stock ticker; he was immediately hired and offered a generous salary. Thomas Edison continued to moonlight during his years as a telegrapher. In 1876, Edison started a laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

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Edison went on to invent many machines. His first great invention, in 1877, was the tin foil phonograph. He also invented the Dictaphone, mimeograph, storage battery and the first commercially practical incandescent light bulb. He also invented the first motion picture camera and a vote recording machine.

Due to his lifelong work and lengthy list of inventions, Thomas Edison is dubbed the Greatest Inventor Who Ever Lived, the Wizard of Menlo Park and the Father of the Electrical Age. He continued to work on inventions until his health began to decline in the 1920s. His last patent was at the age of 83. He died the following year, 1931, in New Jersey with his wife Mina at his bedside.

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