Thomas Alva Edison (1847 - 1931)

When we talk of education, it is almost always meant “going to school”. But education is much more than that. Thomas Edison went to school for only three months, but he educated himself for all the 84 years of his life. Tom learned to read quickly, and reading gave him both information and inspiration. Even as a small boy, Thomas Edison had always asked questions about how things worked and why things were the way they were.
He read books on literature, history, maths and science, and it was one of these books that helped him shape his early life. A science book by R. C. Parker showed him how experiments should be done. Tom set up a laboratory in the basement of the family home where each of the experiments discussed in the book was carefully conducted by him. Reading and experimenting were two of the habits which helped make him famous. The other habits were perseverance and hard work.
Tom started earning money when he was ten or eleven years old. Before the age of 14 he had to sell magazines and newspapers to the passengers on the train which traveled between his hometown and Detroit. His experiments were not interrupted because the baggage master let him set up a small laboratory in one of the corners of the baggage car where he could experiment with his chemicals, batteries, wires and home-made gadgets.
When Edison was 17 he produced his first practical invention, a repeating telegraph. Still in his twenties, he earned over $40,000 for some of his early patent rights and with that money opened his first laboratory and workshop where inventing became his business. There he produced the phonograph and the light bulb, improved electrical and telephone equipment, invented motion picture camera and projector.
Thomas A. Edison lived to be 84 years old. In his lifetime over a thousand inventions were produced. He had only three months of formal schooling but he knew that education was a life-long process and he read almost everything he could find. He believed in himself and he worked long and hard at his many jobs. He failed many times but even failure was a part of his education. Because he read and worked and experimented, and never let himself become discouraged, he changed our world and our lives forever.

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