Thursday 19 February 2015

Edison’s Miracle of Light.

I watched a documentary about Thomas Edison today. If you ever want to see something that will make you feel you have spent a lifetime wasting a lifetime, this is the show for you.
 Image result for thomas edison pbs
In his lifetime, he accumulated over 1000 patents on many diverse subjects, from phonograph to the electric light bulb and motion pictures. He made and lost a few fortunes over the years and had more failures than successes and yet he kept working. One comment that struck me was that he never looked back. If he had a failure, he didn’t let it get him down, he would spend a while thinking about his next project and dive right in.

I knew that he invented the incandescent bulb, which was thought by most people to be an impossible dream. Edison was all about doing the impossible on a daily basis. What I didn’t know about the electric light was that inventing the bulb was just the beginning. He had to sell the idea to the general public, city officials and of course financial backers. Once that was done, he needed to dig up all of the roads in a square mile of Manhattan to lay copper wire which would then connect up to all of the buildings in that section of the city. He also had to design (invent) power generators that would supply those homes and businesses with electricity. The show didn’t talk about light fixtures, but Louise and I have a hard time picking them out from a show room. He would have had to have someone design and fabricate those fixtures.
While all of that was going on; the uber rich wanted their own personal generating station either in the basement or in an out building on their property. Somehow, he managed to get all of this done and in only four years. He was often to be found in the ditches helping the workers wire Manhattan.
One story I loved came towards the end of the program and his life. He, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs would go on summer camping trips together, caravanning from place to place. They called themselves the Four Vagabonds and of course family, retainers and reporters would follow along. On one such trip, something went wrong with one of the cars and they pulled into a small service station to get some help. The mechanic looked at the engine and said “It appears to be a problem with the electrical system.” Thomas Edison said “I’m Thomas Edison and I have checked the electrical system and it is working perfectly.”

The mechanic then said “Well, if it isn’t the electrical then it is an issue with the fuel line.” Henry Ford said “I’m Henry Ford and I’ve checked the fuel system out and it is also working well.” 

The mechanic looked at John Burroughs who had a long white beard and said “Why don’t you fellows get Santa Claus here to fix the car!”

The show was called “Edison’s Miracle of Light” on PBS show the American Experience. If you get the chance, watch it or you could go to the library and read the story of his life. It might have just been called “Edison” American Experience. 
Image result for thomas edison pbs

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