What did Thomas Edison invent?

Edison's phonograph machine on display.
Edison's phonograph machine on display.
Tricia Shay Photography/Workbook Stock/Getty Images

Today, young kids dream of becoming rock stars and movie celebrities. But before Thomas Alva Edison, people had no way of recording sound, much less capturing moving pictures. With 1,093 patents for inventions that range from light bulbs to cement, Edison was one of the world's most prolific tinkerers. Let's take a look at some of Edison's inventions that still inspire dreamers today:

  • The Phonograph (1877) -- Edison earned his nickname "The Wizard of Menlo Park" in November 1877 when he invented the world's first method of recording and playing back sound.
  • The Carbon Microphone (1877-78) -- Alexander Graham Bell may have invented the telephone, but it was Edison who invented a microphone that turned the telephone from a promising gadget into an indispensible machine with real, practical applications.
  • The Incandescent Light Bulb (1879) -- Without a doubt, the light bulb is Edison's most famous invention. Scientists and inventors had been racing against each other for years trying to invent artificial light. Edison cinched the win by creating an incandescent bulb with a carbon filament that could be practically reproduced.
  • The Brockton Breakthrough (1883) -- Once the world had light, it needed a way to power that light. In the tiny town of Brockton, Mass., Edison set out to construct one of the world's first three-wire electrical power plants as a way to show the world that electric power was safer and more efficient than gas power.
  • The Kinetoscope, Kinetograph and Kinetophone (1888-1890s) -- Edison and his assistant William Dickson first invented the Kinetoscope, a boxlike contraption that enabled a single viewer to watch a motion picture short through a peephole. Films were recorded with a motion picture camera called the Kinetograph -- later, the Kinetophone attempted to add sound to moving pictures.
  • Nickel-iron Batteries (1901) --Before steam- and gasoline-powered engines were popularized, some of the world's first automobiles were powered by batteries. Edison's nickel-iron batteries were an improvement, both in terms of ecological impact and charging time, over the more commonly used lead-acid batteries of the day.

These are just a few of Edison's more well-known inventions. Some of his other inventions include the cement used to construct Yankee Stadium and a way to preserve fresh fruit.

Find lots more information on famous inventors on the next page.

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  • "The Thomas Edison Papers." Rutgers.edu. Dec. 20, 2010. (Jan. 3, 2011)http://edison.rutgers.edu/index.htm
  • Stross, Randall. "Edison the Inventor, Edison the Showman." New York Times. March 11, 2007. (Jan. 3, 2011)http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/business/yourmoney/11edison.html?scp=12&sq=thomas%20edison&st=cseStross, Randall. "The Wizard of Menlo Park." Three Rivers Press. 2007.