History's Great Engineers: Thomas Edison by James Crowley
My nominee for the Engineering Hall of Fame would be Thomas Alva Edison. He was born in Milan, Ohio on February 11, 1847. Edison was one of the most important engineers of the late 19th century. His most famous development was the first commercially practical incandescent lamp. He developed it in 1879. His greatest contribution to the world, though, was the first central-electric-light-power station.
When Edison was 7 years of age his family moved to Port Huron, Michigan where he could only go to school for three months. After that, his mother tutored him. At age 12 Thomas became a trainboy selling candy and magazines at the Grand Trunk Railroad. An agent at the station taught him telegraph code and at age 15 Edison became the manager of a telegraph office. Two of his first inventions were the receiver and transmitter for the automatic telegraph.
When Edison was only 21 years of age he produced his first major invention, a stock ticker machine used for printing stock-exchange quotations in many different broker's offices. He used the 40,000 dollars that he received for improvements to the tickers to build a laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. There he directed groups of workers experimenting on various projects. In the year 1878, Edison began to work on an electric lamp and found a material that could be electrically heated to light up a vacuum.
In 1878 Edison finally founded The Edison Electric Light Company which after some time became part of The General Electric Company in 1892. While Edison was testing incandescent bulbs, he noticed a flow of electricity from metal to metal and then to wire. This great discovery was known as the Thermionic Emission or the Edison effect. This was and still is the basis of electronics.
The invention that Edison was most proud of was not the light bulb, however, but the Phonograph and the movie projector. Edison also introduced celluloid film which was a flexible type of film. Celluloid film helped to start the motion picture industry. Edison died October 18, 1931, but by that time he had already patented over 1,000 inventions.