October 26, 1977
It is almost a century since Thomas Alva Edison, the world’s greatest inventor, decided to give the world electric light. Since then his methods of working, his letters, and his personal papers, have been scrutinized in great detail. The story that they tell has been seen in strangely different lights. To some, Edison was not only the most famous American of his time but quite above criticism. To others, he was the man who consorted with “the robber barons” and helped rebuild America in the decades that followed the Civil War. He was also seen as a developer of other men’s ideas as much as an inventor. Only today is it possible to present him clearly against the background of his times and to assess fairly what is achievements really were.
In Edison: The Man Who Made the Future, Ronald W. Clark describes Edison’s early untutored upbringing, his first inventions, and his struggles in the industrial jungle which grew up in the aftermath of the Civil War. His great achievement in perfecting the world’s first system of incandescent lighting and his success in building the first phonograph are graphically described, as are his vital early contributions to what became the motion picture industry. His work for the U.S. Navy during the First World War and his efforts to make his country self-sufficient in rubber are only two among the many other episodes in the life of this archetypal American of the era: thrusting, enquiring, and determined to leave his mark on history.
Ronald Clark is the author of Edison: The Life and Times, described in the American Journal of Physics as a “masterly biography” and by the New Scientist as “a splendid book that will surely rank as one of the most notable biographies of modern times.” The author of bestselling biographies of Bertrand Russell, the Huxleys and J. B. S. Haldane, he comes from London, England, and worked for some years as a war correspondent and foreign correspondent. He has traveled extensively in Europe and North America. As an author he has specialized in scientific biography, and in describing the impact of science on contemporary life in war and peace.