Thomas Edison

.. , Edison’s mind would wander even into calligraphy or poetry, which he recorded with his notes. To limit distractions and noise from big cities, Edison conceived the idea of “invention factories.” By keeping a well-stocked laboratory, Edison was able to provide the proper work environment for his employees and assistants. By having a chemistry lab, machine shop, and brilliant group under one roof, Edison was able to produce hundreds of inventions at his laboratory. Edison’s core group of handpicked assistants included “university-educated men specially chosen because of their expertise in fields in which Edison felt himself to be deficient. ” From his work, Edison formed intimate relationships with Charles Batchelor, his chief assistant, and John Kruesi, head of his machine shop.

Edison saw these bonds as essential for Menlo Park’s success and would suspend work in the absence of Batchelor. “Francis Upton, a newer member of the group, remarked that Edison, Bachelor, and Kruesi made and ideal combination, since ‘Mr. Edison with his wonderful ideas..always thinks in three dimensions. Mr. Kruesi..would distribute work so as to get it done with marvelous quickness and great accuracy. Mr.

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Batchelor was always ready for any special fine experimenting or observation..’ ” Upton himself later became a vital part of the Menlo team as chief scientific assistant during the electric lighting project, Edison’s and Menlo Park’s greatest success. Batchelor provided Edison with his expertise of mathematics, while Upton brought highly developed skills in physics. Arthur Kennelly, Edison’s chief electrical engineer, became yet another important member of the Menlo team. Finally, although not directly involved with the inventing, Grosvenor Lowrey advised Edison on all his financial and political matters. This compiled effort allowed Edison to focus more on the problem at hand, inventing.

Because he had received little in terms of formal schooling, Edison’s knowledge is a product only of his readings and self-experience. However, he had a wide background of careers, which provided him with a great deal of experience. To solve this problem with the incandescent light, Edison relied on his background in electromagnetism, relay mechanics, and circuitry laws from his work in telegraphy. In addition his work with the phonograph expanded his knowledge of conductivity. Edison’s work with batteries provided him with a background in electrochemistry. While working on the battery, Edison attended classes at Cooper Union to learn the necessary chemistry.

He later applied this knowledge to his work with generators and dynamos as power sources. This broad background allowed Edison to realize the importance of not just electric lighting for the future, but also electricity in general (he was encouraged by friends to develop electric lighting). The problem with contemporary electric lights was that the filaments would burn up too quickly, unless they were made of heavy (and costly) copper wire or the like. Once Edison realized this problem, he began to concentrate his efforts to determining the proper incandescent filament to prevent quick burn-up. Thus Edison realized that a regulator would prevent melting, initially experimenting with spiral shaped filaments.

As stated earlier, Edison’s foresight carried to more than just electric lighting, but also creating a sufficient commercial power supply in order for light to become a marketable. Thus Edison’s work also included dedicated research towards developing inexpensive power sources. The development of all related areas of electric lighting were necessary steps towards incandescence. This included not only the discovery of the filament, but also creating the proper vacuum and providing the proper power supply. He had experimented with carbon paper filaments in 1876 and 1877, but he began a systematic assault on the electric light bulb and it complementary system in 1878.

” In October of 1878, work on finding the proper regulator governed the Park activities. At the same time, the Menlo Park team devoted attention towards the electromagnetic generator. In December of this year, work on the lamp ceased as generator experiments were intensified. To fulfill his quest for incandescence, Edison drew heavily on his experience with telegraphy to visualize the system of relays and circuit breakers. Although the broad concepts of the research were his own, Edison relied on his staff and assistants to carry out important functions where he may have been lacking.

Again in 1879, the Menlo team turned research back to developing the light itself. The application of Sprengel’s mercury pump aided the creation of a vacuum, but in failing to obtain a complete vacuum, “tests were conducted at Menlo Park to produce new vacuum techniques. ” Later in March, Edison submitted his patent application for his vacuum techniques and high resistance lamps. Edison’s knowledge allowed him to see that high currents would require thick and expensive copper wire to transfer energy, and as an alternative, Edison saw that high-resistance lamps required no more energy than low-resistance ones, which led him to experiment with spiraled platinum filaments. However, following events would soon change this. In October of 1879, Carbon replaced platinum as the primary filament material, and a practical light bulb became a reality.

“Edison had experimented with carbon early in his research. He had tested carbonized paper as early as 1877, but it burned up almost immediately. He eventually turned to platinum because of its high melting point. ” Now this return to carbonized materials combined with Edison’s practice of trial and error, may seem impractical, however the new vacuum pump made it possible to burn carbon much less quickly than in the atmosphere. In addition, Edison may have compared his situation to that of Joseph Swan who successfully applied carbon cylinders in low-resistance lamps.

Another analogous situation may have been Edison’s own success with carbon transmitters in the telephone. In any case, on October 21 and 22, the team had abandoned the spiraled carbonized thread, which led to a major development. While Edison recalls this experiment as the culmination of their research, his staff viewed the success as just a promising new direction. Soon, Upton’s parlor, Edison’s house, and the Menlo Park boarding house for staff were lit up for public display. On a New Year’s Eve demonstration, “forty bulbs were lit simultaneously, and they were switched on and off..this was an amazing feat. ” Even with the success of the cotton thread, Edison continued to seek better filaments for his lamp.

He captured public attention by sending his men to various locations all over the world, testing bamboo from Japan and exotic plants from the Amazon and Sumatra. In the end, Edison had tested over 6,000 types of vegetation. Thomas Edison created inventions for two reasons: 1) more efficient technology and 2) profit. In order for the lamps to succeed, they needed to be placed in a commercially viable setting. The first public testing occurred on the SS Columbia, a steamship for the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. These lamps burned for over 415 hours, which proved to be a successful field test.

As experimenting continued, Edison began developed additional equipment towards commercial use by including lamp sockets and safety fuses. Now that the problem of the filament had been solved, Edison shifted his concerns towards developing power generation, distribution, and efficient and sustained illumination in addition to cost and utility. He aspired to produce an energy system for broad application. Much of Edison’s inventing now became based upon their need towards commercializing the electric light. Such examples are junction boxes, switches, and meters.

After the development of the necessary commercial technology, Edison set out to lay the distribution cables and underground mains. He realized that although overhead wiring was cheaper, underground distribution was much more reliable. Edison applied his own personal experience with the gas companies to know how efficient underground mains were. Edison’s choice was a wise one because in 1888, thousands of overhead wires were destroyed by an enormous blizzard. The operation of this Pearl Street Station demonstrated the viability of the central station concept for electrical power distribution.

Pearl was never an experimental situation; it was a “consumer-based, urban oriented, site-specific commercial enterprise. ” To simply put it, the Pearl Street Station was the “real deal.” From now on, all components of the system had to be evaluated in terms of cost, especially lamp filaments and copper wiring. The benchmark was the cost of gas lighting; in order to be competitive with gas, the cost of electricity needed to be equal to or less than that of gas. Cost factors had strongly affected technical and business decisions from the onset of the research, but now with success so close, every aspect needed to be considered. For example, the decision for high-resistance filaments was driven by cost rather than feasibility.

Durable low resistance filaments would have worked, but the cost of the copper wiring would have prevented commercialization. Edison, with the help of Lowrey, formed several companies to keep manufacturing in the inventors hands. “The Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York, incorporated in December 1880, was the operating company that built the Pearl Street Station. The Edison Machine Works (1881) built Dynamos; Edison Electric Tube Company (1881) fabricated underground conductors; Edison Lamp Works (1880) manufactured incandescent lamps. ” The many other problems facing Edison besides costs factors were competition from gas companies and arc-lighting companies.

In addition, public safety and a discrimination between business customers and residential customers were crucial towards city implementation. Initially lamps cost $1.40 each to manufacture, however they were sold at $0.40 to establish a market. This consumer price remained constant while the manufacturer’s cost dropped to $0.22, however the average life a bulb increased from its original 400 hours, increasing their value. Metering schemes were devised to provide a legitimate determinacy of the cost of service. Much of Edison’s inventing, especially with the electric light included means-ends analysis. For all inventing, inventors envision their desired product, or at least they envision the purpose of the product.

Thomas Edison was no different; in fact, Edison’s success may be dependent upon his great ability to envision his final creations. Through this, Edison would propose a broad range of connections in order to test not just for any successful method but for the optimal one. But more than that, Edison’s success as an inventor can be attributed to his attitudes, work habits, and methods of reasoning. Perseverance and patience built the foundation of Edison’s ability, as demonstrated by his quotes concerning genius and his 10,000 failed experiments. “[Edison] saw every failure as a success, because it channeled his thinking in a more fruitful direction. ” Edison may have inherited this attitude form his father who was not afraid to take risks and never crumbled when a business venture failed.

“On [one] occasion, unprotected chemical were damaged by sunlight. Instead of bemoaning the losses, Edison put aside all other projects to catalogue changes in the properties of the bottled substances. ” This clearly demonstrates Edison’s optimism in spite of seemingly apparent disaster. Although described as a workaholic, Edison’s curiosity can be described as childlike and fun loving. Edison’s process of generate and test was highly organized by his definitions of his goals, however his method of inventing was highly disorganized.

While his own conceptualizations directed his trial experiments, “Edison would often go back and review his earlier sketches to see if, in light of the new knowledge he had acquired, abandoned ideas could be resurrected. ” Analogy, another weak method, was also to key to many of Edison’s inventions. He applied knowledge gained from his own inventions and experiments to his current projects. His “distinctive repertoire of forms, models and design solutions, ” applied to invention after invention, sometimes referred to as Edison’s “themes and variations.” Such a case can be seen when one compares his first drawings of the kinetoscope with his wax-cylinder phonograph. Edison himself noted the similarity between the two when he stated, “‘I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear.’ ” Further description paralleled the spiral images of film and the spiral grooves on records.

This distant analogy can also be seen when Edison applied his success with carbon transmitters in telephones to his research on the incandescent filament. Thomas Edison was a problem solver in both the creation and commercialization of his inventions. He developed his inventions by repeatedly trying his experiments in increasingly complex settings until he could duplicate the item’s performance. Edison’s ability to reason by analogy and to learn from failure proved to be his greatest assets towards his inventing the electric light. Edison’s work in the mechanical, electrical, and chemical fields contributed a great deal of knowledge related to incandescence. Often times Edison’s work employed a trial and error approach but by working through variations on a theme.

Edison’s process followed a direction led by, as Upton put it, “guesses of marvelous accuracy. ” Edison could envision the general nature of a result long before it be reached by mathematical induction. And Edison himself stated, “‘I do not regard myself as a pure scientist as many people insist I am..I am only a professional inventor, ” which he demonstrated with his methods of inventing. His purpose for inventing was solely for the object of commercial utility. Thomas Edison did not invent the incandescent light, but Thomas Edison did invent the practical incandescent light and the urban-based energy system.

By combining the processes of invention, engineering, and production, Edison produced a complete and commercially viable electrical lighting system. With his abilities and innovations, Edison institutionalized inventing. Edison worked himself from being an inventor and entrepreneur to being an industrialist and businessman. While some may refer to the period of technology. Bibliography McAuliffe, Kathleen. The Undiscovered World of Thomas Edison. http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/95dec/edison/edi son.html Melosi, Martin V.

Thomas A. Edison and the Modernization of America. Harper Collins Publishers. 1990. 8 Pretzer, William S.

Working at Inventing: Thomas A. Edison and the Menlo Park Experience. Dearborn, Michigan; Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. 1991. 15 Schwalbe, David. American History: Thomas Alva Edison. http://americanhistory.about.com/education/america nhistory/library/weekly/aa120197.