There is always a surge of excitement at that moment. The lights dim, the curtain pulls back, the sound volume raises to movie quality, and then you see the picture flash on the wall; your movie is starting! What you might not have realized about this moment though, is that it is a flashy display of the technological advances made by one man, Thomas Edison.
When most people think of Edison, they think of the light bulb. This is by far his most well-known invention. But actually, he didn’t technically invent it. Several others had already come up with light bulb designs, they just had big flaws like not lasting more than a few minutes or drawing too much power. What Edison did is invent the first practical light bulb.
He didn’t exactly use the scientific method to invent the light bulb. Instead, it was more like a “try every possible combination that I can think of” technique. He just kept trying different materials over and over and over until he found one that worked well. Although I think its fair to say that a lot of modern scientists feel like this is how real science gets done too.
Another one of his amazing innovations that you might not have been aware of was the first phonograph. This amazing device could record sounds and then play them back to you.Today hearing words and music come pouring out of a speaker is so commonplace that we forget how amazing it really is. When Edison unveiled this technology to the public they were shocked that such a device was even possible. It was shortly after this invention that people began calling Edison “the Wizard of Menlo Park”. Menlo Park was the town in New Jersey in which Edison worked. Here is a picture of Edison with one of his early phonographs.
The really cool thing about him inventing the phonograph is that now we can listen to his voice. Here he is reciting a short poem you might recognize in 1877.
Edison also invented the first motion picture camera. He used to film things and then demonstrate the early films to the public in New York City. He later improved this experience by also using his phonograph to record the sounds while he was filming, and then playing both the recorded video and audio to his audience. The movie had been invented!
So when you sit in that theatre you are quite literally surrounded by Thomas Edison’s inventions and contributions. The lights on the walls, the sound from the speakers, the film being projected onto the screen, the electricity system powering the entire theatre, all of these were invented or improved by Thomas Edison. It is no wonder that even a century later his name is commonly known.