Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thomas Edison: Inventions by the Bushel

"Edison's Patents"
The Thomas Edison Papers, Rutgers

"Edison executed the first of his 1,093 successful U.S. patent applications on 13 October 1868, at the age of 21. He filed an estimated 500–600 unsuccessful or abandoned applications as well. Unfortunately, the names given Edison's patents are too irregular to make simple word searches an accurate means of finding patents for particular technologies. His issued patents are presented here in three lists—by execution date, patent date, and subject. The execution and patent date lists are each presented in six parts to make the files less cumbersome.

"The execution date of a patent application is the date on which the inventor signs the application, and hence is the date closest to the actual inventive activity. However, in his early years Edison did not always rush to his patent lawyer with an invention, especially if there was little competition for the invention or he was feeling broke and unable to pay the various fees involved in an application...."

We don't read much about Thomas Edison these days. "The Wizard of Menlo Park" developed quite a few devices that started us toward the information age, and affected the way inventions are made.

Quite an interesting chap, I think.



Brigid said...

Isn't he the guy who invented all that stuff because he wanted to make a hearing aide for his mom? The one thing he *didn't* manage to invent?

Age 21. Man, way to make me feel insignificant.

Brian H. Gill said...


Same one.

I know what you mean. Someone said, in a similar context, 'by the time Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for ten years.'

We're not all Mozarts or Edisons - which may be just as well. The rest of us have a time keeping up, as it is. ;)

Brian H. Gill said...



More about Edison and hearing at www.nps.gov's FAQ.

On reflection, Alexander Graham Bell may be the fellow who was trying to develop a practical hearing aide.

Bell, in common with quite a few people before WWII, had some interesting ideas about eugenics (see "Marriage and Family" in "People - Alexander Graham Bell and Deafness," About.com).

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