Thomas Edison

Gay Lynn HillStudy Break

Thomas Alva Edison was born on Feb. 11, 1847, died Oct. 18, 1931, and was considered by many to be the greatest inventor. In honor of his 171th birthday, let’s look at some of his 1,000+ inventions.

Think about where you will be when you are 22 years old – what will you doing? Graduating from college? Starting your first job? At 22 years of age, Edison invented the Electrographic Vote Recorder, which helped legislators record their votes faster. As Edison Awards recounts,”for the voting device to work, ‘it was connected to a clerk’s desk which had the legislators’ names embedded. When voting, a legislator would move his switch to either yes or no, which sent an electric current to the device…wheels kept track of yes/no votes, and the clerk tabulated them at the end of the voting session.”

Edison’s favorite invention was the phonograph, which he invented in 1877. National Park Service, that includes Edison’s home and laboratory as one of their parks, described how it worked: “…a piece of tin-foil was wrapped around the cylinder in the middle. You shouted a short message into the piece on one side of the cylinder while you turned the handle. Inside this piece was a needle. Your voice would make the needle shake, or vibrate. The sound vibrations would go through the needle and make a line, or groove, into the tin-foil. A needle on the other side could play back what you had just recorded.” Edison loved the phonograph so much that he called it his “baby.” He improved it over and over for the next fifty years.

Yes, he invented the motion picture and lightbulb (he actually didn’t), but did you know he also invented concrete furniture, alkaline battery for electric cars, the ancestor to the tattoo gun, and even rumored to have created a spirit phone that could contact the dead? Spiritualism was making a comeback after World War I, when Edison announced in Oct. of 1920 that he was working on a machine to open the lines of communication with the spirit world. After his own death in 1931, no machine was found. Many people believe he was just playing a joke

For some more fast fun facts on Thomas Edison, check out, and to see a breakdown of Edison’s patents, visit Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. Be sure to share your favorite Edison invention is on our Facebook page.