Alva Edison held 1,093 patents for different
inventions. Many of them, like the lightbulb,
the phonograph, and the
picture camera, were brilliant creations that have a huge influence
on our everyday life. However, not everything he created was a success;
he also had a few failures.
Edison sits between two phonograph cabinets, one of which is made of concrete
One concept that never took off was
Edison's interest in using cement to build things. He formed the Edison
Portland Cement Co. in 1899, and made everything from cabinets (for phonographs)
to pianos and houses. Unfortunately, at the time, concrete was too expensive
and the idea was never accepted. Cement wasn't a total failure, though.
His company was hired to build Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
Alva Edison assistant W.K.L.
Dickson's attempt at a sound film circa 1895.
From the beginning of the creation
of motion pictures, many people tried to combine film and sound to make
"talking" motion pictures. Here you can see to the left an example of an
early film attempting to combine sound with pictures made by Edison's assistant,
W.K.L. Dickson. By 1895, Edison had created the Kinetophone--a
(peep-hole motion picture viewer) with a phonograph that played inside
the cabinet. Sound could be heard through two ear tubes while the viewer
watched the images. This creation never really took off, and by 1915 Edison
abandoned the idea of sound motion pictures.
Alva Edison sitting at the door of the ore-milling plant in New Jersey
The greatest failure of Thomas Edison's
career was his inability to create a practical way to mine iron ore. He
worked on mining methods through the late 1880s and early 1890s to supply
the Pennsylvania steel mills' demand for iron ore. In order to finance
this work, he sold all his stock in General Electric, but was never able
to create a separator that could extract iron from unusable, low-grade
ores. Eventually, Edison gave up on the idea, but by then he had lost all
the money he'd invested.
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