Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He is a renowned scientist all over the world for his famous work related to the electric lightbulb and many other innovations. With 52 interesting facts about Thomas Edison, let’s learn more about his childhood, personal life, inventions, patents, laboratories and more…

Facts about Thomas Edison’s childhood and early years

1. Surprisingly, Edison did not learn to talk until he was almost four years old.

2. Thomas Edison’s forehead was unusually broad, and his head was considerably larger than average.

3. During his childhood, Edison narrowly escaped from drowning in the barge canal that ran alongside his home.

4. In 1954, at the age of seven, Edison attended school for a short period of 12 weeks. Being a hyperactive child and prone to distraction, Edison’s teachers could not handle him. His mother removed him from school and tutored him at home until the age of 11. Thus, Edison had very little formal education as a child.

5. The removal of Edison from school proved beneficial for his career, as he developed self-learning skills with his ever increasing appetite for knowledge and reading.

6. Edison was fond of Shakespeare’s plays and wanted to be an actor. However, due to his high-pitched voice and his extreme shyness before every audience, he soon gave up the idea.

7. Edison enjoyed reading and reciting poetry. His life-long favorite was Thomas Gray’s “Elegy In A Country Churchyard.” Here is a line that he chanted endlessly: “The boast of heraldry of pomp and power, All that beauty all that wealth ere gave, Alike await the inevitable hour. The path to glory leads but to the grave.”

8. Edison, out of his curiosity and appetite to learn, read every book in the library starting with the last book on the bottom of the shelf. However, his parents guided him to become more selective with his reading.

9. In the beginning of his life, Edison worked as a telegraph operator. This job inspired many of his inventions in the telecommunications field.

10. Thomas Edison was nearly deaf as an adult as he became affected with scarlet fever and ear infections in the early years of his life. However, Edison cited a train accident as the cause of his hearing loss.

11. At the age of thirteen, after selling newspapers for a short time, Edison decided to publish his own newspaper—the Grand Trunk Herald—and sell copies to his existing clients. He published up-to-date stories that became a hit with his customers.

12. During this time, Edison also set up a small laboratory in a baggage car. However, during one of his experiments a chemical fire started and the car caught fire. Edison was forced to leave the train and sell newspapers once again.

13. Edison had a chance to improve his hearing by way of an operation; however, he refused to take the option. He simply did not want to go through the difficulty of relearning how to channel his thinking in a noisier world.

14. A significant event in Edison’s life: Edison got a chance to learn to operate a telegraph when he saved a three-year-old from a train accident. The child’s grateful father, the station’s agent, taught Edison telegraphy as a reward.

15. At the age of 16, Edison became a proficient telegrapher and started working as one full-time.

16. Edison also worked for The Associated Press for some time. However, he had to leave his job because of the progress of technology and his hearing disability, which did not allow him to continue his work for the company. He became employed again with the Western Union Company.

Facts about Thomas Edison’s inventions

17. In 1876, he set up his first lab in Menlo Park, California. This was the world’s first industrial research laboratory. In some sense, this laboratory is also considered one of his greatest inventions. It was well equipped, and is where Edison worked to change the world.

18. Thomas Edison was dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park.”

19. Edison invented the world’s first practical incandescent light. It took him one and a half years to build the lamp, which burned for thirteen and a half hours. The lamp had a filament of carbonized sewing thread.

Thomas Edison’s first successful light bulb model, used in public demonstration at Menlo Park, December 1879. Image source – Wikipedia

20. On December 31st 1879, the Menlo Park laboratory complex was electrically lit for the first time, which demonstrated to the public the great invention that Edison had engineered. Interestingly, Albert Einstein was born in the same year.

21. Edison invented an electric light bulb, while Einstein gave the world one of the most famous equations explaining the relationship between energy, mass and the speed of light. The equation is E=MC2.

22. Edison’s first invention in Menlo Park was the tin foil phonograph. He was invited to demonstrate it to the president of the United States–Rutherford B. Hayes–in the White House.

23. Some of his inventions, including the electric bulb and motion pictures, have pioneered many other industries in the world.

24. He also developed the first electric power generation and distribution system that would supply electricity to homes in the region.

25. Edison invented a machine for electrically recording and counting votes cast by members of a legislative body, but it was of no commercial value, so he decided to invent only those things that people would want to buy.

26. A funny fact about Edison is that he even made a device to kill cockroaches with electricity.

27. Edison lost millions of dollars while experimenting to invent a method of separating ore from rock. It was the biggest failure of his lifetime.

28. Tomas Edison is the first person in the world to project a motion picture. He did so successfully on April 23, 1896.

A photograph of Henry Ford, Thomas Alva Edison, and Harvey Samuel Firestone- the fathers of modernity. Image source – Wikipedia

29. Edison also designed a battery for the self-starter for the Model T developed by Henry Ford.

30. The phonograph was Edison’s most famous invention.

31. The first of his breakthrough inventions, which yielded him a sum of $40,000, was an improved stock ticker. This was called the “Universal Stock Printer.” At the time of this invention, Edison was only 22 years old. The new financial freedom allowed Edison to focus on his inventions and get involved with them full-time.

Facts about Edison’s family and children

32. By the early 1870s, Edison was a rich man and married a 16-year-old employee at one of his businesses.

33. Edison’s first wife, Mary, died in 1884. Edison remarried in 1886 after falling in love with Mina Miller.

34. Edison nicknamed two of his children he had with his first wife “Dot” and “Dash” in honor of his early telegraph days.

35. After his second marriage, Edison moved to West Orange. There, he built another laboratory for his experiments. This was a laboratory complex consisting of five buildings. Later, some factories were developed around the complex for production purposes. The total area covered by the laboratory and the factories around it was more than 25 acres, and it employed no less than 10,000 people when it was functioning at its peak during World War I.

36. Edison had a distinct advantage compared to some other inventors. He had many young people fresh out of college or technical training work for him. Edison called them “muckers.” These people helped Edison test and build upon his ideas. And he paid them not much more than “only workmen’s wages.” People assisting him worked for an average of 55 hours a week; however, this would extend if Edison were working on something promising. People often enjoyed their work with Edison because they were not coming there for money, but for a chance to fulfill their ambitions.

About Edison’s work, laboratories, factories, patents, General Electric Corporation, rivalry with Nikola Tesla and more…

37. Did you know that Edison filed the first of his 1,093 successful U.S. Patent applications on October 13, 1868 at the age of 21?

38. During 1882, Edison filed 106 successful U.S. patent applications. This was the maximum number of successful U.S. patent applications filed by Edison in any year.

39. According to a biographer, Frank Lewis Dyer, Edison had 1,239 non-U.S. patents awarded in 34 countries.

Here is a list of his patents and details:

40. Thomas Edison does not just hold 1093 US patents to his name. He holds many more in other countries, including France, Germany and the U.K.

41. Edison, in context of his hearing loss in 1885, wrote, “I haven’t heard a bird sing since I was twelve years old.”

42. It was during the lifetime of Thomas Edison that President Abraham Lincoln (Edison’s hero) was assassinated on 14th April 1865. The president’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was tracked down with the help of 10,000 federal troops, police and detectives, making it one of the largest manhunts in history.

43. During his most productive years, Edison worked more than 18 hours each day.

44. Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the wireless telegraph, was Edison’s friend. He used the patents made available by Edison for his invention of the wireless telegraph.

45. In 1914, on December 9, there was a massive fire that swept most of Edison’s factories. However, Edison was determined to make another fresh start. With the aid of his team, he started working once again.

46. Edison recounted the efforts of his mother saying, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had someone to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”

47. Edison recorded the progress of thousands of his experiments in more than 2500 books.

48. The General Electric Corporation as we all know today was started by Edison under the name Edison Illuminating Company in 1880.

49. Edison did not find as much success working with fellow scientists as he found working in intimate, unstructured environments.

50. Thomas Edison had a long-lasting rivalry with Nikola Tesla, another visionary and prolific inventor of his time. The duo conflicted over the use of direct current and alternating current. Nikola Tesla advocated the use of alternating current as opposed to direct current. Edison fired back by conducting demonstrations that showed the hazards of alternating current. In one such demonstration, he electrocuted a circus elephant in New York’s Coney Island.

51. At the time of his death, Edison was regarded as America’s most well-known and respected person.

52. Edison practiced a theory throughout his life – that there are no substitutes for hard work and sound thinking.

Inventions by Thomas Alva Edison

The Phonograph, light bulb, motion picture, the electrographic vote recorder, magnetic iron ore separator, quadruplex telegraph, storage battery, electric pen, electric generator, stock ticker and more…

Some inspirational quotes by Thomas Alva Edison

  1. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
  2. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
  3. “What you are will show in what you do.”
  4. “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
  5. Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”
  6. “Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”
  7. “To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”
  8. “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”
  9. “Great ideas originate in the muscles.”
  10. “Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have.”
  11. “It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains definitely and systematically to work.”
  12. “Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.”
  13. “There is far more opportunity than there is ability.”
  14. “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Quick facts about Thomas Edison

BornFebruary 11, 1847
Milan, Ohio, United States
DiedOctober 18, 1931 (aged 84)
West Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
Languages KnownEnglish
Age At the time of death84 years
Field of WorkTelegraphy, phonography, electric lighting and photography.
AwardsMatteucci Medal (1887), Albert medal (1892), Rumford Prize (1895), John Fritz Medal (1908) Congressional Gold Medal (1928)
ContributionsScience and Physics
EducationSelf-educated with visits to the Cooper Union
ParentsSamuel Ogden Edison, Jr. (1804–1896)
Nancy Matthews Elliott (1810–1871)