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Early Years

Wizard of Menlo Park

Invention Factory



Early Years
August 2004

Thomas Alva Edison is the world's greatest inventor. Doing most of his work in his laboratories in Newark, Menlo Park, and West Orange, he earned 1,093 patents, a world record.

Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1847 and moved with his family to Port Huron, Michigan, when he was seven. Known as Al in his younger days, Edison struggled with his schoolwork. He left school after only three months, and his mother home-schooled him.

Despite his poor grades, he had a great interest in learning. In his free time, he enjoyed reading his father's extensive book collection, working with mechanical items, and conducting his own chemical experiments.

As a teen, Edison honed his mechanical skills in various jobs at railroad yards, newspapers, and telegraph offices. On his breaks at his job selling newspapers on a train, he would conduct science experiments in the baggage car.

By his early twenties, he was creating inventions in his spare time. In 1869, he received his first patent for an electric vote recorder. Although politicians rejected the machine, he learned a valuable lesson. Edison focused his efforts on inventions that would be widely used by the public.

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