Education of Thomas Alva Edison: The Man Who Failed 1000 Times

Education of Thomas Alva Edison

With more than a thousand patents in his name, Thomas Alva Edison was the world’s most prolific inventor of the 20th century. His contributions to modern life are undeniably important, with inventions like the motion picture camera, phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, telephone transmitter, and several others, which are still an important part of our day-to-day life. If you are wondering about how he became the great inventor he was, let’s take a tour of the education of Thomas Alva Edison in this blog!

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Childhood and Early Education of Thomas Alva Edison

Education of Thomas Alva Edison

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.
The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio on 11th February 1847 to Samuel Ogden Edison Jr. and Nancy Elliot Edison. He was the last of seven children and was a sickly child. The Education of Thomas Alva Edison was not according to traditional norms. He attended a public school in Michigan in 1854 for not more than 12 weeks.

Being an easily distracted child, he received some criticisms from his teacher, leading to his mother pulling him off from school. Being an accomplished school teacher herself, Nancy Edison began homeschooling him, which made her one of the major influences in his early life.

Edison showed a thirst for knowledge from an early age, reading a wide range of books on different subjects. Being homeschooled, the absence of a defined curriculum led to him developing a knack for self-education and independent learning, something which would remain with him for all his life.

Credit: Success Secrets TV

Inclined towards being independent, he started selling newspapers to the passengers of the Grand Trunk Railroad line at the age of 12 and later published his own newspaper called the Grand Trunk Herald. He even set up his first laboratory to conduct chemical experiments in one of the baggage cars of a train. A fire resulting from one failed experiment led to him being thrown out by the conductor, which affected his already weak hearing ability negatively.

Edison suffered from partial hearing loss from early childhood, a result of childhood illnesses and some other accidents faced by him, and it deteriorated to almost deafness by adulthood. But instead of becoming a hindrance, this disability was to later play a pivotal role in his inventions.

Higher Education and Career


“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.” 

The higher education of Thomas Alva Edison did not include pursuing college or university, he was largely self-taught, or received education through training. He was taught how to operate a telegraph system by J.U. MacKenzie, station agent at Mt. Clemens, Michigan, as an act of gratefulness for the former saving the latter’s three-year-old son from a train accident. He later worked as a telegraph operator, while utilizing his spare time reading and experimenting with telegraph technology.

The development of sound-based signals put him in a disadvantaged position in comparison to others due to his hearing disability. But this became a crucial factor for his early inventions, which focussed on inventing devices by which his disability would not hinder his work. He quit working in telegraphy in 1869 and utilized his time in experimenting with new inventions.

Credit: Biography

The only formal education of Thomas Alva Edison involved the Cooper Union in New York. He enrolled for a chemistry course at the Cooper Union in 1872, when he realized his lack of knowledge in the subject for one of his inventions related to the telegraph.

One of his major innovations was the establishment of a research and development facility in 1876 in Menlo Park, New Jersey, which became popular as the Menlo Park Laboratory. This became a center from where he carried out many inventions and innovations. The first invention which earned him high acclaim was the Phonograph (1877). He also contributed much in the field of electric lighting, with the incandescent light bulb being one of his most important inventions.

Thus, it can be justly said that despite the unusual education of Thomas Alva Edison, he played a very critical role in ushering in the modern age of electricity in the world. Till his death, he had a total of 1093 patents in his name, the greatest number held by a person in the whole century!

His entrepreneurial ventures, which began with publishing his own newspaper, later extended to include 14 companies in his name. Thomas Alva Edison died on 18th Oct 1931, leaving behind a legacy of important inventions for the world. In his memory, a test tube allegedly containing his last breath is housed today in the Henry Ford Museum, USA.

Some Important Inventions by Thomas Alva Edison

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“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Thomas Alva Edison had numerous inventions in his name, in addition to various innovations. Below are some of his most famous inventions:

  • Automatic Telegraph
  • Incandescent Light Bulb
  • Carbon Telephone Transmitter
  • Phonograph
  • Motion Picture Camera
  • Alkaline Storage Battery

Some Life Lessons we can Learn from the Education of Thomas Alva Edison

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.”

Courtesy: ytexperts

Being a largely self-taught person, the career and education of Thomas Alva Edison teach us a few key lessons of life:

Your success depends on your efforts: Receiving no formal education did not stop him from becoming one of the greatest inventors of the century.

You have the power to turn your weakness into your greatest strength: He did not let his hearing disability come in the way of his work. Instead, he focused on inventions which wouldn’t let his disability affect his work.

Never be deterred by failure: Thomas Alva Edison met with a lot of failures during his invention attempts, but he never gave up.

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense.”

Hope this blog on the education of Thomas Alva Edison was an eyeopener towards the various opportunities that you can grasp only if you are willing to do so. For all education related queries, feel free to reach out to our experts at Leverage Edu.

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