Thomas Edison: First of the Greatest Inventors in History

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Have you ever wondered why Thomas Edison is called “one of the greatest inventors that ever lived”? Thomas Edison invented many useful things that changed the world. His creations of the phonograph, incandescent light bulb and the motion picture camera helped the world be more productive and efficient in their daily lives.

The phonograph made life easier. It was Edison’s favourite invention, created in 1877, to record sound. It contained two needles. The first needle recorded the sound by indenting it onto a cylinder covered with tin foil. The second needle played back the exact sound. The benefits of the phonograph were far-reaching. Edison imagined the phonograph could record music, important conversations and speeches. He dreamed that it could create talking books for the blind, music boxes, and a way for recording a message on a phone when the person did not pick up. All of these came true! The phonograph’s recording ability allowed the world to access news, music, messages, education, speeches and entertainment when at home or at work. People did not have to go to concert halls or clubs to listen to performances by famous musicians. They could listen whenever they wanted to. For example, many soldiers of World War I brought a phonograph to war. The phonograph’s music was used to cheer the soldiers up! The phonograph made entertainment, communication, and learning more available and convenient, saving time and money. The world was never the same again! The incandescent light bulb changed the world. It used low electric current to heat a filament until it glowed. It had already existed, but its light lasted a very short time. In 1879, Edison experimented with different filaments to make it last longer. He found that the cotton thread could last for over thirteen hours! Later, he found yet another filament made of carbonized bamboo which lasted over 1,200 hours! Edison’s work resulted in a longer lasting light bulb. Prior to the light bulb, people mainly used oil lamps and candles, but these had a greater risk of fires and fumes in the house. Having a longer lasting light provided protection as people could see hazards in the dark. They also used the light bulb to do their work at night. Work days lasted longer, resulting in increased productivity. Also, people could spend more family time together even at night.

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Another major benefit of the incandescent light bulb was its low-cost. People today still buy the incandescent light bulb, even though it uses 80% more electricity than other light bulbs. Edison made the light bulb so affordable, he said, “only the rich would dine by candlelight.” His priceless invention allowed society to be safer, more social, more productive and more efficient. The motion picture camera was vital in making entertainment more accessible to the world. In 1892, Edison and his men built the Strip Kinetograph, which was the early motion picture camera. The “strip” was a 35mm celluloid film that was wrapped around a wheel. The film was moved by sprockets in stop-and-go motion behind the shutter. Edison’s team also built the Kinetoscope, which was a machine to watch movies. Edison is sometimes called the “Father of Motion Pictures.”He once said, “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the Eye what the Phonograph does for the Ear.” Edison’s motion picture camera filmed magic shows, plays, cowboys, and boxing matches. People could then watch recorded shows, news, and movies from the comfort of their own home. They did not have to rely on live-action shows or travel to specific destinations. This saved them time and money. Edison’s creation paved the way for later inventions that allowed the television and filming industries to grow. Our society relies on television and movies for entertainment, relaxation, education and socialization. The phonograph, incandescent light bulb, and the motion picture camera increased productivity and gave greater access to both knowledge and entertainment. Edison’s inventions had a powerful impact on our world. His inventions changed society forever!

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