Edison: A Life of Invention
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The definitive biography of the century's godfather of invention-from the preeminent Edison scholar

"Israel's meticulous research and refusal to shy away from the dodgier aspects of Edison's personality offers a fresh glimpse into the life of the inventor."-New Scientist


"An authoritative look into Edison's working methods, here leavened by enough personal detail to give the achievements shape."-Publishers Weekly

"Highly recommended."

"Israel's book should go a long way toward taking Edison out of the shadows and placing him in the proper light."-Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Exhaustively researched, with strong emphasis on Edison's methods and achievements."-Kirkus Reviews

The conventional story of Thomas Edison reads more like myth than history: With only three months of formal education, a hardworking young man overcomes the odds and becomes one of the greatest inventors in history. But the portrait that emerges from Edison: A Life of Invention reveals a man of genius and astonishing foresight whose career was actually a product of his fast-changing era. In this peerless biography, Paul Israel exposes for the first time the man behind the inventions, expertly situating his subject within a thoroughly realized portrait of a burgeoning country on the brink of massive change. Informed by Israel's unprecedented access to workshop diaries, notebooks, letters, and more than five million pages of archives, this definitive biography brings fresh insights to a singularly influential and triumphant career in science.


PAUL ISREAL is the managing editor of the multivolume documentary edition of the Thomas Edison Papers at Rutgers University and the coauthor of Edison's Electric Light. He lives in Highland Park, New Jersey.


Childhood and Education.

Itinerant Telegrapher.

From Operator to Inventor.

A Leading Electromechanician.

Competing Interests.

From Shop to Laboratory.

New Directions.

The Invention Factory.

The Wizard of Menlo Park.

Inventing a System.

From Research to Development.

Inventing an Industry.

Family Matters.

A New Laboratory.

Inventing Entertainment.

Industrial Research.

Competition and Consolidation.

Innovation and Enthusiasm.

A Modern Legend.

Fame in the Family.

The Business of Innovation.

Edison Incorporated.






"Paul Israel, in this latest biography, has done a remarkable job. Not only has he given us fresh insights into a complex personality, but he has set this against the backdrop of a dramatically changing American society driven on remorselessly by the second Industrial Revolution in which Edison was a pivotal players." (Nature, 9th November 2000)