Who Was Edison? Why Was His Future So Bright-Get It?

Thomas Edison (1847-1931) held a whopping 1,093 US Patents in his name. He also held patents in the UK, France, and Germany on top of this. Who knows what the examination and granting wait time would be if he was still submitting applications to the United States Trademark and Patent Office?

If inventing the phonograph, modern camera, and long-lasting light bulb were not enough, he also invented or contributed to the following: electric light, power utilities, sound recording, motion pictures, the stock ticker, the mechanical vote recorder, the electric car battery, electrical power in general, music recording, and video recording. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Edison.

Oh and we need not forget that he and his business partners started a company you may have heard of in year of 1892: General Electric.

Edison started out working on trains eagerly selling candy and newspapers. He also sold vegetables on the street in Port Huron, Michigan. When a 3 year-old boy almost got struck by a train, Edison was able to push him out of the way and grab him to safety until his Dad came. His father, a station agent was so grateful that he decided to train Edison to be a telegraph operator for the train systems (a large improvement from his selling candy gig). While not working, he read and experimented. Everything went well with his experiment hobby until while working a night shift in 1867; he spilled sulphuric acid on the floor. The acid ran through his floor and onto the desk of his boss, a floor below. http://www.kids.esdb.bg/edison.html

After this experience, I presume he learned 1. Not to experiment with batteries and acid at his place of employment and 2. He needed to continue to combine his love of science and business to make something of himself. His first granted patent was for an “Electric Vote Recorder” (US Patent 90646)-granted June of 1869.

The wonderful article featured in Tech Times, “Thomas Edison’s First Patented Invention Was An Electric Voting Machine” not only reminds us that Edison’s 1093 patents were granted by the time he was 22 (what!?!), but that the time inventions occur may play a part in one’s success. Government bodies were interested in Edison’s voting machine but it didn’t work out as planned.

“…New York state Legislature and Washington, D.C.’s city council were considering the utility of a mechanical recorder in lieu of roll calling votes – i.e., actually having reps say “aye” or “nay” one by one, with a scribe tallying up the votes by hand. Edison’s plan was to speed up the process with a machine, which he named the “electrographic vote-recorder,”…After the legislators voted, a clerk would feed a piece of chemically-treated paper, which would then be used to “print” the votes out for everyone to see.”


Unfortunately, legislative bodies in the US decided to use roll-call voting for the next ten plus years, Edison’s design was unused, and an inventor named Anthony Beranek invited a similar machine used in most American elections. The article’s author notes that the Senate (unlike many other groups) still use the roll call method and not a machine.

Edison was not just one person inventing. He had a team that worked with him in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His team called ‘Muckers’ which doesn’t sound too flattering, were newly graduated college or tech training students who not only wanted to learn about inventing, they were willing to do whatever it took to be successful. One student described working for Edison for six days a week at 55 hours a week and claimed it wasn’t the money he wanted but “the chance for [his] ambition to work.”


It is said it took 10 years of ‘Muckers’ working to get the alkaline storage battery up and running. Thus we learn that there is no I in team no matter how brilliant (or crazy) you are. Edison reminds me of Henry Ford (who became friends late in life with Edison), and Steve Jobs (a more modern example).

Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So were there really 1000 lightbulbs as the cliché/but still inspiring story is told to youth when questioning whether or not he or she should give up?

In The Book, The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas, author David Burkes seems to think there may have not been 1000 light bulbs (or 999 unsuccessful ones). He highlights that Edison worked with 14 or more engineers, machinists, and physicists (the muckers I spoke of earlier) and was not just inventing-he met with clients, investors, and the press frequently. http://www.businessinsider.com/thomas-edison-light-bulb-publicity-stunt-2013-11

Success on the 1000th try or not, Burkes and others who try to de-mystify greats actually inspire me. They remind us that it’s ok to fail, it takes a village or a team of muckers (or just good friends), and that we often arrive at our goals on paths that twist and turn.

As Alison Griswold, author of “Everything You Think You Know About Thomas Edison Might Be Wrong” tells us, “Burkus agrees that Edison was a superb marketer, even if the actual details are fuzzy — he tested 1,000, 6,000, 10,000, or some other number of filaments depending on the source. But the message he circulated in the press was clear. ” Burkus writes. http://www.businessinsider.com/thomas-edison-light-bulb-publicity-stunt-2013-11

Remember regardless of how good your ideas or inventions are, effective communication about them is vital. Thomas Edison wasn’t just a good inventor, he was a phenomenal marketer.

At Mohr IP Law, we are a great team of modern day legal service muckers (see explanation above on term) who love to help clients protect their ideas and inventions. We have clients from all different places and from all different backgrounds. You could be the next Edison or the next (insert your last name here).


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