If “necessity is the mother of all innovation”, then Thomas Edison is the father of modern innovation. Edison had an entrepreneur spirit and a passion for innovation which his 1,093 US patents show. Edison embraced his successes as he did his failures, looking at each as a chance to improve the original invention, and these five inventions show his commitment to success.
This phonograph was considered the first great invention of Edison’s career, and his life-long favorite. The phonograph would record a person’s voice and play it back. While speaking into the receiver, sound vibrations from the voice would cause a needle to create indentations on a tin foil drum. While testing the phonograph, Edison recorded the nursery rhyme “Mary had a little lamb”, a tune that shocked and delighted Edison and his staff when they heard the playback.
The Light Bulb
Edison may be most known for his invention of the light bulb, however; few people realize the light bulb had been around for some years before it became an Edison innovation. Electric lights at the time were expensive and unreliable, and Edison was looking to fix that. Edison created a vacuum inside the bulb, found the right filament to use and ran lower voltage through the bulb. These substantial improvements led to additional ones throughout the years, which made the light bulb a standard, everyday use device. An important side note to the light bulb is it led to Edison’s creation of the electrical utility system to power the light bulb.
The Electrographic Vote Recorder
At 22, Edison while working as a telegrapher, he filed for his first patent for the Electrographic Vote Recorder. Edison was looking to help Congress legislators record their votes faster. For the voting device to work, it was connected to a clerk’s desk which had the names of the legislators embedded. When voting a legislator would move his switch to either yes or no, which sent an electric current to the device at the clerk’s desk. Wheels kept track of yes/no votes, and the clerk tabulated them at the end of the voting session.
Magnetic Iron Ore Separator
In the 1880’s and 1890’s Edison experimented with magnets to assist in separating iron ore from lower quality ore. The trial consumed significant amounts of money as it struggled to gain traction, and soon abandoned. In later years, Edison used what he learned from the rocking grinding experiment to create his own cement company, which supplied concert for the building Yankee Stadium.
The Motion Picture
Edison’s first motion picture device resembled his phonograph and collected 1/16 inch photographs in a cylinder that were viewable with a microscope. However, these images were crude and hard for an individual to gain focus. After Edison had begun working with W.K.L Dickson, he developed the Strip Kinetograph, which used 35 mm celluloid film. Edison’s team cut the film into strips and the perforated edges. Sprockets moved the film in a stop-and-go motion behind the shutter. In 1894, movie-goers could enjoy short films via a peephole in the Kinetoscope.
Edison had an ability to look into the future and determine what people would need, and while the list of Edison’s inventions is long, these five stand apart by showing innovative thinking, resistance to failure and demonstrate why Edison is considered the father of modern innovation.