Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Thomas Edison and his Organized Research Lab in Menlo Park...1876-1883 The greatest period of research in the history of man!

Today when we look at our world and see the many useful and wonderful devices that we have at our command. It should be met perhaps with wonder, for it was not so long ago that nearly everything we take for granted today was developed.
Let's go back 130 years ago and look at our lives. What was there to do? Well you would work, and for leisure you could read at night by candle or oil lamp. If you used an oil lamp you had to be very careful not to knock it over, as if you did the odds were good it would burn down your entire house.
Cooking was by wood, or coal burning stoves, or by fireplaces. Communication was possible through the telegraph, but that was expensive.

In 1876 something amazing happened, for the first time in history a man by the name of Thomas Edison created an "Organized Research Laboratory" in Menlo Park (what is now called Edison, NJ).
For those of you who do not know what organized research is...I will put it simply...Instead of one researcher you have teams of researchers under one roof and all under one name. In this case it was Thomas Edison. I have often referred to Edison's development this way..."The brilliance of Edison was that he was brilliant enough to realize he wasn't brilliant enough...and that is brilliant"!
Edison said of his Laboratory, which he referred to as an "invention factory"... "We plan to come up with a minor thing every week and a big thing every few months or so"....Did they ever!!!!!

In this lab was a team of talented people from all over the world working on Edison's ideas and innovations. These ideas would change the world. In fact they all knew they were changing the world...of course none was more aware of that than Edison himself. He was the master showman and promoter. He would make sure the press knew all about everything he worked on.

Working with Edison in those early years were 20-50 men. Mostly all very young and full of hope for the future. A few of them were Charles Batchelor, John Kruisi, John Ott, Francis Upton, Francis Jehl, Charles Clark, and many others.

It was in Menlo Park that the TELEPHONE MOUTHPIECE was developed, the word HELLO created, the PHONOGRAPH and RECORDED SOUND was invented, the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM was developed, the INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULB was developed and made practical, the first ELECTRIC TRAIN in America was developed, the MIMEOGRAPH, the EDISON EFFECT BULB the first development in the field of electronics, even the first wireless transmission of tones over 580 feet..20 years before Marconi!

It is interesting to think that in that horse and buggy age they were working on things that would have an effect on the space age.
In the 7 years that the Menlo Park lab was used, nearly 400 patents were received by Edison and his staff. There is nothing like that in history....It was the golden age of inventing and Edison himself was perhaps what we would call the last of the heroic inventors.

I would also put it in another way, that Edison dealt with invention much like an artist deals with a canvas. He was unique and well aware of it. He became known as the "Wizard of Menlo Park".....From his fertile mind came great innovations and developments.

His life was also full of years, he lived to see the age of 84 and also saw much of what he started become commonplace.
We owe a lot to that man who changed the world as we know it....That genius, inventor, innovator, promoter, businessman, industrialist, showman, scientist, all wrapped into one....Mankind's benefactor.....Thomas Alva Edison.

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