Edison: His Life and Inventions HTML version

Edison's Method In Inventing
WHILE the world's progress depends largely upon their ingenuity, inventors are not
usually persons who have adopted invention as a distinct profession, but, generally
speaking, are otherwise engaged in various walks of life. By reason of more or less
inherent native genius they either make improvements along lines of present occupation,
or else evolve new methods and means of accomplishing results in fields for which they
may have personal predilections.
Now and then, however, there arises a man so greatly endowed with natural powers and
originality that the creative faculty within him is too strong to endure the humdrum
routine of affairs, and manifests itself in a life devoted entirely to the evolution of
methods and devices calculated to further the world's welfare. In other words, he
becomes an inventor by profession. Such a man is Edison. Notwithstanding the fact that
nearly forty years ago (not a great while after he had emerged from the ranks of
peripatetic telegraph operators) he was the owner of a large and profitable business as a
manufacturer of the telegraphic apparatus invented by him, the call of his nature was too
strong to allow of profits being laid away in the bank to accumulate. As he himself has
said, he has "too sanguine a temperament to allow money to stay in solitary
confinement." Hence, all superfluous cash was devoted to experimentation. In the course
of years he grew more and more impatient of the shackles that bound him to business
routine, and, realizing the powers within him, he drew away gradually from purely
manufacturing occupations, determining deliberately to devote his life to inventive work,
and to depend upon its results as a means of subsistence.
All persons who make inventions will necessarily be more or less original in character,
but to the man who chooses to become an inventor by profession must be conceded a
mind more than ordinarily replete with virility and originality. That these qualities in
Edison are superabundant is well known to all who have worked with him, and, indeed,
are apparent to every one from his multiplied achievements within the period of one
If one were allowed only two words with which to describe Edison, it is doubtful whether
a close examination of the entire dictionary would disclose any others more suitable than
"experimenter--inventor." These would express the overruling characteristics of his
eventful career. It is as an "inventor" that he sets himself down in the membership list of
the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. To attempt the strict placing of these
words in relation to each other (except alphabetically) would be equal to an endeavor to
solve the old problem as to which came first, the egg or the chicken; for although all his
inventions have been evolved through experiment, many of his notable experiments have
called forth the exercise of highly inventive faculties in their very inception. Investigation
and experiment have been a consuming passion, an impelling force from within, as it
were, from his petticoat days when he collected goose-eggs and tried to hatch them out
by sitting over them himself. One might be inclined to dismiss this trivial incident
smilingly, as a mere childish, thoughtless prank, had not subsequent development as a
child, boy, and man revealed a born investigator with original reasoning powers that,