The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World

The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World

by Randall E. Stross

At the height of his fame Thomas Alva Edison was hailed as the Napoleon of invention and blazed in the public imagination as a virtual demigod.

Starting with the first public demonstrations of the phonograph in 1878 and extending through the development of incandescent light, a power generation and distribution system to sustain it, and the first motion picture camerasall achievements more astonishing in their time than we can easily grasp todayEdisons name became emblematic of all the wonder and promise of the emerging age of technological marvels.But as Randall Stross makes clear in this critical biography of the man who is arguably the most globally famous of all Americans, Thomas Edisons greatest invention may have been his own celebrity.

Edison was certainly a technical genius, but Stross excavates the man from layers of myth-making and separates his true achievements from his almost equally colossal failures.

The Wizard of Menlo Park reveals not only how Edison worked, but how he managed his own fame, becoming the first great celebrity of the modern age.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Biography
  • Rating: 3.56
  • Pages: 384
  • Publish Date: March 13th 2007 by Crown
  • Isbn10: 1400047625
  • Isbn13: 9781400047628

Read the Book "The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World" Online

It has been many years since I have read about Thomas Alva Edison. I do not think Stross was being negative about Edison and his inventions but was trying to reveal another aspect of the man. This should not be the first biography of Edison one should read; but if the reader is well versed about Edison this book will provide another aspect of the man.

If you want a really compelling book which covers some of the same territory (although not the invention of the phonograph or motion picture) I strongly recomment Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World by Jill Jonnes.

Henry Ford called Edison "the world's greatest inventor and the world's worst businessman." That could have been said of Jobs as well, at least until Jobs' second act as the inventor of the iPod. Both of them were masters of manipulating the press, and both were victims of buying too much into their own press. Both of them were bested in business by a competitor who made up in business sense what he lacked in originality (George Westinghouse for Edison, Bill Gates for Jobs). The biggest difference is that Jobs did indeed have a second act when he realized how his technology could revolutionize personal entertainment.

I selected this book back at the start of last year when compiling my reading list for the year. The main motivation was to learn more about the man who founded GE since I worked for GE at that time. It was a marvelous read, although it felt a little jilted at times. Stross decided to proceed more or less chronologically, but his treatment focuses on specific aspects of Edison's life, such as his technical marvels or his relationships with people. Overall, the book is great read and well worth the time for anyone with even a casual interest in learning more about Edison's life. Yet his style is engaging and welcoming, making the read overall enjoyable.

There were indicators of a truly sociopathic, maybe psychotic, personality, but the book failed on that account. I'm still interested in learning about Thomas Edison, because I didn't get a satisfying reading experience.

66 Well I worked 122 hours in six days last week, hence I must feel fine - and do. His recorded hours would have been longer had he been able to log in properly on the first day, as he had been working all night and left the building at 8:15 AM.

Though Stross is a technology writer, this book focuses not so much on Edison's career as an inventor but on his celebrity and the effort "The Wizard of Menlo Park" put into managing his image; if we believe Stross, Edison spent more time maintaining his persona than he spent inventing, a problem that led to a wealth of failed or incomplete creations.

The author also implies that Edison got way too much credit for his inventions and didn't give credit to the engineers who worked for him.

It seems as though the author wanted to make sure the reader was well informed of all Edison's faults and failures and paint a clear picture about why many of his accolades we're undeserved.