Take a moment to cover your ears so you can’t hear anything. How does it feel to not be able to hear anything? It would be difficult to know what was going on and to be able to communicate with others, right?
Tonight, we are going to talk about a very successful businessman and an inventor who on his twelfth birthday developed hearing problems and became completely deaf in one ear. Thomas Edison.
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Thomas Alva Edison was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio. But, in 1854, his family decided to move to Port Huron, Michigan where he was raised. Thomas was the seventh child and the youngest in his family. Edison was home-schooled by his mother. He attended public school but only for a short period.
For whatever reason, Thomas struggled in school, so his teachers thought he wasn’t smart enough, so his mother decided to teach him herself. She taught him how to read and write. Sometimes people who struggle in school don’t have problems, they just don’t do well in a normal school setting. This was the case with Edison and the genius Albert Einstein ran into the same problem.
After a while, Thomas developed a love for books. He read a lot of books and taught himself on his own. As a child, he was amazed at the technology and new inventions and started spending long hours working on experiments at home.
He loved to tinker and try new things. He would try different ways to solve a problem until he figured it out. This is called “tinkering” and one way that inventors solve problems.
When Thomas was 12 he became completely deaf in one ear and developed a hearing problem in the second “ear” too. But what was at first a handicap, ended up being helpful to Thomas. His hearing problem allowed him to concentrate on his work.
Because he is not able to hear things properly, outside noise is not able to distract him from his work, and as a result, he went on to become one of the greatest inventors in history with 1,093 inventions!
When Thomas was young he decided to sell candy, newspapers, and vegetables on the trains running between Port Huron and Detroit. One day a young boy was on the train tracks. Thomas spotted him and pulled him off the tracks, saving the boy’s life. The train officials took notice and offered Thomas the job of the telegraph operator.
The telegraph is a device that was used to send messages at distance using a wire before the telephone was invented.
Thomas was earning good money by the time he was 13, but most of the money went to buying equipment for his electric and chemical experiments. He had always been very hardworking.
He had also been selling newspapers on the street and at 19, decided to work for the newspaper Newswire. He asked to work at night so he could spend the daytime hours on his experiments and reading.
Thomas was so into his work he even did his experiments while working on the job. In one accident caused by sulphuric acid, he lost his job. Edison started his own company in October 1869.
Next, let’s talk about some of his world-changing inventions.
At the age of 22, Thomas invented an electric vote recorder, he also developed a multiplex telegraphic system, which could send two telegraph messages at the same time.
Thomas’s most famous invention came in the year 1879 when he built his first light bulb. It took a very long time to figure out how to build the lightbulb and he had many technicians working on the project.
They tried hundreds of different materials until they found the best one for the lightbulb. This invention made him a very famous inventor across the world and even today many people know Edison for this invention alone.
Edison was granted a right (known as a patent) for the motion picture camera known as “Kinetograph”. This was one of the first devices for watching movies. With this motion camera, Edison also had a film studio made around 1,200 films.
Some of the film’s names were: Fred Ott’s Sneeze (1894), The Kiss (1896), The Great Train Robbery (1903), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910), and the first Frankenstein film in 1910.
Edison won several medals like Matteucci Medal (1887)-It’s an Italian medal given to a person who is an expert in the field of physics and the Edward Longstreth Medal in 1899 for the encouragement of invention.
In 1890, he was chosen as a member of the famous Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
In the United States, there are buildings and bridges named after Edison, particularly, the town of Edison and Thomas Edison State University, both in New Jersey.
There is a bridge in the state of New Jersey, Florida and Ohio named after Edison, all three are known as “the Edison Bridge”.
Thomas Edison invented many things, but his work was not easy. On December 10, 1914, in the evening, a massive fire broke out in his laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey. Edison was called and quickly rushed to his lab.
The fire was so fierce that it burned more than half of the laboratory. It was very hard to put out.
Edison stood and watched his years of research work burn to ashes. Everyone was worried that Edison would not be able to recover from this shock.
But instead Edison peacefully walked over to his son and told him, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.”
His son couldn’t believe it. Edison went on to say, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish”
“Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.”
True to his word, the very next day Thomas Edison got to work rebuilding the lab.
To do incredible things, we need to be resilient enough to bear disaster and setbacks. Resilience means to get back up when we’ve had setbacks. We’ve got to love what we do in life.
We have to find happiness in every single thing that occurs. Because of Edison’s positive thinking, he was able to start working again even with setbacks and create so many useful inventions.
Edison’s life teaches us that everyone has challenges, but if we don’t lose hope and remain confident enough, we can move mountains.
Remember Thomas Edison next time you have something difficult happen to you and you wonder if you can keep going.