The Wizard of Menlo Park becomes the first entry into this series.
Thomas Alva Edison was born in 1847 in Ohio to Canadian parents. From an early age, he was endlessly curious about the world around him, much to the chagrin of his teachers since he asked a lot of questions.
At age 12, he was homeschooled by his mother, who gave him a copy of The School of Natural Philosophy. He also made frequent use of the public library. In order to finance the experiments he performed in his family\’s basement, he took a job as a busboy, selling candy and refreshments at the Grand Trunk Railway.
When he started taking work as a telegraph operator, he lost his job when he was conducting experiments that resulted in a fire.
He then moved to Boston where he found investors who could finance his experiments. This led to the patent of the Electronic Vote Recorder. After a few failures, he started to lose trust in his investors, so he moved to New York City and befriended the top telegraph engineer, Franklin L. Pope. After fixing the ticker tape recorder at his office, Edison was offered a job as his assistant. With the connections he made, he was able to make enough money to devote himself to his projects.
With the money made from selling his inventions, he bought two parcels of land in Raritan Township, New Jersey. It would be here that he would create Menlo Park as his innovation hub. The Menlo Park laboratory became the world\’s first research and development facility. In 1879, the first light bulb had been created from bamboo filaments and lasted for 13.5 hours. Another notable experiment was a train run entirely on electricity, which ran from the corner of Christie Street and Middlesex Avenue to a copper mine three blocks away.
Although his most famous inventions were created in Menlo Park, Edison himself started transitioning away from Menlo Park and back to New York City, where he would continue his operations.
He passed away in 1931. He was survived by his wife Mary, their three children Marion, Thomas Jr., and William, and 1,093 patents.
Innovations In Menlo Park
- Working Incandescent Lightbulb
- Underground Electrical System
- 400 Smaller Patents
Fifty years after the light bulb had been invented, a tower was built dedicated to the 50th anniversary of its invention. The facility and the tower had been converted into a museum. When the Eternal Light Tower had been struck by lightning, it was renovated by the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation Inc. and the Corning Grass Works, Inc.
Since 1933, the tower has been in the possession of the State of New Jersey. Due to lack of funding, there has not been a dedicated effort to restore the tower.
In spite of the fact that Edison was born in Ohio, he would become New Jersey\’s own, since he modernized the world in a small Jersey township.
- Roberts, Russell. “Rediscover the Hidden New Jersey.” Rutgers University Press. 2015.
- “Thomas Edison and Menlo Park.” Menlo Park Museum.