This Week's Story

Thomas Edison: extraordinary inventor of light bulbs, multiple messages on a telegraph, phonograph, and talking pictures!

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

One Per Cent Inspiration

“Young man, do not call me the Wizard of Menlo Park.  I do no magic.  I ask questions and experiment. Sometimes I find answers.”

“But sir, what you have accomplished is so phenomenal that people don’t understand how a human could do it.  Henry Ford thinks that the times in which you have lived should be called The Age of Edison. Your inventions have changed how millions of people live every day.

“Please Mr. Edison, before I submit my article to my editor I would like your reaction to what I have heard about you.

“You have my attention.”

“Thank you!  I understand that ‘asking’ is how you think. When you were six you wondered: What can fire burn?  What causes how fast a fire can burn? You experimented innocently. The process of discovery left your father’s barn burned to the ground.

“When you were eight, you attended school for three months of misery.  The principal thought you were mentally confused.  Your mother removed you from school and became your teacher, and you never returned to any school. Soon, you were reading about and doing

experiments with mechanics, electricity, magnetism, laws of motion, and chemistry.

“Today you are retiring. 1,093 of your inventions have been patented. You invented the first electric light bulb after thousands of tests and then demonstrated how spectacular and practical it is. You created the phonograph in 1877. No journalist could find the words to describe the awe people felt when they saw your phonograph work.  It captured and saved sounds, and played them later.  Then you connected the camera and a phonograph to make talking pictures, which led into movies.

“The world knows you are a genius.  I like your definition of genius as one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Would you share some personal details about yours?”

Edison laughed as he thought about his first night with his wife Mary.  “After the wedding service I went back to my workshop to try out an idea I had.  When I got home my scarcely-married wife was frantic with worry.  The next day I bought a ticket for her sister to join us on our honeymoon.  I hoped to reassure Mary.   Later she was not prepared for my eighteen hour work days or my sleeping in my workshops at night.

“When the English telegraph service could not send messages more than 40 miles, I went to England to demonstrate our equipment. There I couldn’t get messages to pass through underwater cable.  I decided the problem was what I was eating.  My imagination wasn’t working.  In the United States I existed on pie and coffee.  In England fish and roast beef replaced pie. Thankfully I found a French bakery shop and pastries.  My inspiration awoke.

“It didn’t solve the problem with the cable.  It led me to the quadruplex project. My team and I demonstrated sending multiple messages at a single time on telegraph lines over land.  Jay Gould, who was one of the richest men in the United States, bought the rights to the quadruplex.  That helped me pay my current bills, which were often a problem.

“Mr. Edison, how do you stretch your work time with naps.”

“I take one or two hour naps, rather than sleeping through a night. Naps at my lab are best.  I don’t take off my shoes or my clothes, because I don’t want to sleep too long.

“Young man, our time is up, but remember this: though I am an inventor, I cannot invent even the simplest form of life.

“This is Barbara Steiner with an amazing American inventor, who recognized a limitation. Please check out

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