Last week, I watched a documentary on the History Channel about great men who have influenced America. Among those mentioned were J.P. Morgan, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie, but not necessarily in that order. All of these were important, but I think Thomas Edison did the most for us. He invented the incandescent light bulb and came up with a method for wiring homes with electricity. After watching the documentary, I wanted to know more about Edison. I read many interesting articles online about his life and the 1,093 things he invented before his death at the age of 84.
This is what I learned: Edison was born in Ohio on Feb. 11, 1847 — just 100 years before I was — and was educated in a one-room schoolhouse with 37 other pupils of all ages. He didn’t start talking until he was nearly 4 years old because he was practically deaf in both ears. When he did talk, he always asked adults what made things work. If an adult could not provide an answer or said he or she didn’t know, Edison looked them in the eyes and asked “Why?”
Edison reportedly aggravated his teacher endlessly. He wouldn’t be still or pay attention. The teacher became angry with Edison one day and told him he was “addle-minded.” Edison told his mother, who got upset and took him out of the school system. She home-schooled him, and although she was well-educated, Edison’s mother could not answer the complicated questions that he asked ask her about physics and how things worked. Edison later said about his mother, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had someone to live for, someone I must not disappoint.” His parents introduced him to the public library, which he used diligently all his life.
Edison set up a lab in his basement at the age of 10 and continued to experiment and invent things until he became too frail and sick at the age of 83. On Oct. 18, 1931, he reportedly awoke from a coma suddenly and whispered to his wife Mina, “It is very beautiful over there.”
Edison’s inventions have enhanced the lives of people all over the world. He has been famously quoted as saying, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration!”
After watching the documentary, my husband Gene and I marveled at what it would be like do without electricity today. I do remember not having it. The electricity in our family home was turned on around 1951. I thought it was the most amazing thing to be able to pull a string and see a light bulb illuminate a room.
Let’s think about some of the things we use electricity for every day: lighting, heating and cooling our homes; preparing meals; laundering and ironing clothes; drying and styling our hair; watching television; vacuuming; opening cans of food with an electric can opener instead of turning a manual one; yard work (many mowers, leaf blowers and edgers are electric); and using computers. If it weren’t for electricity, I’d have to hand-write this column or type it on an old manual typewriter with carbon paper between two sheets of typing paper. And if I made a mistake, I’d have to try to erase it and hope to find the correct place to start again. And it is amazing to be able to hit a button on my computer and send this article to the Coastal Courier for publication without having to drive to Hinesville to deliver it!
Thank you, Thomas Alva Edison, for being so inquisitive and for not giving up on your ideas even when the going got tough. Electricity is truly one of our greatest blessings!
Call to mind your many blessings this Thanksgiving and give thanks to God for them. Look around you and share with someone who may not be as blessed as you are this season. I am thankful to my many readers who take the time to read my rantings and ramblings each week. I appreciate the comments I receive from you. Happy Thanksgiving!