Author Topic: Thomas Edison’s greatest idea “wasn’t something anybody could patent or touch”  (Read 10342 times)

Joe Carillo

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You’ll never believe that Thomas Edison, who became world-famous for his inventive mind and natural talent for earning money, had made this self-deprecatory statement: “I never had an idea in my life... I’ve got no imagination. I never dream. My so-called inventions already existed in the environment—I took them out. I’ve created nothing. Nobody does. There’s no such thing as an idea being brain-born. Everything comes from the outside. The industrious one coaxes it from the environment.”

                IMAGE CREDIT: ILLUSTRATION: ARSH RAZIUDDIN; LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / GETTY
 
In a review in The Atlantic Magazine of Edmund Morris’s new Edison biography, Derek Thompson says the “baroquely detailed portrait” presents an Edison as a workaholic whose final résumé boasted 1,093 patents and countless inventions—including the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, the alkaline battery, the X-ray fluoroscope, and the carbon-button microphone—but whose “most important idea wasn’t something anybody could patent or touch.”

Read “Thomas Edison’s Greatest Invention” in the November 2019 issue of The Atlantic Magazine now!
 
Check out this related 2014 reading in the Forum, “Challenging the dogma that our IQ sets a limit on what we can achieve”, and this 2010 reading, “How genius is within everyone’s reach—but even wisdom, too?”