Through his multiplicity of ideas and fields of interest, Edison epitomizes the Age of Pluralism. the Modern Age can almost be defined through the turning point of his inventions, for Edison has ushered in a new world of possibilities in electronics, physics, chemistry and business. This paper shall focus on a small portion of Edison’s works and their ramifications, with the intent of securing his nomination, and hopefully his chances of receiving, 20th Century Genius Award.
L. J. Davis (2003) noted that "The early Industrial Revolution was the last time when an ordinary citizen was thought capable of understanding the natural world." (p. 169) as a partial explanation as to how Edison, a common man in manner, came to be regarded as a genius, and because of this, acquired an origin story. These early stories circulated partly from fact, partly from popular imagination, and partly from Edison own predilection towards self-promotion (Davis, 2003). Edison was born February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio (Adair, 1996). Edison’s time spent in school stretches from none at all to four years, depending on the source or on Edison’s mood (Davis, 2003), but his mother also exposed him to a wide range of books as well. A favorite, A School Compendium of Natural and Experimental Philosophy by Richard Green Parker, included instructions for simple experiments, which Edison soon began performing in his bedroom. At 12, Edison began riding the trains, selling concessions and a self-printed newspaper (which he gleaned information for by befriending the telegraph operators). The conductor, Alexander Stevenson, allowed Edison to set up a small laboratory in the baggage car. a privilege revoked when he started a small fire. Popular legend maintains that Edison’s partial deafness stems from Stevenson boxing his ears as punishment. Edison cites another incident, in which he was running to catch the train and Stevenson pulled him aboard by the ears. Edison claimed, "I felt something in my ears crack and right after that I began to go deaf." (Adair, 1996, p.32). The most probable cause for his deafness, however, is most likely due to multiple ear infections as a child, although the deafness did seem to begin manifesting around this time (Adair, 1996). In 1862, Edison saved the life of J. U. MacKenzie’s three year old son (by pulling him off the tracks), and Mackenzie taught Edison the telegraph system, both out of gratitude and due to the latter’s natural aptitude for the work (Baldwin, 1995).
Edison’s career as a telegraph operator from 1863 through 1868 allowed the him to gain a familiarity with the telegraph and with electricity in general that would form the basis for many of his forthcoming inventions. During this period, Edison quit or was fired from various positions due to his constant toying with equipment. After the failure of several small inventions, Edison arrived in New York City so poor that he obtained permission to sleep in the back room of the Gold Exchange company (where the brokerages met to keep track of stocks and the current gold value). When the ticker broke and caused panic, Edison was able to fix it and essentially hired on the spot (Baldwin, 1995,