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Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is one of the world's greatest ever inventors. Committed to designing inventions that would advance human life, he is responsible for many innovations that are enhancing people's lives even today - including the phonograph, the modern light bulb, the battery and the motion picture.

He always remained true to his belief: "I want to save and advance human life, not destroy it."


Early life

Born on 11th February 1847 in Milan, Ohio, Thomas was the youngest of seven children. From an early age, he was interested in how everything worked and was always asking his parents, "Why?" when he encountered any new device.

At the age of seven, his persistent questions vexed his teacher to such a degree that she declared his brain was "addled". His mother, Nancy, promptly took him out of school to home tutor him, believing his behaviour was the result of his high intelligence. He later described her as "the making of me," because she always believed in him.

Eventually, due to his thirst for knowledge, especially his interest in physics, his parents took on a home tutor to continue his schooling.

Early career

At 14, he made money by selling newspapers and snacks on the local railroad, where he had access to news releases that were teletyped daily to the station. He put them all together and published them in a newspaper called the Weekly Herald, which more than 300 commuters subscribed to.

At 15, he worked as a telegraph operator for Western Union, after his father Samuel taught him Morse code. Working on his own projects in his spare time, his first invention was an electronic vote-recording machine. He then moved to New York and found a job doing electrical repairs for a stock broker.

First sale

He continued moonlighting with his inventions and designed a stock ticker - a means of transmitting stock price information over telegraph lines. He was paid $40,000 by a corporation for the rights to the device, ensuring he could now support himself and his ageing parents for the rest of their days.

He was quoted as saying: "My main purpose in life is to make enough money to create ever more inventions," so this was now possible.


Thomas came up with a series of inventions which changed the world. These included:

  • Carbon transmitter: this made Alexander Graham Bell's new telephone audible enough for practical use. It went into general use in 1890 for all telephones and remained in use until the 1980s.
  • Phonograph: his favourite invention, the phonograph recorded the spoken voice and played it back. Later, he used cylinders and discs to record music.
  • Electric light bulb: at this time, light bulbs were expensive and they didn't last long. Thomas' invention used a different type of filament, a lower voltage and a vacuum inside the bulb to create a long-lasting, economical bulb.
  • Motion picture: he began his work in 1889, eventually developing the Strip Kinetograph using 35mm celluloid film. He filmed short movies to view with his peep-hole Kinetoscope in 1894.
  • Magnetic iron ore separator: although he later abandoned this project following a decline in the price of iron ore, he used his research on rock grinding to make Edison Portland Cement, which built the Yankee Stadium and revolutionised the cement kiln industry.
  • Nickel–iron battery: he patented and commercialised the rechargeable battery in 1901.

His unique style of acquiring knowledge, using his incredible mind, dexterity, legendary memory and patience led him to question the prevailing theories of the day and perform his own experiments to come up with the necessary advances. In fact, he once said: "I readily absorb ideas from every source, frequently starting where the last person left off."

In the late 1920s, he started to slow down and his health began to fail. He obtained his final patent - his 1,093rd - at the age of 83. He died on 18th October 1931, aged 84, in New Jersey.

Despite living in an era when electricity was in its infancy, he used it to develop inventions that were way ahead of their time. He changed the world, making it a better place. Today's modern advances in technology have led to an increased knowledge of electrical health and safety requirements, which is why Coruba’s range of electrical rubber matting is a must for high voltage environments. Contact us for further details on our comprehensive range for a variety of applications.

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