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UK Disability History Month

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was an American inventor who is considered one of America's leading businessmen and innovators. Edison rose from humble beginnings to work as an inventor of major technology, including the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb. 

He was born in Milan, Ohio on February 11, 1847, although he spent most of his childhood in Michigan. He died in 1931 of the complications of diabetes.

An early bout with scarlet fever as well as ear infections, and a blow to the head left Edison with hearing difficulties in both ears as a child and nearly deaf as an adult. Edison’s deafness strongly influenced his behaviour and career, providing the motivation for many of his inventions.

His first invention was an electric vote recorder, and he went on to have a total of 1093 patents  -  the most on record. Many inventions were group efforts in his large laboratory working with others to develop, build, and test these. Three of his most famous inventions were: 

  • The Phonograph - This was the first major invention by Edison and made him famous. It was the first machine that was able to record and playback sound. 
  • Light Bulb - Edison made the first practical electric light bulb that could be manufactured and used in the home. He also invented other items needed to make the light bulb practical including safety fuses and on/off switches for light sockets. 
  • The Motion Picture - Edison did a lot of work in creating the motion picture camera and helping move forward the progress of practical movies. On April 23, 1896, Edison became the first person to project a motion picture, holding the world's first motion picture screening at Koster & Bial's Music Hall in New York City.