Thursday, November 1, 2012
The Genius of Thomas Edison
The Genius of Thomas Edison: For many historians, Edison's greatest invention was himself. Andre Millard was one such historian who concluded that Edison was just as much a marketing guru as inventor. In fact, Edison's career signified the paradigm shift in American business history from machine-shop craftsmanship to large-scale industrial research. Since Edison was one of America's first superstar inventors, a cult of personality developed around him, which helped foster a kind of Edisonian mythology. He became known as "The Wizard of Menlo Park" after establishing his laboratory in New Jersey following the sale of his quadruplex telegraph to Western Union in 1874. Essentially, Edison's laboratory became an idea factory where trial and error reigned supreme over any systematic methodology. His famous statement that "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" not only diminished the role of genius in the innovation process, but also captured two basic values cherished by most Americans: hard work and self-determination. Even after securing around 1,100 patents during his career, Edison always emphasized the notion of making life more livable. An example of this idea was evident in his 1879 remark that "We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles."