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Edison - A Biography Hardcover – 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 511 pages
  • Publisher: History Book Club; Later Printing edition (2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0965569934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965569934
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Bomojaz on April 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
Written 45 years ago, this biography is still the best we have on the great inventor. Josephson focuses as much on Edison's work as he does on the man, and the book can be somewhat technical at times. It is natural to compare it to Neil Baldwin's EDISON: INVENTING THE CENTURY, written in 1995, and Josephson's Edison is much more solid than Baldwin's. Baldwin sacrifices the inventions while dealing mainly with the man; Josephson is much more rounded and deals with all aspects of Edison's life. Highly recommended.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Leblang on June 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
I had been looking for something to get me past the grade school biographies that I remember reading about Edison -- this is the best biography of the inventor that I have read. Not only does it dispell many of the myths surrounding Edison (he didn't come up with the idea for the incandesent lamp; he was not made deaf by a conductor chastising him for a fire with his chemistry set), but it highlights his major work not in individual inventions, but in combining his inventions into systems ... that were both practical and profitable.
The book is very readable, and goes into just enough depth about his personal life (of which he had very little) and his public and professional lives. The only negative is that because it was written in the early 1950's, it is missing a perspective that could be added by 50 more years of luxuriating in the lifestyle which Edison has made possible.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
"It's still burning" was the phrase repeated as the light bulb stayed lit longer and longer. The same phrase was used by Edison's son to keep the death-vigil crowds informed as the great man lay dying, as relayed by this author. Unlike the Edison method of great volumes of empirical data patiently sifted down in huge experiments, the author deftly moves in and out of topics in a refreshingly constrained manner, which he really has to do to keep his book medium-length and still cover a lot.
The middle to the end of the book explores some very important themes, where there are irreconcilable problems with some of Edison's later inventions and the marketability of the resulting products. Like the ore-smashing enterprise in New Jersey, which worked, but not at a market profit. Same thing with the goldenrod-into-rubber operation in Florida.
These then become background for some surprisingly sensitive observations on Edison, made by his friends John Burroughs and Henry Ford. Ford is too sentimental to shut down the funding of the hopeless goldenrod operation; and Burroughs gently points out how Edison in his later years at least, contradicted his personal core-beliefs about sleeping and eating food (He sleeps till 10 am, "bolts half a pie," dumps tons of sugar in his coffee, then lectures on how Americans should eat less and sleep less).
The disconnect which also developed between Edison and his children is developed against the backdrop of Edison's inability to relate to the scale and demands of the electric power industry which he helped create. At his core, as the author shows, Edison's ability to do things was not necessarily transferable to others, including his children.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Biz Reader on April 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
This was an awesome book! Very well written and keeps you interested. I read it in a week and would recomend it to anyone. Matthew Josephson is an excellent writer who gives a wonderful account of Edison's life and his character.

The life story of Edison is just amazing. The challenges that he had to overcome where incredible. His persistance to keep trying and never give up is one of the many great lessons we can learn from his life that are in this book. Absolutly one of the best biographies I have read. His struggles over electricity and what brought him into partnership with JP Morgan are very interesting. The mistakes that he made are also detailed here so the reader can see the full scope of Edison's life. This book also covers the business aspects of Edison and all of his major inventions.

This book shows the great triumph that one can attain when believing that one can make their dreams a reality with some hard work and persistance.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on March 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
In the December 2006 Atlantic magazine, there was a list of the 100 most influential Americans in history. Nine of the top ten were political figures: Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, FDR, Hamilton, Franklin, John Marshall, Martin Luther King (not a politician, but involved with political movements) and Woodrow Wilson. The tenth person, ranked number nine on the list, was Thomas Edison. Reading Matthew Josephson's biography of Edison, you might feel that there is a good argument to raise him even higher. On the other hand, an argument could be made that he should drop a bit too.

In many ways, Edison personified the American dream. With little formal education, little money and a hearing impairment, he was able to become wealthy and one of the most admired people in the country (and throughout the world). He played a pivotal role in modernizing the United States through electronics.

Although it may seem a tautology, Edison proved that to be a good inventor, you need to be inventive. From an early age, he was constantly tinkering and developing new ways to do things. At first, his jobs with telegraph companies led him to create new methods to speed up his work. Eventually, he would move on to other things, most notably the phonograph, the motion picture and most importantly, the light bulb.

To some extent (and this is why some would drop him lower on the Influentials list), it is exaggeration to fully credit Edison with these inventions. Most of his work was done with people working under him. In addition, other people were also developing similar devices, so even if he had not been around, chances are we would still have had these devices in roughly the same era. (Contrast this with political figures who definitely alter the course of history; the U.S.
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