Thomas A. Edison
February 11, 1847 - October 18, 1931

Biography for
Thomas A. Edison
Page 10 of 14

Birth Name
Thomas Alva Edison
The Wizard of Menlo Park
Mini biography

Invented the phonograph, the incandescent electric lightbulb, the alkaline storage battery among other things. He held more than 900 patents and laid the foundation for the modern electric age.
IMDb mini-biography by
Bill Takacs <>
Mina Miller (1886 - 1931) (his death)
Mary Stilwell (1871 - 1884) (her death)

Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 1973 (sole charter inductee).

Made several experimental short films, some lasting only several seconds, mostly to test his equipment. One film, which features a man sneezing, runs for one and one-half seconds.

When he lay dying at his home in New Jersey, newspaper reporters were anxiously awaiting a sign from his wife of his death. She signaled Edison's passing by turing a light ON, not off, in his bedroom.

Using a primative cylinder and foil device, he created the first known recording of a human voice (his own, reciting the poem "Mary Had A Little Lamb").

Reportedly drank "wine coca" (a medicinal tonic made from coca leaves, the same type of coca that cocaine is extracted from) during marathon research sessions that ran into the night.

Was home-schooled.

Enjoyed communication with Morse Code so much, that he proposed marriage to his girlfriend in it, and nicknamed his children "Dot" and "Dash".

Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla (credited with the practical development of alternating current) briefly worked for Edison as a technician. He quit after arguing with Edison one too many times.

In his later years, he often committed social faux pas by making racist and anti-Semitic comments before the press.

While his partial deafness was the subject a great deal of speculation and mythology, it is generally assumed that it was caused by a childhood bout of scarlet fever.

Is venerated by a sect of the Shinto faith as "the god of electrcity".

Many of his experimental films were made in a small wooden building dubbed "The Black Mariah" (because it resembled a police wagon of the same name) that was built on a lot next to Edison's lab and office. The building, essentially a large wooden shed covered with tar paper, was small enough that it was mounted on circular tracks so it could be turned to accomodate sunlight through an opening in the roof. The original has long since burned down, but a reproduction of the structure is located at the Edison National Historic Site (a museum with a preserved laboratory facility) in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

Is credited with the invention of sprocketed cinema film.

Close friend of Henry Ford.

Other inventions to his credit include celophane tape, waxed paper, an improved version of the typewriter keyboard, and "the electric pencil", a forerunner to today's fax machine.

Rarely if ever slept a normal 8 hour period. He preferred to take "cat naps" throughout the day, and kept cots in his office and lab.

While he is often erroneously credited with the invention of the incandescent light bulb, he only perfected it. Similar bulbs were already in existence, but they were expensive, did not last long, and gave off a bad smell. By developing a low-cost, long-lasting, carbonized cotton filament, he made electrical light cheap enough to be financially practical.

Pictured on a 3¢ US postage stamp in the Famous Americans/Inventors series, issued 11 February 1947 (centennial year of his birth).

The last years of his life were plagued by financial failures, including plans to make houses out of poured formed concrete (it never caught on with the public) and making rubber from goldenrod (it decomposed too quickly).
Personal quotes

(His last words, after lasping in and out of consciousness): "It is very beautiful over there."


1. Physical Culture Girl, The (1903) (producer)
2. Electrocuting an Elephant (1903) (producer)
... aka Electrocution of an Elephant (1903) (USA: informal alternative title)
3. Skeleton Dance, Marionettes (1898) (producer) (uncredited)
4. Ball Game, The (1898) (producer) (uncredited)
5. Passion Play of Oberammergau, The (1898) (producer) (uncredited)
... aka Passion Play, The (1898/II)
6. Butterfly Dance (1897) (producer) (uncredited)
7. Fatima (1897) (producer) (uncredited)
... aka Fatima's Belly Dance (1897) (USA: informal title)
8. Blackton Sketches, No. 2 (1896) (producer) (uncredited)
9. Blackton Sketches, No. 3 (1896) (producer) (uncredited)
10. Execution of Mary Stuart, The (1895) (producer) (uncredited)
... aka Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895) (USA)


1. Physical Culture Girl, The (1903)
2. Electrocuting an Elephant (1903)
... aka Electrocution of an Elephant (1903) (USA: informal alternative title)


1. Mr. Edison at Work in His Chemical Laboratory (1897) .... Himself