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Thomas Edison's Inventions Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Crystal Ladwig
What would your life be like without light bulbs, TV, movies, or recorded music? I bet you're glad you don't have to find out! Thomas Edison is credited with creating the first versions of all of these things. Let's learn more about his inventions now.

Thomas Edison and His Inventions

Thomas Edison is widely known as one of the greatest inventors of all time. In fact, he was granted 1,093 patents (legal documents that protect inventions from being copied or sold without permission) by the U.S. government. Edison is quoted as saying, 'I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.' Edison invented many items that we still use today. But three of them stand out as his most famous: the phonograph, the light bulb, and the motion picture machine.

Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all time
Thomas Edison

Phonograph

Edison's first great invention was the phonograph, completed in 1877. A phonograph is a machine that is able to record and play back sounds. Today, that seems common, but in Edison's day, that was amazing! While recording, the phonograph used the vibrations of sound to make dents in tin foil on a drum. When the dented foil recording was moved under a special needle the phonograph was able to play back the same sounds that were recorded.

In later years, Edison improved his phonograph to make permanent recordings. The first recording was Edison saying, 'Mary had a little lamb.' Without Edison's phonograph, we might not have records, CDs, or MP3 players.

Edison and his phonograph
Edison and his phonograph

Light Bulb

Often considered to be Edison's most famous invention was his revolutionary light bulb, which he developed in 1878-1879. In fact, crowds flocked to his lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey, to see Edison's lights in action.

Light bulbs had already been invented before Edison made his, but the existing bulbs were expensive and unreliable. Edison and his team at Menlo Park experimented with different threads and fibers that could be heated to create light. Once he found the right material (bamboo) and made a few more adjustments, Edison had finally created a light bulb that could last much longer than any other and that was much more affordable.

After the success of the light bulb, Edison developed a power company in 1881 to send power to all of his light bulbs. The Edison General Electric Company combined with another company in 1892 and became General Electric (GE), a company that still exists today.

Edison at Menlo Park
Edison at Menlo Park

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