Saturday, 24 March 2012 09:57

Thomas Edison: Men of Ideas

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Thomas Edison (1847-1931) was an American inventor. He invented many devices chief among them is the electric bulb. He was an astute businessman and vigorously marketed his inventions. Indeed, he established what is considered the first laboratory to research for new inventions for his business to sell. Many of the inventions attributed to his invention were probably invented by other people working for him. He founded the General electric company, which still exists today, to provide electric power to the public.

Edison began his inventions at Newark, New Jersey. The first invention that brought him fame was the phonograph in 1877. Edison established his research laboratory at Menlo Park, New Jersey and from there rolled out one invention after another until his death.

Edison was not the first to invent the electric bulb; indeed, he purchased the patent on the bulb he produced, but was the first person to mass produce the electric bulb and market them for commercial purposes.

Edison was an astute business man and marketed his products to the people; he convinced Americans and businesses to replace their candle lit homes and work places with long lasting electric bulbs, and created a system for generating electricity and distributing it to several people (he did not invent electricity or how to generate electricity, he merely commercialized what others invented).

Edison’s electric illuminating Company, formed in 1882, eventually distributed power to such cities as New York and Washington DC. Initially, the ability to generate electric power for homes and businesses was limited to a small area but eventually Edison found a way to expand the reach of his electric power (by acquiring Nicholas Tesla ‘s Alternating Current, AC system).

Edison thereafter launched propaganda to convince the public that it is good for them to electrify their homes. His success was reflected in the fact that by 1887 there were over 121 Edison power stations in the United States that delivered electricity to many customers. Of course, rival companies, such as Western-house, were doing the same thing. The result of this healthy competition is that in a short period of time most American homes and businesses were electrified.

Edison invented many devices including the gramophone, movie cameras (which launched the movie industry).

Edison had interesting views on politics, religion and other issues. He is what one might call an agnostic, for as he sees it, if God is kind and made human beings the paragon of animals why did he also make human beings able to kill and eat other animals? It would seem unfair to the animals, the small fish, eaten by big fish. Yet there are beautiful things in nature. Edison sought some metaphysics to make sense of the contradictions of being.

Edison was accused of being an atheist, and during the times he lived accusation of atheism could spell the end of the individual’s business ventures. Edison denied that he was an atheist.

Edison’s God is pretty much like Spinoza’s impersonal, pantheistic God that manifests in all natural phenomena.


Randall E. Stross. The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Edison Invented the Modern World. (2007)

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176