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Edison: A Biography

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Regarded as the classic standard biography on Thomas Edison. It is the only biography written in the last 40 years to be recommended by the official voice of the caretakers of the Edison Laboratory National Monument in New Jersey which houses all of Edison's original records, sketches, notes, correspondence and memoranda. Depicts Edison as a pivotal figure in America's Regarded as the classic standard biography on Thomas Edison. It is the only biography written in the last 40 years to be recommended by the official voice of the caretakers of the Edison Laboratory National Monument in New Jersey which houses all of Edison's original records, sketches, notes, correspondence and memoranda. Depicts Edison as a pivotal figure in America's economic and industrial revolution success and at the same time as a human being, including his exploitative and, at times, crude qualities.


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Regarded as the classic standard biography on Thomas Edison. It is the only biography written in the last 40 years to be recommended by the official voice of the caretakers of the Edison Laboratory National Monument in New Jersey which houses all of Edison's original records, sketches, notes, correspondence and memoranda. Depicts Edison as a pivotal figure in America's Regarded as the classic standard biography on Thomas Edison. It is the only biography written in the last 40 years to be recommended by the official voice of the caretakers of the Edison Laboratory National Monument in New Jersey which houses all of Edison's original records, sketches, notes, correspondence and memoranda. Depicts Edison as a pivotal figure in America's economic and industrial revolution success and at the same time as a human being, including his exploitative and, at times, crude qualities.

30 review for Edison: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Read1000books

    Even though I read the Reader's Digest condensed edition (160 pages, ISBN 0895772590), this was still a great read. I had no idea how much of an absolute genius this man was. Far from just perfecting the light bulb (others had experimented with the concept; he made it work, and practically)he also invented the phonograph, the motion picture camera (his first motion pictures had sound! How or why the "silent movies" went backward I don't know), the entire electric generating plant system, the Even though I read the Reader's Digest condensed edition (160 pages, ISBN 0895772590), this was still a great read. I had no idea how much of an absolute genius this man was. Far from just perfecting the light bulb (others had experimented with the concept; he made it work, and practically)he also invented the phonograph, the motion picture camera (his first motion pictures had sound! How or why the "silent movies" went backward I don't know), the entire electric generating plant system, the mimeograph, and dozens of other things, as well as improving the telegraph and the telephone (you had to yell 2 or 3 times into Alexander Graham Bell's static-filled device, but after Edison worked on it, it performed like ours today). Toward the end of his life, his many businesses were making over $20 million dollars a year. Not bad for a guy who was fired several times early in life. There is, however, a down side to this story. While Edison's first wife had been a Sunday school teacher, he himself "cared nothing for church". Some time after she died of typhoid, he married again, this second wife having had in her youth "a liking for charity and Sunday school work". Edison however was an "agnostic" and "not much for religion". Days before he passed away on October 18, 1931 someone asked him if "he had thought of a life hereafter. 'It does not matter', he replied in a low voice, 'No one knows'." One wonders if he thinks differently now.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peter Talbot

    An absolutely amazing biography: wise, deep, fair, perspicuous, learned, humorous, gentle but provocative. One of the most masterful biographies in the English language. Edison the man was much more interesting than Edison the icon.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Netzband

    Written in 1959, this is the classic Edison biography. It's a good mix of human element and technical detail. I previously started a version written decades , but I found the technical descriptions to be too detailed and distracting for my taste. This book gives enough of that detail to help the reader understand the ideas and inventions and the implications of introducing that technology into a changing America, but it doesn't get bogged down in it. Someone looking for a more in-depth technical Written in 1959, this is the classic Edison biography. It's a good mix of human element and technical detail. I previously started a version written decades , but I found the technical descriptions to be too detailed and distracting for my taste. This book gives enough of that detail to help the reader understand the ideas and inventions and the implications of introducing that technology into a changing America, but it doesn't get bogged down in it. Someone looking for a more in-depth technical analysis should try the later version. Overall, this book does a great job detailing Edison's rise to prominence as an inventor, his role in the commercialization of many other ideas besides the light bulb, and his quirky behavior. I recommend this to anyone wanting to learn about Edison's personal journey as well as the impact of his work on American business and culture.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Marsh

    This baby was looooong. But I’m really glad I read the whole thing. It has the perfect mix of storytelling and technical detail that I loved. He didn’t just say that Edison flipped a switch and the light went on; he actually talked about the science behind it which was cool. My main takeaway was that Edison was a pretty ordinary, and not formally educated, person that just worked his tail off and did amazing things. Mostly, I’ll remember that he is responsible for way more than just the light This baby was looooong. But I’m really glad I read the whole thing. It has the perfect mix of storytelling and technical detail that I loved. He didn’t just say that Edison flipped a switch and the light went on; he actually talked about the science behind it which was cool. My main takeaway was that Edison was a pretty ordinary, and not formally educated, person that just worked his tail off and did amazing things. Mostly, I’ll remember that he is responsible for way more than just the light bulb.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Brilliant! Very enjoyable read, the method of writing I found timeless, presented in a facilatory manner, to accomodate individuals to invest in their own thoughts & opinions on all things ‘Edison’. The outlining of scientific investigation & its development throughout a time of which seemed to be stuck in its ways, was a personal highlight for me, emphasising the value of practical thinking.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John Bohnert

    I learned a great deal about Thomas Edison.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    5 Stars! #read up my Friends

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brannon

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was dense but clear. I went into it having seen reviews that it was fairly technical. It was perfect for me (a software engineer). I found the various endeavors of Edison fascinating, and the sheer volume of his accomplishments amazing. I had never known his huge impact upon the planet before reading this book. The book is generally chronological, ordered by decades of Edison's life. His first decade dealt with his homeschooled upbringing. His second: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was dense but clear. I went into it having seen reviews that it was fairly technical. It was perfect for me (a software engineer). I found the various endeavors of Edison fascinating, and the sheer volume of his accomplishments amazing. I had never known his huge impact upon the planet before reading this book. The book is generally chronological, ordered by decades of Edison's life. His first decade dealt with his homeschooled upbringing. His second: working on the train. His third: pursuit of the multiplexed telegraph. His fourth, the light bulb, and a self-financed power station for New York city to make use of his light bulb. His fifth: development of the rock crusher now used around the world in mining and cement creation. His sixth: perfection of his phonograph and movie camera. The seventh: the development of the nickle-iron battery (at last with lithium). His eighth (yes, in his seventies): his appointment to the Navy Consulting Board with his work on sonar and dragnets. The book covers his personal life, which was minimal, as well. (Edison was very dedicated to his work.) His relationship with Henry Ford, which I had no idea about, is emphasized.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    11-12-08 Frankly, after reading McCullough’s biography of Truman, everything else seems to pale in comparison. However, Josephson’s biography of Edison won the Francis Parkman award, so its quality as a solidly researched account of Edison’s life can be assured. As an inventor/businessman/industrialist, Edison’s life mirrors his restless creative energy. The details of his work with the incandescent bulb, phonograph, etc. are detailed in this book, as are his many other ventures. Following the 11-12-08 Frankly, after reading McCullough’s biography of Truman, everything else seems to pale in comparison. However, Josephson’s biography of Edison won the Francis Parkman award, so its quality as a solidly researched account of Edison’s life can be assured. As an inventor/businessman/industrialist, Edison’s life mirrors his restless creative energy. The details of his work with the incandescent bulb, phonograph, etc. are detailed in this book, as are his many other ventures. Following the scope of his life’s work was endlessly interesting. We find out less about the inner man in this book – perhaps because his work as an inventor consumed his life. Edison receives quite gentle, almost reverential, treatment in this book. The writing feels much more archaic than the era of the late 1950’s/early 1960’s in which it was written. One often has to wait patiently until the end of a long sentence to finish a thought begun many words earlier. In sum, the book will likely be interesting to those who have experience with and tolerance for the interesting, but not gripping, historical biography.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steele At

    This book may or may not be the best autobiography on Thomas A. Edison, but it was enough to help me see the life of a most unusual man. I didn't realize he was actually the founder of GE, nor did I know he was mostly deaf, and that he was a problem child with virtually no formal education. I didn't know he had six kids, three from a first wife that mostly didn't know him; and three from a second that mostly did. I didn't know that he conversed with his wife by tapping her hand or leg in Morse This book may or may not be the best autobiography on Thomas A. Edison, but it was enough to help me see the life of a most unusual man. I didn't realize he was actually the founder of GE, nor did I know he was mostly deaf, and that he was a problem child with virtually no formal education. I didn't know he had six kids, three from a first wife that mostly didn't know him; and three from a second that mostly did. I didn't know that he conversed with his wife by tapping her hand or leg in Morse code - and that is how he asked her to marry him. I didn't know how hard he worked, or the fact that through it all he remained positive and hopeful. I didn't know that Henry Ford first worked in Edison's employ, and that Ford built a museum in Michigan, much to Edison's tribute. Now I want to see his home and laboratories in N.J., his summer home in Fort Myer Florida and GE in Schenectady. Reading offers a depth of knowledge that reaches into my soul. I'm grateful for that, and all the wonderful things that came to life & light as a result of Mr. Edison.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeromy Peacock

    This was a beautifully written biography of a man I highly respect. Edison is a fascinating character study and I would have liked to of been alive when he worked on all of his inventions. If you are into biographies you should really pick this one up. 5 stars = Yearly re-read 4 stars = Re-read eventually 3 stars = Very Good 2 stars = OK 1 stars = Pass on this one. 0 stars = Couldn't finish it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Roland

    Excellent. What a biography should be. He did so many things besides electricity. He had incredible drive. He knew he was made for greatness. He lived in such a great time for this country. Worth reading.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Well researched book that looks at Edison's professional life and touches upon his personal life. Technical descriptions of his inventions were beyond me, but would be enjoyed by the mechanically inclined.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chris Volzer

    I thought reading about Thomas Edison would be excited. About 1/2 of the way in I decided I was wrong. I can only take so much talk of morse code.

  15. 4 out of 5

    K.akhil Sharma

    it is ok

  16. 4 out of 5

    Allen

    Hated it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Well written and informative. I knew nothing of Edison before reading this and have learnt a lot!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mrshumolicious

    fantastic biography

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sam knowles

    This is without a doubt the best biography on the man ever made, enough said. I also recommend reading Menlo park reminiscences, since it seems to complement the biography.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sergiu

  23. 5 out of 5

    Craig

  24. 4 out of 5

    Easton Thomas

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alan Pond

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ye Lu

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ayb3m Martinez

  29. 4 out of 5

    Duong Dang

  30. 4 out of 5

    Suzie

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