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Thomas Edison Timeline

  • Birth

    On this day, Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio on February 11th, 1847. He was born as the youngest of 7 children for Samuel Edison Jr. and Nancy Elliot Edison. He was one of only 4 Edison children to survive into adulthood. (Sonneburn, pg 32)
  • Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th President

    Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th President
    Lincoln has become one of the most presidents in history. He was also one of the most impactful as he was able to help the Union win the Civil War and reintegrated the US. Lincoln was known as a charismatic president that was extremely popular and loved in the north and was partially hated in the south. He is also famous for being the first president to be assassinated as he was attacked on April 14th, 1865 and died on the 15th. (
  • Quits Telegraphing to persue Invention full time.

    Quits Telegraphing to persue Invention full time.
    At age 22, Edison saw that his invention the duplex telegraph, a telegraph that could send two signals at once, was successful and he decided that he should persue invention full time. He had been captivated with creating things since he was a child but this was an important step in his life. This propelled him into the world of inventing and led him to move from New York City, which he had lived in to persue telegraphing success, to Newark, New Jersey where he would work until 1875. (history)
  • Made the first bulb with Platnium Filament

    Made the first bulb with Platnium Filament
    By 1879, Edison had gained a repuation as an amazing inventor and was named "The Wizard of Menlo Park". Edison became fascinated with the concept of incandesant Electric Light. Most of the lights in that timespan were arc lights which worked by burning gas. They were extremely unsafe compared to Electric Light but no one had captured that yet. Arc lighting also has many other side effects. He then worked with investors to make the Edison Electric Light Company. Edison made an electric system.
  • Made the first bulb with Platnium Filament (cont.)

    Made the first bulb with Platnium Filament (cont.)
    Edison's system worked similarly to his work with the duplex telegraph. He hypothesised that he could outperform the arc light by subdividing the current so that it was connected to a circuit. This way, If one light bulb burned out, It did not effect the rest of the system. Many Scientists scoffed at the idea but he was still working on that with his Menlo Park team. By summer of 1879, They were able to develop a generator. Edison had found success with a vaccuum bulb with Platinum Filament.
  • Made the first bulb with Platnium Filament (cont.)

    Made the first bulb with Platnium Filament (cont.)
    Although the Platinum Filament seemed to work, It was far too expensive and too impractical to be the Filament used for these bulbs. They did however learn from this experiment that a vaccum pump could be the key to making the Electric Light Bulb. (Kennedy, pg 34)
  • Made the first "perfect" bulb with bamboo filament

    Made the first "perfect" bulb with bamboo filament
    In the Summer of 1880, Edison and his team finally figured out the true secret to getting a safe and inexpensive Electric Light. Edison claimed that one summer day, he was lounging around and cooling himself with a bamboo fan. In a bout of inspiration, He immediately got up and went to his workshop where he would make bamboo filament for the light bulb. This story was most likely not true as records show that the workshop had been working with Bamboo for months.
  • Made the first "perfect" bulb with bamboo filament (cont.)

    Made the first "perfect" bulb with bamboo filament (cont.)
    He then spent the next two years racing with other inventors to show the power of his Electric Light. He started laying down wiring in Lower Manhattan in order to light up all of Lower Manhattan. Finally in the Summer of 1882 he was able to light up Lower Manhattan and take over the world with his Electric Lights. They soon became affordable enough that most big cities were able to have Edison systems. (
  • Parts ways with Nikola Tesla

    Parts ways with Nikola Tesla
    Edison and Tesla had worked together for a while up to 1885 but they often butt heads. The company of George Westinghouse was a competitor with Edison's company had developed AC (alternating currents) Electric energy. This was obviously more efficient than Edison's DC (direct current) electric energy. Tesla, among other workers, told Edison that he should switch to AC but Edison's unwavering pride and arrogance could not stray away from the system that he developed.
  • Parts ways with Nikola Tesla (cont.)

    Parts ways with Nikola Tesla (cont.)
    Because of this feud, Tesla left Edison and joined George Westinghouse. This caused what would be a lifelong feud between the 2 inventors. Edison and Tesla had to go back and forth as Edison was trying to prove that AC is dangerous by having New York State accept it as it's way of committing the death penalty onto people. Edison supported a show where the organizers used AC electricity to kill a number of animals which reporters and audiences found disgusting. (Sonneburg, pg 90)
  • Perfected the Phonograph

    Perfected the Phonograph
    As he reached the later stages of his inventing life, he decided to go back to the invention that had launched him to stardom. As he worked on the Phonograph he tried to put the device into dolls in order to make talking dolls but the fragile phonograph often got broken during shipping. (Sonneborn, pg, 79)
  • Developed the Motion Picture Camera

    Developed the Motion Picture Camera
    Edison soon saw an opening in the Motion Picture industry. He then started developing the first Motion Picture camera and played the first ever movie in history. This would open up a door to the multi trillion dollar Movie industry. This would change the landscape of the world but this was felt most in the United States. Movies became the most popular attraction around the nation and it even named Los Angeles as the Media Capital of the world. (Sonneborn, 187)
  • Starts a Magnetic Iron Ore plant

    Starts a Magnetic Iron Ore plant
    In early 1890, Edison started a magnetic Iron Ore plant as most Iron Ore mining was done in mines. Edison's thought process was that this plant would speed up the rate of Iron being collected and make the job better for workers. This turned out to be the failure of his career as this did not work at all and lost him most of his fortune. He turned this into an efficient way of producing cement in order to save his reputation. (
  • President McKinley is shot and killed

    President McKinley is shot and killed
    McKinley had been the president for a full term and was 6 months into his second when the assassination occurred. He was fresh off winning the Spanish-American war and was very favorable among the people. The assassination occurred at the Buffalo Pan-American Expo where McKinley gave a speech. Many of McKinley's close advisors were wary of an assassination and told the president to cancel the speech but he did not. A man by the name of Leon Czolgosz walked up to the president and (cont.)
  • President McKinley is shot and killed (cont.)

    President McKinley is shot and killed (cont.)
    Fired two shots at McKinley. A man in the crowd punched Leon to stop him from firing a third shot at McKinley. McKinley was rushed to the hospital. There he got emergency surgery but they could not locate one of the bullets. In the following days, McKinley's condition made some optimistic but in the next day he got a severe case of blood poisoning and died on September 14th. (
  • The Wright Brothers make first flight

    The Wright Brothers make first flight
    The Wright brothers had been working on flight since 1896 in their own Bicycle shop. By this time they had worked on glided flight and were certain they had mastered it but it was time to move to powered flight. The brothers chose a beach called "Kitty Hawk" in their home state of North Carolina to attempt powered flight for the first time. On that day, Orville Wright sat on the wing of the plane and started the motor. He flew only about 20 ft but this paved the way for modern transportation.
  • Designs a battery for the Model T.

    Designs a battery for the Model T.
    Thomas Edison's good friend Henry Ford had created the automobile. His first car was called the iconic Model T. However, Ford needed someone to create a battery strong enough to power the automobile. So, Ford asked his good friend Thomas Edison for help. Edison had experience with making batteries so he was qualified for this job. This was one of Edison's last inventions as his health was slowly deteriorating. This helped welcome the automobile to the world. (
  • World War I is declared

    World War I is declared
    This had been brewing for exactly a month. This came after Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were killed by a Serbian nationalist. Austria gained support from their ally Germany and they ordered that if all Anti-Austrian propaganda was stopped in Serbia, they would declare war on them. Austria ignored the response by Serbia and got ready for war. Serbia had Russia as an ally to back them up. Leaders in Britain and France were frightened by the prospect of this war. (cont.)
  • World War I is declared (cont.)

    World War I is declared (cont.)
    So, they tried to go to Germany and deescalate the situation but that did not work as Germany told Vienna to go on with their war plans. Austria declared war on Serbia. In the following days, Germany declared war on Russia which caused France, ally of Russia, to declare war on Germany. Germany then had their sights set on taking over neutral Belgium which caused Britain to declare war on Germany. (
  • Panama Canal is built

    Panama Canal is built
    Before the Panama Canal was built, ship trade could not be executed across the Pacific to the Atlantic and vise versa. The Panama Canal opened that up and allowed for ship trade to reach any point in the world from any other point in the world which made trade much easier. The United States ordered the completion of the Panama Canal along with the help of Britain. Both wanted to make trade across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans much cheaper. (
  • Stock Market crash starts Great Depression

    Stock Market crash starts Great Depression
    A huge drop in the Stock Market in October 1929 started a 10 year long depression where employment was at an all-time low. This all started because of what is called "Black Thursday". On this day in 1929, around 12.9 million shares were sold as investors went into a panic. That lead to "Black Tuesday" on 10/29/1929 when around 16 million shares were sold because of scared investors who did not trust the market. After that, many people were either fired or their wages took a huge hit. (history)
  • Dies at age 84

    Dies at age 84
    Edison's health had slowly been deteriorating for some time leading up to his death. He left behind a lasting legacy as one of the most influential bright minds of all time. He had amassed a record 1,093 patents in his time. He was an inspiration to many as he rose from being dirt poor to being one of the most recognizable names in the world. (