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The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World Paperback – March 25, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In this entertaining biography, Stross (eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work) approaches the life of Edison from an atypical angle: where scores of other biographers have focused on the genius's technical career, Stross presents Edison as the first self-conscious celebrity, a man deeply aware of the media's power and who wasn't afraid to use "the press's hunger for more sensational discoveries for his own ends." Though branding is now second-nature for famous people (and their handlers), Stross asserts that Edison launched the first successful branding campaign-an achievement arguably further ahead of its time than much of his technical output-by embracing the title "Wizard of Menlo Park," which was coined by a reporter during Edison's brief stay in that New Jersey town. With preternatural skill in image-management, Edison became indistinguishable from his moniker, encapsulating perfectly the air of mystery and wisdom he cultivated throughout his life, for both himself and his "invention factory," which "seemed capable of mastering anything." Stross's clear-eyed biography will show readers why, even at the end of the 20th century, Edison remains, outside the U.S., the best-known American ever.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Biographies abound of inventor Thomas Edison, so Stross distinctively positions his book under the theme of Edison's celebrity. The publicity apparatus of Edison's day, quaint compared with today's multimedia conduits to the public and its tabloid appetites, still served to elevate Edison into the realm of the famous. Stross, who frequently writes about contemporary techno-idols (Steve Jobs and the Next Big Thing, 1993), recounts the onset of Edison's celebrity with several articles published in 1877-78 about his phonograph. Soon trainloads of curiosity seekers, from hustlers to those already famous, such as actress Sarah Bernhardt, descended on Edison's laboratory to gawk at the inventor. With this loss of privacy, Edison learned the difficulty of controlling one's fame. As Stross' narrative explains, Edison attempted to exploit his name to attract attention to his business projects and succumbed to other temptations, such as pontificating on subjects outside his expertise--executions by electrocution, for example. Stross' Edison, capitalizing on his prominence but coping with the importunities of the multitude, becomes a human-scaled character grasping the honeyed thorns of fame. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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1.) Thomas Edison's various achievements as an inventor.
2.) How Edison's inventions led to an ostensible raise in the standard of living in the United States and eventually Europe.
3.) How Edison became and lived as a celebrity because of his achievements.
If you like reading about heroic producers of the industrial revolution, then I highly recommend adding this book to your reading list.
Even the anecdotes about Thomas Edison's (initial) failures are fun to read. For example, I particularly liked the story of how J.P. Morgan volunteered to have his study be one of the first rooms to be wired with electricity. Eager to bask in his latest highly anticipated investment, Morgan turned on the incandescent light next to his desk to do a little evening reading. Unfortunately for him, as he began to read, his study caught fire, eventually leading to his house suffering substantial damage.
Did J.P. Morgan divest himself of Thomas Edison? Absolutely not! He merely invited Thomas Edison over to witness the charred remains of his study and firmly inquired if he could install the wiring correctly the second time. Such was the earned reputation of Thomas Edison. J.P. Morgan knew he was investing in something big. Also, this story also revealed a great deal about his character. Instead of dwelling on his serious mistake, Thomas Edison focused on how he could rectify the situation and improve his invention. But I digress.
A great read!
Coming out of reading this book I really appreciate Edison, and realize that he should have stuck to inventing and left the leadership and management of his companies to people who were good and leadership and management. Classic micromanager who was not good at leading and managing. But, one heck of an inventor.
Definitely worth a read!