The Making of America: Thomas Edison

We're surrounded by the fruits of his genius, from electric light to recorded sound, while the example of his "invention factory" at Menlo Park lives on in Silicon Valley. So who was this tireless man, and what are his lessons for us today?

W. K. L. Dickson / George Eastman House / Getty Images

The Electrifying Edison

Thomas Edison helped create the American way of innovation — but today the U.S. is in danger of losing its pre-eminence in science and technology More »

  • Electricity

    Edison perfected the incandescent bulb and devised a system of electrical current to serve homes and businesses. Then came the hard part More »

  • Phonograph

    The invention of the phonograph made Edison world-famous — but it took him years to understand what it did best More »

  • Movies

    He and his talented team didn't just invent machinery for the movies — they invented the magic More »

  • Photos: The World's First R & D Lab

    A small village in New Jersey was the setting for some of Edison's greatest inventions More »

  • To-Do List

    A peek inside the mind of one very busy man More »

  • How It Works

    Detailed diagrams of how a few of Edison's best inventions really worked More »

  • Web Exclusive

    The first convict to die in the electric chair gave Edison the chance to brand his rival Westinghouse as the man pushing a lethal current More »

  • To Our Readers

    In our annual history issue, we profile Thomas Edison, whose genius has shaped not only our lives but how we think about ourselves More »

  • Video: Incredible Talking Machine

    See (and hear) how the first phonograph recording earned Edison the nickname "The Wizard of Menlo Park" More »

  • Video: The AC/DC Battle

    Believing direct current to be superior to alternating current, Thomas Edison went to great lengths — even electrocuting elephants — to prove his point More »

  • Video: Movie (and Talkie!) Pioneer

    With films of Annie Oakley shooting, cats boxing and Frankenstein, Edison and his team were pioneers in early motion pictures More »

  • Video: The Electric Light

    When Thomas Edison sought to perfect the electric light, he had to create a complete electrical system to make it practical More »

  • Video: Edison's Menlo Park Lab

    Menlo Park, where Thomas Edison and his team perfected the light bulb and phonograph, was the world's first research and development lab More »

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