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Famous inventors

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison in about 1922Thomas Edison in about 1922 Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931) was an American inventor. Some of his inventions were improvements on those that already existed, but he turned them into versions that could be widely used. His achievements included the phonograph, the earliest sound recording device, a vastly improved telephone and an electric light bulb that worked better than anything that had gone before. Edison also founded 14 commercial companies, including what is now General Electric, one of the largest public limited companies in the world.

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 qualified teacher, taught him at home.     

Edison was a businessman almost from the start. At the age of 12 he 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 chemical laboratory in the basement of his home.

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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