The Problem Child.
Thomas Edison was born in Ohio during February, 1847, to middle class parents. At age seven, he started to show the world how bright he really was, but these first signs of genius were actually a cause for concern in his school career. Persistent and insistent questions directed towards his teacher came across as disruptive, causing the teacher to lose his temper frequently. In fact, in today’s society, Edison would have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD. Due to this, as well as the size of Edison’s larger-than-average forehead, the teacher believed that Edison’s brains were “addled”, insinuating that he was ‘too stupid to teach’. Upon hearing about this situation, Edison’s mother immediately pulled him out of school and started to teach her son personally at home, believing that his wide forehead was rather a sign of impending genius.
Between the ages of 11 and 14, Edison outgrew his mother’s ability to teach, finding himself fascinated by the world of physics which she found hard to understand. As a result, Edison’s parents introduced him to the local library’s resources, leaving Edison to teach himself in the subject areas he was interested in.
By the time he was 16, Thomas Edison had worked in a variety of telegraph offices, already working for a living. He performed numerous ‘moonlight’ experiments whenever he could, continuing his self-taught knowledge and learning how to work, understand and alter different equipment. From this pottering around, he developed his first authentic invention – an automatic repeater. This involved sending telegraph signals between unmanned stations which then allowed anyone to translate code accurately but at their own pace.
His biggest invention, and the one everyone knows about, is, of course, the lightbulb – he filed for a US patent for this invention in 1879, when he was just in his early thirties. In October of that year, he had completed his first successful test where a carbon-filament lightbulb stayed lit for 40 hours. He worked on improving it for another month before filing for the patent, which was granted in January of 1880. Not satisfied with this design however, Edison went on to find improvements and soon learnt that a carbonised bamboo filament would make a bulb last for over 1,000 hours. This meant he had not only created one of the most useful inventions of all time, but he also improved on it to make it feel more like a luxury.
But what makes the story of the lightbulb even more interesting, is that Edison tried and failed to make a lightbulb work thousands of times, never getting discouraged. When interviewed by a newspaper about this, Edison replied;
~ “Why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitely over 9,000 ways an electric lightbulb will not work.” ~
Edison considered his ‘failed’ attempts to be progress, finding a successful theory by process of elimination…after all, he only needed to find one way to make it work.
Turn the Light On.
From the boy who was pulled out from school at such an early age, and mocked for ‘failing’ so many times at an invention, came one of the most successful innovators of all time.
If you have a bright idea, don’t let anything discourage you. Edison himself said;
~ “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” ~
Even if you try something 10,000 times and it still hasn’t worked, you could still achieve your goal and make a mark on history. Thomas Edison is proof of that.