Thomas Alva Edison and His Amazing Mother


Thomas Alva Edison, born in Milan, Ohio on Feb.11 1847, was perhaps one of the greatest inventors of his time. For almost six decades, he held the record in his name, for having highest number of patents for various inventions which included the mechanical vote recorder, sound recorder, motion picture, car battery, and countless other inventions. His most imperative invention, which reformed the world forever was the light bulb. He obtained all these accomplishments with deafness, but he never let his weakness become a cause for his failure.

His childhood was not that ideal; because of his deafness, he had to face many privations. Edison understood words said only in a flashy tune, so, whenever people wanted to talk to Edison, they had to use a flashy voice. The only friend Edison had in his childhood was his mother (Nancy Mathews Elliott) and he has mentioned this many times in his diary.  Also in his diary, he mentioned that his mother always defended him from the vicious society and never let anyone make fun of him for his deafness.


Once as a child Edison came back from school with a letter in his hand. He handed it to his mother saying that, “My teacher told me to give this letter to you.” She started reading the letter out loud to Edison, while tears were coming from her eyes: “Your son is a genius,” she said in a loud voice. “This school is small for him and doesn’t have good teachers to teach him. You can teach him yourself at home.” After many years, when Edison’s mother died, and he was now one of the greatest inventor of the century, one day he was looking through old family belongings. He saw a folded paper on which was written: “Your son is addled. We won’t let him come to school anymore.” After reading the letter he cried for hours and wrote the most famous quote in his diary: “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”



Thomas Edison revealed in his diary that, he went to school for only three months. After he was expelled from the school, his mother started teaching him at home. His mother made a small lab in the basement of their house for him, where Edison performed many experiments and learned many new things by himself. These are some of the reasons why people refer him as a self-taught man whenever they talk about his education. He started his career by selling candy and newspapers. His first professional job was for a telegraph operator. He got this job after he saved 3-year-old Jammie Mackenzie from being struck by a runaway train. Jammie’s father, station agent J.U Mackenzie of Mount Clemens, Michigan, was so grateful to Edison that he trained him as a telegraph operator and got him a job. Sadly, Edison was fired from his first job after 2 months. Edison loved working night-shifts because he believed that by working at night, he could do experiments without anyone knowing. One night, Edison was working on a lead battery when he spilled sulfuric acid on the floor. It ran between the floorboards and onto his boss’s desk below, and the next morning he was fired. After this he started his own business by getting a patent for his newly invented phonograph and selling it to potential buyers. Within a few years of starting his own business, Edison became the sixth richest man in the United States.

Edison always looked at his failure’s as a lesson that he could have never learned through a book or any other means. Once while giving an interview to a newspaper journalist, Edison said, “I have never failed in life. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” In the book titled “A Steak of Luck,” author Robert E. Conot with the help of Thomas Edison son Theodore Miller Edison revealed many secrets of his father’s life. Robert revealed, Thomas Edison’s thoughts about the so-called Examination system in schools around the world.  Theodore Edison said that his father once told him that, in three short months of school time, the only thing everyone feared but he did not was, “the fear of failing exams,” because he knew that, “A single piece of paper could never decide his fate”. From the book A Steak of Luck came Thomas Edison’s most ubiquitous quote on internet: “Tomorrow is my exam but I haven’t studied anything because I know a single piece of paper can never decide my fate.



 Most of these contents in this article are taken from Thomas Edison’s diary and the book titled “A steak of luck” written by Robert E. Conot . The story about Thomas Edison and his mother mentioned in this article does not come from any reliable source or book. However, the quote (Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century) comes from Edison’s diary. Different stories speculate all around the internet revolving this quote but perhaps the most convincing story behind this quote suggested by many authors and journalist is the one mentioned in this article. The author of this article is writing only those incidents, that are mentioned in the book “A steak of luck” written with the backing of Edison’s elder son.


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