Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931) is considered one of the greatest inventors in history because of his numerous contributions to modern technology. A scientific genius who received only three months of formal schooling, Edison registered more than 1,300 patents (exclusive rights to make, use, or sell) for new inventions during his lifetime. Among his most notable inventions are the microphone (1877), also known as a micro-carbon transmitter; the phonograph (1878); the electric lamp and light bulb (1879); and the motion picture machine known as the kinetoscope (1891). Edison also developed the first full-fledged electrical power plant (1881–82), the Pearl Street Plant in New York City. He was the first to observe that electrons (elementary particles consisting of a negative charge of electricity) are emitted from a heated cathode (the conductor in an electron tube), which was then dubbed the "Edison Effect."
Edison was an exceptional inventor because he pooled resources with other scientists rather than working exclusively alone. While he was still quite young, he established two laboratories in New Jersey known as Menlo Park (1876) and West Orange (1887), which employed about fifty consulting engineers. These invention factories resulted in some of Edison's most productive work and served as significant forerunners of the modern industrial research laboratory.
Further Information: Cousins, Margaret. The Story of Thomas Alva Edison. Vol. 8. New York: Random House, 1997; Thomas Edison. [Online] Available [online] http://www.8oP.com/edison, November 8, 2000; "Thomas Alva Edison." MSN Encarta. [Online] Available http://encarta.msn.com/index/conciseindex/2F/02F5C000.htm, November 8, 2000.