Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Alva Edison was born February 11, 1847.  When Edison was a child he enjoyed reading. He read many science and chemistry books. 

Edison sold newspapers and candy when he was twelve years old.  He rode a train from town to town to sell them.  Edison made a laboratory inside one of the train cars.  He did different chemistry experiments during the ride from town to town. 

Edison said one day a man lifted him onto a train by his ears. Edison said after that he could not hear. 

Picture Courtesy of The Edison Papers

A picture of Thomas Edison writing in his notebook.

Picture Courtesy of the University of Virginia



Edison thought his deafness helped him be a better scientist.  All communication had to be written so there were no misunderstandings.  He enjoyed not having to listen to other people talk. He enjoyed not hearing the noises of his environment. He enjoyed being alone.  This allowed him to think clearly without distractions.



When Edison was fifteen he saved a 3 year old little boy from being hit by a train.  The little boy's father taught Edison telegraphy as a reward. As Edisonís hearing got worse he used telegraphy codes to communicate.  He would tap out the codes on the personís body.  When he went to see a play at the theater his wife tapped Morse Code on his leg.  Then he knew what the actors were saying.


The Morse Code Alphabet

Picture Courtesy of the Edison Museum

Edison holding the "Edison Effect"

Picture Courtesy of The Edison Papers

Edison eventually started his own business.  He hired people to work on new inventions.  In six years Edison had 120 patents. 

He invented the first diode.  Everything you plug into an electrical outlet has a diode.  The diode knows how much power is needed for the object and only allows that much power to go into the object.  The rest of the power is sent back to the electrical outlet.  This discovery eventually was called the "Edison Effect."


Edison invented these things.

Picture Courtesy of Stanford University
The phonograph played music.


Incandescent Bulb

Picture Courtesy of the Thomas Edison Museum

The incandescent bulb was like a light bulb.


High-speed automatic telegraph

Picture Courtesy of the British Telecom Museum

The automatic telegraph sent messages quickly (60-120 words per minute).


Quadruplex telegraph

Picture Courtesy of

The quadruplex telegraph sent two messages at the same time.


Edisonís last big invention was the kinetograph and the kinetoscope.  A kinetoscope is a machine that was used to watch movies.  Only one person could watch the movie at a time.  A kinetograph was like a movie camera.  Edison made the first two thousand movies in his backyard. 

Picture Courtesy of   

Picture Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of The Edison Papers

Edison died on October 18, 1931 in New Jersey. 


National Academy of Sciences

Congressional Medal of Honor

Picture Courtesy of the United States Army

Hall of Fame of Great Americans


Web Links


Lang, H. G., & Meath-Lang, B. (1995). Thomas Alva Edison.  In A Biographical Dictionary: Deaf Persons in the Arts and           
(pp.108-112). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Rutgers University. (2009). The Thomas Edison Papers. Retrieved from

The Library of Congress. (1999). Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison
Retrieved from