The most prolific inventor in American history, Thomas Edison played a major role in creating industries that have altered life around the globe: electric light and power, recorded sound and motion pictures. He also made significant innovations in telecommunications, battery technology, office machinery, the manufacture of Portland Cement, and processes for working low-grade ores. He was able to contribute to such a wide array of industries because he was not a lone inventor. At his workshops and laboratories in Newark, Menlo Park, and West Orange in New Jersey, Edison brought together teams of skilled research assistants and machinists. These teams allowed him to do more than any one person could do. In the process he transformed invention by making it part of a larger process of research, development, and commercialization that we now call innovation. That transformation—as much as any single invention—has become a crucial feature of the modern world.
Paul Israel is director and general editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers.
Louis Carlat is managing editor of the book edition of the Thomas A. Edison Papers.
Daniel Weeks is associate editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers.
Alexandra Rimer is assistant editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers.
Edward Bradley is editorial assistant of the Thomas A. Edison Papers.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Map: Edison’s Birth to Adulthood
Map: Edison in New Jersey
About the Authors