1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Edison, Thomas Alva
EDISON, THOMAS ALVA (1847– ), American inventor, was born on the 11th of February 1847, at Milan, Erie county, Ohio, of mixed Dutch and Scottish descent; but his parents moved to Port Huron, Michigan, when he was seven years old. At the age of twelve he became a train news-boy on the railway to Detroit, and managed to gratify his youthful interest in chemistry by performing experiments while travelling. At fifteen he became a telegraph operator, and was employed in many cities in the United States and Canada, but frequently neglected his duties in order to carry on studies and experiments in electrical science. Before he was twenty-one he had constructed an automatic repeater, by means of which a message could be transferred from one wire to another without the aid of an operator; and he had also directed his attention to the problem of duplex telegraphy, of which he later invented a successful system. In 1869 Edison came to New York city, and soon afterwards became connected with the Gold & Stock Company. He invented an improved printing telegraph for stock quotations, for which he received $40,000. He then established a laboratory and factory in Newark, N.J., for further experiments and for the manufacture of his inventions. In 1876 he removed to Menlo Park, and later to West Orange, N.J., where he continued his experiments. Since then his name has been prominently associated with all kinds of novelties in practical electricity. Among his principal inventions are his system of duplex telegraphy, which he later developed into quadruplex and sextuplex transmission; his carbon telephone transmitter; the microtasimeter, for the detection of small variations in temperature; the phonograph, which records and reproduces all manner of sounds; the cinematograph, which his improvements made practicable; and his method of preparing carbon filaments for the incandescent electric lamp. In 1878 Edison was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the French government.