From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history.
Edison was arguably the most famous man in the world when he died in 1931, so revered for his perfection of the incandescent light bulb that President Hoover proposed darkening the entire United States for one minute on the night of his funeral. For the rest of the twenieth century, Edison’s image—polished by his additional fame as the inventor of the phonograph, the Kinetoscope moving-picture camera, and the rechargable alkaline battery—solidified into marble, cold to the touch and impossible to penetrate. The man who once was jovial flesh, overwhelmingly charismatic despite the handicap of deafness, the lover of two wives and father of six children, the mogul who built up no fewer than 120 companies, the creator of the world’s first research and development park, is now little understood, even though his name is still one of the most cited in the history of science and technology.
Edmund Morris has spent seven years exploring the prodigious, five-million-page archive of papers preserved under a bombproof concrete shell at the inventor’s laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey—an archive supplemented by thousands of audio and film records and artifacts. In the process he has not only resurrected Edison, literarily speaking, as a human being, but as a polymath of staggering variety - Edison the botanist, the naval strategist, the iron miner, the chemist and telegrapher and audio producer and publisher. From age twelve onward, Edison was an open floodgate of what he modestly called “new things,” inventing the electric pen, the carbon telephone transmitter, the X-ray fluoroscope, the world’s first film studio, earbuds, “talkie” movies, voice-activated motors, audio mail, the miner’s safety lamp, a night telescope, tornado-proof houses, quadruplex telegraphy, and countless other innovations.
This extraordinary new biography is a full portrait of a towering figure in American history, written by one of our most accomplished and respected biographers.