A great folk hero in American history, Edison is viewed by the public as a facile inventor, the electrical wizard and the perfect symbol of the self-made and practical creator. But he was also a paradoxical figure: deaf, impoverished and with no formal education as a youngster, Edison nevertheless became a fertile and versatile inventor, accumulated fortunes for himself and others but remained indifferent to wealth except as a means towards more inventions.
Edison’s key contributions include the carbon microphone, the electric light bulb, electricity distribution systems, the phonograph and the motion-picture camera. Edison’s methods were also remarkable: halfway between the craftsman-tinkerer of the early 19th century and the scientist of today, he established and ran pioneering research laboratories with large staffs, yet lacked training in mathematics or the basic sciences.
Matthew Josephson’s Edison: A Biography won the Society of American Historians’ Francis Parkman Prize in 1960.
“This is an outstanding biography... [Josephson] establishes the developing relationship between finance and invention which constitutes the basis for Edison’s success... [He] has mastered the substance of Edison’s inventive activity and has written of it quite authoritatively and vividly.” — Thomas P. Hughes, Technology and Culture
“... It is clear that there is reason to welcome yet another book about a man of whom so much has been written. It must have been precisely because so much in the Edison record is myth, fostered by adulators and by Edison himself that Mr. Josephson turned his skillful, corrective hand to a saga that may have seemed more familiar than it actually is. From his well-presented, well-written findings emerges a giant without whom much of life as we live it would simply not exist. It is a first-rate job that needed doing.” — John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune
“A well-researched account of the life of one of America’s authentic folk heroes--Thomas Alva Edison--an original creator with a genius for strategic invention... Thoroughly absorbing, this significant volume is a competent contribution to the history of American science, and gives not only a sharply drawn picture of this self-educated giant of invention, but also of the beginnings of the telegraph, electrical, record, motion picture and automobile industries, as well as the sociological changes that were wrought by Edison’s practical discoveries.” — Kirkus Review
“A biography that is dignified, detailed, and objective, sprinkled with moments of humor, pathos, and drama... One of the chief virtues of this book is the care taken by the author to build up a realistic picture of Edison the man.” — F. Garvin Davenport, The American Historical Review