Thomas Edison (1847-1931) was probably the greatest inventor in American history.  Working in his lab at Menlo Park, New Jersey, “he developed included the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, electric light bulb, alkaline storage batteries and Kinetograph (a camera for motion pictures).”  Looking at his background, you might think him an unlikely candidate for such great entrepreneurial and inventive success.  He was born the last of seven children and a bout with scarlet fever in his childhood left him with hearing difficulties that would only worsen over his lifetime.  Moreover, as a child in school, he was hyperactive and considered a difficult student by his teachers, prompting his mother to remove him from school and homeschool the boy for a time.  During this period, though, Edison developed skill and motivation in self education, reading voraciously and teaching himself many skills and much about the world, science, etc.  At the age of 12, he began to sell newspapers at a rail station and eventually developed, printed, and sold his own newspaper with great success.  It was during this time that he began his lifelong love of experimentation, setting up a small lab in a train baggage car. 

He began traveling at the age of 15 as an itinerant telegrapher, later moving to Louisville, Kentucky, to work for the Associated Press.  He returned home in 1868, at the age of 21, to find that “his beloved mother was falling into mental illness and his father was out of work. The family was almost destitute. Edison realized he needed to take control of his future.” At the suggestion of a friend, Edison moved to Boston to work for the Western Union.  Boston at the time was a center of American culture and technology, which further stoked the fires of creativity in Edison.  It was there that he began his string of amazing inventions, although this first one, a vote-tabulating machine, was not well received by politicians.  In 1869, he moved to New York City and produced his first successful invention, an improved stock ticker machine that was well received and netted him $40,000 for the rights to the machine.   With this money, he quit his job as a telegrapher and devoted himself full-time to developing inventions, setting up his first fully functioning laboratory in Newark, New Jersey.  With his ever greater reputation as an inventor and his burgeoning financial success, “In 1876, he moved his expanding operations to Menlo Park, New Jersey, and built an independent industrial research facility incorporating machine shops and laboratories.”

Looking at his life, it would be easy to just say that he was another American success story, benefiting from the industrial and technological boom that our country was going through at the time.  But such an interpretation would miss the mark.  His early years were very challenging, with his own health problems, his hyperactivity, him being the last child in a very large family, and his own family’s financial issues.  But despite the early challenges, he continued to believe in himself and his dreams, and he continued to work hard at everything that he did.  Moreover, from his early years of home-schooling and self-education, he developed a life-long habit of learning, keeping a great hunger to always know more, to constantly seek out new information and new ways of doing things, ever willing to change and adapt.

Such stories should be an inspiration to all people of the great possibilities within each human being.  Within each person, God has placed tremendous capabilities to overcome challenges and to be successful in our own unique way.  I believe every human life has some potential to influence the world, some of us having a little more than the rest.  But the power of the human will is an amazing thing, when it is set on a goal.  Also, when you have confidence in your dreams and are willing to work hard, there are so many things that you can accomplish that you would never believe that you could.  Perhaps most importantly, though, if you have God on your side, you can do most anything.  Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I pray that you would be filled with His strength and courage to dare great things.

What do you consider to be your greatest triumph in life?  What obstacles did you have to overcome? 



07/06/2014 12:25pm

Thank you for your words of encouragement. I need them today. Greatest accomplishment is when I wanted to throw in the towel, but then God assures me that there is a work to be done still. Again, thank you.

11/10/2014 10:16am


11/10/2014 10:17am

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09/19/2015 4:53am

Thomas Edison was maybe the most productive inventor of his time and was perceived for his capacity to overcome adversity.

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02/14/2016 11:08am

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It was during this time that he began his lifelong love of experimentation, setting up a small lab in a train baggage car.

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The true adversity has Tesla, Edison just a thief!

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 


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