Can you beat Edison the great inventor-entrepreneur?

As soon as he could talk, he began to ask his parents and everyone else all interminable whats, whys, whens, and wheres. His strangely inquisitive, inattentive, and rebellious character also meant growing up and doing things – and annoyingly – his own way. That too made him a difficult and uncontrollable child. Little wonder, his expulsion from kindergarten was done to prevent further collision with a world never prepared to receive this rare mind.

Thomas A. Edison, therefore, had no option but to be taught at home – and luckily by his own mother, who happened to be a teacher herself. Learning things his way brought out the very best in him. While other boys played, Tom remained intensely bookish. So immensely absorbed was he in intellectual curiosity that a sudden deafness striking him at the age of 12 was rather received by him as advantage, especially because it allowed him to completely concentrate without distraction. Enjoying his long loneliness meant having to learn everything learnable.

Having to fend for himself made him a wanderer, daily traveling to Detroit on his own device also meant taking refuge in the library, where he read the entire library. Given that of the books and laboratory apparatus were out of his reach, saving for them, meant starving, and wandering with broken shoes and tattered winter overcoat as if an insane teenager.

But did what people say and believe ever mattered to him? In fact, the more he failed the more resolute and fanatical he remained toward his life’s mission. This was because he knew it from the onset that his ambitious life adventure was going to first get messier before it could get better.

In other words, not only had hard times toughened him. Having learned so in such a short period of time not only reinforced his rare individualist traits. It also turned him into a virtual thinking machine, a machine obsessed with reinventing world. Capturing flashes of ideas as they came made him to always have his notebook and pen handy.

Besieged by all sorts of strange ideas, he began seeing many mysterious things other humans could hardly see. It was these mysteries that soon turned Tom into an inventor maniac – from lightening the world with his bulbs to telegraphic evacuation of data electronically.

Soon, this starved, insane and ruined-looking, bankrupted and exploited wanderer had to leave Boston for New York City where he arrived hopeless and penniless. And without any option but to sleep on dirty floor of Western Union equipment workshop, he remained for months forgotten until an extensive electrical failure of Western Union’s stock printer equipment forced the world to discover his rare gifts.

Consequently, Western Union not only hired him as its master technician, overseeing maintenance, but also agreed to pay this curiously ego-driven inventor-scientist more money than anyone had ever earned before working for an organization. Such huge earning meant that finally Edison’s time had come, including having money to establish an Edison Menlo Park Laboratory. Besides electrical bulb technology perfected here, the entire generating dynamos and electrical wiring systems to light the world were invented and engineered.

Even with such huge successes, Edison still had neither a home of his own other than his workroom, nor a wife. And even when he eventually married his secretary, Edison never stopped working as long as 20 hours daily, spending most of the entire night in his laboratory. Knowing work as his only hobby, his wife Mary, never bothered him with matters that bothered on domesticity.

From one wonder to another wonder, soon his Menlo Park Laboratory gave birth to a new giant company, ‘General Electric,’ a world leader in electrical appliances and equipment manufacturing. Now increasingly international scientific celebrity, Edison began to speak out, disdaining nonscientific men, and publicly arguing, “I wouldn’t give a penny an ordinary college graduate, except those from institutions of technology like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..”

And putting his words to action, he flatly refused his children from going to any other university than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which he strongly argued was the only university that focused on transforming the world scientifically and technologically.

Written by
Odilim Enwegbara
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