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Thomas Edison

also known as Thomas Alva Edison
(11 February 1847 – 18 October 1931)

Thomas Edison was an American inventor and industrialist, know for his innovations in communication technologies and electric light, his role in introducing electricity to the modern age, his instigation of the widespread use of organized mass research, and for his development of early films and film equipment seminal for the development of the medium of cinema. He is considered emblematic of the self-made American entrepreneur rising to great power from humble origins, but less flattering portrait paint him as a corrupt robber baron wielding inordinate and often dangerous influence over society and his workers.

Among Edison’s best known inventions are the first commercially-viable lightbulb, a phonograph able to reproduce sound in addition to just recording it, the first commercially-viable carbon microphone that allowed for proper voice telephony, and early cinematic equipment like the film-recording kinetograph and the peepshow film-viewing kinetoscope. Though his influence in the development and propagation of these devices is unquestionable, many of the devices credited to Edison had been done in large part by his staff or independently developed by other inventors in Edison’s time; his reputation as sole inventor is due in large part to both his own great personal fame as an innovator and head of a major company, the contemporary belief in American exceptionalism and the single exceptional individual driving change all by his lonesome, and Edison’s own proficiency in both obtaining patents and litigating his competitors.