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TWO CENTURIES OF REVOLTIONARY CHANGE
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Electricity and Electric Power
Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
Thomas Edison's father was a lighthouse keeper in the American state of Michigan. Edison was partially deaf, which made him appear to be backward at school. Because of this reputation, Edison did not attend school very much but he did use his free time to read extensively. In 1859, he started work for the railroad and his job taught him telegraphy. At first, when telegraphy was a visual art - a series of dots and dashes punched out on a card - Edison coped very well. Later developments, however, changed the dots and dashes into audio signals, which, because of his hearing problem, made his work much more difficult for him.
In 1863, Edison became an apprentice engineer with the precise ambition to improve telegraphic technology enough for him to be able to hear the signals. He turned out to be a prolific inventor, however, and was the originator of the duplex telegraph, which could send two messages at once, and the printer. Edison moved to New York City and formed a company with a business partner. His automatic telegraph, based on chemical imprints which sent electrical signals, was not a great success. However, the knowledge he gained from developing it allowed him to create the electric pen and the mimeograph. Both of these latter inventions led directly to other researchers producing the phonograph.
In 1878, Edison developed a carbon filament lamp which used an evacuated glass bulb. Although this was a parallel invention with that of Joseph Swan, Edison received most of the credit for it since he developed the rest of the technology, such as the power lines, which the system needed to work properly.
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