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Thomas Alva Edison (1847 - 1931) was the most prolific inventor in American history. He has filed 1093 patents in various fields, from light to telecommunications, sound, movies, batteries, etc.
His role as inventor was evident both at his Menio Park and West Orange laboratories in New Jersey, as well as at over 300 companies set up around the world, many bearing his name, to manufacture and market their inventions.
He was born in 1847 in Lilan, Ohio, being the youngest of seven children. The mother was a teacher and the father, a Canadian, was an exiled politician. He began working in 1859 selling newspapers and magazines. By 1962 he knew enough of telegraphy to get a job as an operator at a local company.
By 1868 he was already an independent inventor in Boston. The following year he headed to New York where he produced inventive work for telegraph companies. He crossed the Hudson to settle in Newark (today a city of strong Portuguese presence) where he created several companies. He already belonged to the restricted ranking of great inventors when he created the quadruplex telegraph that sent two simultaneous messages in each direction.
In 1875 the observation of telegraph instruments brought him into a public scientific controversy around what would later be understood as radio waves. Pressed by Western Union to develop a phone that could compete with Graham Bell's, he invented a transmitter in which a compressed carbon button shifted resistance while being vibrated by the sound of the user's voice, a new principle used in phones of the next century. While working on this phone he discovered a method of recording sounds.
Finally, from the end of 1878 he spent 30 months developing a complete system of incandescent electric light.
He died on October 18, 1931.