Everyone knows everything there is to know about Thomas Edison, right? Not so fast. While writing my book on Nikola Tesla I found tons of unknowns about him (see 5 Things You Didn’t Know about Nikola Tesla), and now that I’ve written a book on Thomas Edison I’ve discovered so much about him that likely you didn’t know. Here’s a sample:
- Edison was mostly deaf: Edison started losing his hearing at an early age, probably around the time he was working on the railroads as a news butch. The exact cause is a mystery (even Edison had two different versions), but he says it allowed him to ignore the chitchat of people around him and focus on his work.
- He had two wives: And six kids. No, he wasn’t a bigamist. His first wife died very young after they had three children, then he married another young woman who gave him three more. Since he often worked 20 hour days and slept on a lab bench, it’s a wonder he found the time for intimacy at all.
- His biggest achievement was also his greatest failure: Edison had cornered the market on electricity distribution. He was wiring up New York City from his Pearl Street Power Plant and putting electric lights into the houses of the richest of the rich. Unfortunately it was all DC power and when Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse came along with AC power, well, Edison lost the war of the currents and got tossed from the company he started (we know it today as General Electric).
- He invented concrete houses: After 10 years trying to make a go of mining low grade iron ore, Edison turned to making houses out of concrete. The whole thing – including bathtubs, sinks, and stairs – could be built by pouring concrete into prebuilt molds. If you look hard enough, you might find one still standing.
- Edison was an avid writer: For a man who was tossed out of elementary school because he was “addled,” Edison became both an avid reader and writer. He wrote (and published) a mobile newspaper as a teenager, wrote technical articles, and started a textbook on telegraphy. But his most mysterious writing was a science fiction novel. Yes, complete with Amazons and Antarctic expeditions, and of course, strange ethereal electrical forces.
There is much more about Edison that most people would find surprising, and I cover them all in my new book coming out July 2016 from Fall River Press, Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World. I’ll share the cover design with you all soon.
And if you’re interested in Nikola Tesla, check out this comparison: Edison vs Tesla: Two Very Different Men of Invention.
David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.