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Who was Thomas Edison?

Thomas Edison in about 1922Thomas Edison in about 1922Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931) was an American inventor. Some of his inventions were improvements on those that already existed. He turned them into versions that could be widely used. His inventions included the earliest sound recording device, called the phonograph, a greatly improved telephone and an electric light bulb that worked better than anything that had gone before. 


Young Thomas Edison working on a trainYoung Thomas Edison working on a train

Early career

Thomas Alva Edison was born in Ohio in 1847, and grew up in Michigan. He did badly at school, so his mother, a teacher, taught him at home. At the age of 12, Thomas was selling snacks and sweets on the railway. By the age of 14, he was producing and selling his own newspaper, the Grand Trunk Herald, on a train. With the money he made he set up a chemistry laboratory at home. (When his mother complained, he moved the chemicals to the locker room on the train where he was working.)

Edison got his first job as a telegrapher, aged 15, after he had rescued a three-year-old child on a railway track from being crushed by a freight wagon. The child’s father was the railway's stationmaster.

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