Thomas Alva Edison

This article was originally material for a broadcast of “Wavescan” via Adventist World Radio and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from January 1 2003. Author: Adrian Peterson

This Week in Radio History – Edison’s Birthday

At the age of 12, young Thomas Edison took a job selling newspapers on the train running down the southern peninusula of Michigan from Port Huron to Detroit. He also printed and sold a newspaper, the “Weekly Herald”, which was the first newspaper printed on a train in the United States.

In his spare time on the train, Thomas Edison performed chemistry experiments using a chemistry set his mother had given him three years earlier. On one occasion, a stick of phosphorus burst into flame and caught the baggage car on fire. The conductor threw him off the train, chemicals, printing press and all.

Thomas continued to sell newspapers at the train stations along the same railway line, and one day he noticed a rolling freight car running down the track. Edison rushed towards the track and dragged the station master’s young son to safety.

The station master was so grateful that Edison had saved the boy’s life, that he showed Edison how to tap out Morse Code on the telegraph key.

Edison spent up to eighteen hours a day at the Morse Code key, until he had fully mastered this skill.

Soon afterwards, Edison wrote a letter in his very neat handwriting applying for work with the Western Union telegraph company as a Morse Code operator. He was invited to come for an interview, which he almost failed due to his unkempt personal appearance.

Nevertheless, the superintendent for Western Union, George Milliken, decided to give him a practical test. He arranged for the fastest Morse Code operator in Western Union to send a long message from New York at top speed.

To everybody’s surprise, the young Thomas Edison copied down the long fast message with ease. He was immediately hired by Western Union and he became their fastest operator.

In just two days time, it is the birthday of the prolific inventor, Thomas Alva Edison. He was born on February 11, 1847, at Milan, Ohio, as the youngest of seven children.

Among his many inventions are several that aided in the development of elcetronic communication. His first in this area was the invention of a carbon transmitter in the telephone and this form of telephone became the first microphone in early radio broadcasting stations.

In the year 1877 Edison invented the phonograph, a cylinder at that time, which was later developed into the more familiar gramaphone recording in the form of a flat disc. Two years later, Edison developed the first practical electric light bulb, the principle of which was later used in the development of the radio valve or tube.

In the year 1914, Edison connected a phonograh and a camera to make talking pictures, and this invention, after many subsequent developments and innovations on the part of many people, ultimately became television.

In his later years, Edison was honored by the French government with the “Legion of Honor”. The American government honored him with the “Distuinguished Service Medal”, and in 1928 Congress awarded him a “Gold Medal” in honor of the many inventions that improved the American way of life. He died in 1931 at the age of 84.

Thomas Alva Edison is described in the encyclopaedia as the greatest inventor of all time. He was granted 1,093 patents. His birthplace, the family home at Milan in Ohio, is now a National Monument, and his research laboratory in New Jersey is a National Historic Site. Next Tuesday is the 156th anniversary of the birth of the world’s greatest inventor, Thomas Alva Edison.

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