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He invented the light bulb, the phonograph, the moviecamera, and the nickel-iron-alkaline storage battery. He devised a system for producing synthetic carbolic acid and for wireless telegraph communication between moving trains and stations. By the time of his death, Thomas Alva Edison could lay claim to 1,093 successful U.S. patents. But perhaps his greatest invention was himself. Born to a Canadian innkeeper, Edison received his only formal education from his mother at the kitchen table. His first invention was a commercial flop, but by the time he was 35, he had become the nation’s most prominent celebrity inventor. Tragically, the pace of his work took a terrible toll on his private life. His first wife appears to have killed herself with a lethal dose of morphine; his second was desperately unhappy. And yet, in so many ways, Edison transformed daily life for millions of people and in the process turned himself into the most famous American in the world.
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