I’ve always been greatly influenced by many brilliant twentieth century filmmakers, like John Ford, Francis Ford Coppola, and Alfred Hitchcock, but I often forget about the man who let this filmmaking process even become a possibility. I owe all my thanks to the gifted inventor Thomas Alva Edison, who invented the motion picture projector and would later synchronize films with phonograph audio to produce the first real movies. Edison is one who has greatly influenced the history of the United Stated, as he went on to patent over 1,000 different items, many of which we use today.
The early years of Thomas Edison were prolific and important to his success later in life. Edison was born in Ohio on February 11, 1847. Growing up, he spent much of his spare time experimenting with electrical and mechanical tools. While working as a telegraph editor in his late teens, he made his first real invention, a telegraphic repeating instrument that allowed messages to be transferred over a second line without the presence of an operator.
Edison then went to Boston for employment and an opportunity to put his invention ideas to the test. He created a few failed items, one being an unpractical vote recorder. By the sale of telegraphic appliances at the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company of New York City, Edison earned enough money to open his own laboratory in 1876. Unfortunately, American physicist Alexander Graham Bell had beaten Edison to the invention to the telephone, but Edison participated in the evolution of the telephone, as he soon after invented the carbon telephone transmitter.
Edison went on to invent many important devices in the decade following 1877. In 1878 Edison invented the phonograph, by which sound could be recorded mechanically on a tinfoil cylinder.
His most important invention came in 1890, when he created the electric light bulb, an invention that has since required careful research. If this had been Edison’s only invention, he still would be considered a huge influence on United States history, because after he invented the light bulb, suddenly life just got a lot easier. Many take for granted little things like electricity today, because it’s so prominent in everyday life. Edison followed the remarkable success of the light bulbs by trying to improve them, eventually developing the world first large central electric-power station
The remaining years of Edison’s life were nothing but quiet, as he continued to invent significant items, including the revolutionary motion-picture camera. In 1887 Edison moved his laboratory to West Orange, New Jersey, where he constructed a gargantuan laboratory for experimentation and research. The following year, Edison invented the kinetoscope, the first machine to produce motion pictures by a rapid succession of individual views.
He went on to invent some items as the electric pen, the Edison storage battery, and a wireless telegraphic method for communication with moving trains, but none of his later inventions quite measured up to the exquisite discovery of the motion-picture camera. To create the camera, Edison developed a phonograph in which the sound was impressed on a disk, not a cylinder. By synchronizing his phonograph and his kinetoscope, he produced the first talking motion pictures in 1913. If Edison could see how far the motion pictures have come since 1913, he would be in absolute delight at how far a simple film has evolved.
Thomas Edison was first and foremost a technologist, not a scientist — in fact, he added little to scientific knowledge. Edison was a man who set out to change the world with his grand ideas, hoping to invent items that wouldn’t just be little toys to play with for a few years and then be dumped on the side of a road. He wanted to essentially change the world, which he marvelously accomplished multiple times.
Thomas Edison is a spectacular individual who will always remain in my heart as an omniscient force that lets me create my own ideas, feelings, and expressions through a medium he let prosper — films. Edison was a great influence to the history of the United States as a result of all of his accomplishments, but he’s also a great influence to me, and always will be.