Thomas Edison is by far one of the most famous and influential inventors of all time, with many of his great works making a dramatic impact to life around the world. Here we take a look at the life and works of this inspiring individual, and his contributions both to the engineering field and also to our society more widely.

Early Works

Thomas Edison was born in Ohio, America, in 1847 and in his early life received little formal education, leaving school at an early age to begin working on a railroad.

Following the outbreak of the American Civil War he began travelling the country working as a telegrapher. However during this time, he developed serious hearing problems, which made the art of operating a telegraph difficult, given that many of these machines used auditory signals. Undeterred, Edison began working on devices that would help him to overcome this problem, and inspired by his success, he made the decision in 1869 to pursue inventing fulltime. During the period 1870 to 1875 he went on to develop a number of inventions related to the telegraph for the industry leader, the Western Union Telegraph Company, in addition to its rivals.

Edison soon acquired a reputation as being a great inventor, and in 1976 set up an independent research facility at Menlo Park, New Jersey, which included both machine shops and laboratories, and was the first industrial research lab. It was a year later that he developed the phonograph, an invention that catapulted him onto the world stage, bringing him worldwide recognition and fame, and by his 30’s he was one of the most famous men in the world.

The Light Bulb

The most famous invention with which Edison is associated is undoubtedly the light bulb. Contrary to popular opinion however, Edison did not in fact invent the first electric light bulb. Indeed the history of the light bulb began many years earlier, and for decades scientists across the world had been racing to develop artificial light. However many of these early designs were both expensive and unreliable, meaning they were not commercially viable.

It was Edison who invented the first commercially successful light bulb, for which he received a patent in 1879. Edison’s design of the light bulb was many years in the making, and he and his team of researchers at Menlo Park tested over 3,000 designs between 1878 and 1880. This extensive research paid off, helping him to decide upon the right materials that would make his light bulb a success. For example he discovered that the use of carbonized bamboo for the filament in a bulb was the key to creating a long-lasting and also economical light.

Other Works

Edison was a highly prolific inventor, acquiring a record 1093 patents during his lifetime. He was responsible for the invention of a number of other notable devices, including the carbon telephone, which significantly improved the audibility of the telephone, and the kinetoscope, which enabled a viewer to watch a short motion picture through a peephole.

Edison displayed an undeniable talent for invention and his legacy continues to inspire today’s scientists and engineers. Here Airedale Springs, much of our work is conducted in the lighting industry, of which Edison is undeniably the father. We are suppliers of a range of high quality spring products including compression springs. For more information please do not hesitate to contact us and a member of our friendly team will be happy to help you with your enquiries.