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Thomas Edison

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 09 December 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the innovations and influence of Thomas Edison, one of the architects of the modern age.

Edison is popularly remembered as the man who made cheap electric light possible. Born in 1847, he began his career working in the new industry of telegraphy, and while still in his early twenties made major improvements to the technology of the telegraph. Not long afterwards he invented a new type of microphone which was used in telephones for almost a century.

In the space of three productive years, Edison developed the phonograph and the first commercially viable light bulb and power distribution system. Many more inventions were to follow: he also played a part in the birth of cinema in the 1890s. When he died in 1931 he had patented no fewer than 1093 devices - the most prolific inventor in history. As the creator of the world's first industrial research laboratory he forever changed the way in which innovation took place.

With:

Simon Schaffer
Professor of the History of Science, University of Cambridge

Kathleen Burk
Professor of History, University College London

Iwan Morus
Reader in History, University of Aberystwyth

Producer: Thomas Morris.

  • FURTHER READING

    Randall E. Stross, 'The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World' (Three Rivers Press, 2008)

    Jill Jonnes, 'Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World' (Random House Trade, 2004)

    Mark Essig, 'Edison and the Electric Chair' (Walker and Company, 2005)

    Paul Israel, 'Edison: A Life of Invention' (John Wiley & Sons, 2000)

    A classic on the importance of electrical networks:
    Thomas Hughes, 'Networks of Power' (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993)

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