The Wizard of Menlo Park

This cartoon is humorous on many levels.  Perhaps first and foremost is the fact that children under the age of 13 have never known a world without the World Wide Web, and for all intents and purposes everyone under the age of 21 (maybe even older) has no recollection of life before the advent of the World Wide Web.  For our purposes here, however, it gives me an opportunity to talk about the quintessential American inventor, Thomas Edison.

Benjamin Franklin may be the most famous American inventor, but the most prolific and influential American inventor was undoubtedly Thomas Alva Edison. It is indeed difficult to imagine the modern world without scientific contributions and inventions of Edison. Nevertheless, Edison did have failures, including his failed support of DC power over AC power, but Edison never let failure stand between him and success. Known as the Wizard of Menlo Park, Edison received over one thousand US patents, the first of which was filed on October 13, 1868, when he was the tender age of 21.

Perhaps Edison’s most famous inventions were the phonograph, motion pictures and the light-bulb. Truth be told, however, he really didn’t “invent” the lightbulb, but rather he improved upon the technology by developing a light-bulb that used a lower current electricity, a small carbonized filament, and an improved vacuum inside the globe. Edison’s invention lead to a reliable, long-lasting source of light.

It is important for aspiring inventors to always remember that while Thomas Edison was a brilliant inventor he was perhaps an even more brilliant businessman.  Early on in his career he invented devices without considering whether there would be a market for his inventions.  He soon became determined to never again invent without knowing there would be a market.  What this lead Edison to do primarily was improve upon exisiting inventions.  By improving upon exisiting inventions he knew there would be customers.  If there were customers for an inferior product then his superior product would be a winner.  It is this unique blend of genius inventor and genius in business that makes us remember Edison today.


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One comment so far.

  • [Avatar for american biologics]
    american biologics
    July 30, 2010 03:57 pm

    I remember hearing how Edison did not invent so many of these as history would like us to think, and that he simply got the patents to this inventions first, I think. Don’t know if that’s true or not.

    Plus, the cartoon is really funny. xD And a good commentary on our world as of today.