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Edison's Electric Light

, 248 pages

20 halftones

June 2010



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Edison's Electric Light

The Art of Invention

Chapter Notes & Essay on Sources

In September 1878, Thomas Alva Edison brashly—and prematurely—proclaimed his breakthrough invention of a workable electric light. That announcement was followed by many months of intense experimentation that led to the successful completion of his Pearl Street station four years later. Edison was not alone—nor was he first—in developing an incandescent light bulb, but his was the most successful of all competing inventions. Drawing from the documents in the Edison archives, Robert Friedel and Paul Israel explain how this came to be. They explore the process of invention through the Menlo Park notes, discussing the full range of experiments, including the testing of a host of materials, the development of such crucial tools as the world's best vacuum pump, and the construction of the first large-scale electrical generators and power distribution systems. The result is a fascinating story of excitement, risk, and competition.

Revised and updated from the original 1986 edition, this definitive study of the most famous invention of America's most famous inventor is completely keyed to the printed and electronic versions of the Edison Papers, inviting the reader to explore further the remarkable original sources.

Robert Friedel is a professor of history of technology and science at the University of Maryland, College Park. His most recent book is A Culture of Improvement: Technology and the Western Millennium. Paul Israel is the director and general editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He is the author of Edison: A Life of Invention and the coeditor of the multivolume The Papers of Thomas A. Edison, also published by Johns Hopkins.

"Quite readable... Friedel and Israel provide a good description of the process of inventing a functional, marketable incandescent light bulb as well as an electric power grid."

"Any library strong in scientific inventions and the process of theories and exploration will find this a winning survey."

"I highly recommend Edison's Electric Light."