Young Thomas Edison by Sterling North

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Young Thomas Edison Analysis

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

North’s biography of Edison is a substantial tribute to a great scientist and inventor whose creations played tremendous roles in the development of twentieth century technology. North cites an estimate from The New York Times during the early 1920’s that Edison’s thousands of inventions had contributed more than fifteen billion dollars to the United States’ economy. During his work on any particular invention, Edison performed thousands of experiments to verify and improve his creation. The device had to be efficient and be of use to the public or industry. He worked continuously, obtained very little sleep, and was meticulous in his testing of devices and inventions. As such, North’s account is a clear enunciation of the fruits of diligent work and creative thinking.

At the same time, North reiterates Edison’s repeated squandering of amassed fortunes. Edison would make huge profits from certain inventions and then spend all the money on chemicals and expensive experiments to design new inventions. His numerous friends and financiers usually were patient with him, however, knowing that he would eventually come through with some new, triumphant invention. Eventually, Edison did become more cautious with his financial resources.

Edison is portrayed as a humanitarian and seeker of knowledge. North straightforwardly challenges the reader to view Edison as “one of the great men of all time.” North drives this point home with detailed descriptions of Edison’s work, his kindness toward colleagues, and his generosity of spirit, all of which are illustrated in selected quotations from Edison and in personal recollections by Edison, his colleagues, and his family. He hired gifted but uneducated workers, forgave personal insults from competitors and critics, and voluntarily offered his entire fortune to his financially stressed parents and other family members. North’s book is a glowing tribute to a scientific and humanitarian giant.

North details Edison’s creative thinking during the development of several inventions, including the phonograph, telephone, radio, and, especially, the electric light bulb. The importance of understanding how things work as well as the ways that the connection of seemingly unrelated ideas can contribute to great discoveries permeate the book.

The book should be an attraction to young audiences, because it illustrates the importance of creativity in...

(The entire section is 573 words.)