Invention at Play





Inventors’ Stories
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Thomas Edison, Prolific Inventor and “Invention Factory” Founder
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Painting of Edison's Menlo Park lab complex in winter


Painting of Edison's Menlo Park lab complex in winter



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Interior of Edison’s Menlo Park lab, with the staff assembled
Interior of Edison’s Menlo Park lab, with the staff assembled


Edison’s staff on the experimental train
Edison’s staff on the experimental train









Did “The Wizard” Do It All on His Own?

A talented team of scientists, machinists, carpenters, glass workers, and others assisted Edison day and night. Edison came up with ideas, making notes and drawing sketches in lab notebooks, and worked with his staff to turn them into practical devices. They conducted experiments and solved problems, and Edison was open to suggestions and ideas about new experiments and inventions.

At the Menlo Park lab, Edison and his staff played as hard as they worked.

For relaxation, Edison occasionally played an organ located against the back wall of the lab, especially when the men stopped for a midnight meal after long evenings of work. There were rowdy sing-alongs, storytelling, and practical jokes and pranks. Edison also organized fishing trips, sometimes using the lab’s experimental electric train for transportation to a local fishing hole.

“Laboratory life with Edison was a strenuous but joyous life for all, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We worked long hours during the week, frequently to the limit of human endurance; and then we had time off from Saturday to late Sunday afternoon for rest and recreation.”
--Charles Clarke, Edison employee

Since the village of Menlo Park was small, Edison and his staff worked and lived near each other. Many of the single men lived in a boardinghouse about 50 yards from the entrance to the lab compound.

Edison’s enthusiasm, energy, and strong work ethic were infectious. The staff worked 60 to 80 hours a week, often through the night, especially when a project was on the verge of success.

Next: Jerry Hirshberg, Founder of Nissan Design International ›





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