Thomas Edison: Illuminating Inventor



By: Nathan Chandler

4 Min Quiz

Image: youtube

About This Quiz

Thomas Edison is famous as an American inventor. But he didn't just create a few handy doodads. His incredible ideas transformed life for humanity. How much do you know about Edison and his famous work?

What is Thomas Edison best known for doing?

Edison is America's most famous inventor. He filed more than 1,000 patents during his prolific career.


Edison became well know for his intellectual capabilities. What sort of educational background did he have?

He was a terrible student, and he dropped out at a young age. His mother dedicated much of her time to teaching him.


Edison is one of the most famous men in American history. Where did he grow up?

He was born in Ohio in 1847. But his family moved when he was young, meaning he was mostly raised in Michigan.


What was Edison's childhood nickname?

His middle name was Alva. But everyone just called him "Al."


What physical disability plagued Edison throughout his life?

He was sick as a child and his hearing suffered following numerous ear infections (and perhaps at the hands of a physically abusive adult). He considered himself to be nearly deaf.


How did Edison receive his first real exposure to telegraph technology?

Edison began working for the Grand Trunk Railroad and observed men using telegraph machines for communication. He learned the technology and eventually was hired for the job.


Edison drove his elementary school teacher crazy. Why?

Edison was insanely curious, constantly asking questions about everything. His teacher lost patience with him, but fortunately, Edison's mother entertained all of his inquiries and developed his curiosity.


Telegraphs were important tools for 19th-century railroad companies. How did a young person like Edison manage to learn the systems?

He saved a railroad's worker toddler from the wheels of a train. The man repaid Tom's heroism by giving him lessons on the telegraph, an event that changed Edison's life.


What was his first invention?

He invented a type of electric vote recorder. Unfortunately, the idea completely bombed. He decided then to move to New York City.


Many people called Edison a genius. What did he say was an important element of so-called genius?

He scoffed at the idea that he was a born genius. He credited his success to persistence and common sense.


Edison married a woman named Mary in 1871. Why did their marriage end?

Mary had three children with Edison. She died in 1884, at the age of 29, perhaps due to a brain tumor.


Edison was a fabulous inventor but a terrible businessman.

Edison was not only a whip-smart inventor, but he was savvy in business, too. He was constantly finding new ways to maximize the profits from his creations.


Edison invented the quadruplex telegraph, which did what?

Early telegraphs were limited in the quantity of messages they could transmit. With the quadruplex telepgraph, two messages could be sent simultaneously in both directions on a single wire.


Which company bought his quadruplex telegraph technology?

Western Union, the company famous for wired money transfers, bought the technology. They gave Edison around $10,000, which was a princely sum in the late 1800s.


As an adult, Edison earned which nickname?

His fantastic inventions earned him the nickname "The Wizard of Menlo Park," because he created many of his ideas in Menlo Park, New Jersey.


What was the invention that first established Edison as a noteworthy inventor?

In 1877, he developed the first phonograph. His version was the first ever to reproduce pre-recorded sounds.


After the tragic death of his wife Mary, Edison remained single for the rest of his life.

Less than two years after Mary's death, Edison married again, this time to a 20-year-old woman named Mina. He was 39 at the time.


Edison engaged in a "War of Currents" against which man?

Edison fought with George Westinghouse in the War of Currents, in which each man touted different standards for the transmission of electricity.


How did Edison propose to his second wife, Mina?

He shared his knowledge of Morse code with her. Then he proposed to her by using his fingers to tap his proposal on her hands. Cue groaning.


Edison lost the War of Currents.

Edison stood by his DC (direct current) standard versus Westinghouse's AC (alternating current) standard. AC, of course, won the day. Edison gave up and eventually started his own AC company.


Edison "muckers" were charged with developing the technology behind what?

In the 1890s, Edison set about making better bricks -- those that were porous enough to allow the passage of gasses but that wouldn't absorb liquids. The men who sorted through the mucky, dirty options were "muckers."


After Edison married Mina and had three children with her, how did the couple live?

Edison had money to burn and Mina wanted to live in the country. They bought a 29-room home and lived like royalty.


Edison was a man of science. He did not believe in God.

He rejected fairy tale versions of God. But Edison steadfastly believed that there was a higher power of some sort.


Edison's father was a smart man. He paid his son to do what?

Samuel Edison knew that education was paramount to a good life. He paid Thomas a dime for every classic book he completed.


In 1878, Edison patented which invention?

It was 1878 when Edison's experiments with incandescent lighting paid off. He found a way to make carbonized filaments that provided many hours of light at low voltage.


In the late 1800s, Edison developed the Kinetograph, which was essentially what?

The Kinetograph was ultimately a type of movie camera, one that laced many still images into an illusion of motion. The accompanying viewing instrument was called the Kinetoscope.


By the end of his life, Edison was almost totally deaf. What did he say that he missed the most due to the condition?

Edison was enraptured by the singing of birds. He amassed a collection of thousands of singing birds, and he greatly enjoyed their songs.


In 1901, Edison formed a company that created which product?

1901 saw the formation of the Edison Storage Battery Company. Edison's advances in alkaline battery technology still reverberate today.


Edison's inventions literally changed the world. How did he die?

Thomas struggled with diabetes and complications from the disease killed him in 1931 at the age of 84. He was buried on his own property.


Finish this Edison quote. "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent WHAT?"

He was a believer in the power of hard work. He said, "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."'


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