Radio talk icon Rush Limbaugh loves to brag that he is "on the cutting edge of societal evolution". Most historians would agree that in the years between the conclusion of the American Civil War and the 1920's that mantra clearly belonged to one Thomas Alva Edison. Edison was the best known and most prolific of a new class of inventors and engineers who ushered in a new technological order during this period. Author Leonard DeGraaf recalls the life and accomplishments of this truly remarkable American in his colorful, informative and highly-entertaining new biography "Edison and the Rise of Innovation". By the time you finish this book you will feel as though you were intimately acquainted with this man.
During his long and storied career Thomas Edison would change the way new technologies were developed. Prior to Edison the introduction of new inventions was for the most part a rather haphazard process. Inventors and mechanics would tinker with new products and processes and would require hard-to-find financial backing to market their ideas. Thomas Edison changed the way technologies were developed. He was among the first to embrace the multi-disciplinary approach. Much of what we now refer to as "research and development" flows from the ideas of Thomas Edison. Edison demonstrated to potential investors that invention could be organized and managed to achieve the marketing goals of corporations. Throughout the pages of "Edison and the Rise of Innovation" you will discover that Edison dabbled with a rather large and diverse number of technologies at his labs in Menlo Park and later on in West Orange, New Jersey. Over the years Edison and his team developed the electric pen (forerunner of the mimeograph machine), the phonograph, and of course the incandescent light bulb. I was surprised to learn that Edison was also a major player in the creation of the Portland cement industry in this country. In fact, The Edison Portland Cement Co. built the largest cement factory in the world in New Village, NJ. Edison firmly believed that cement houses would one day be all the rage. Of course, history would prove him wrong. For a prolific inventor like Edison such failures were inevitable. He once quipped: "I have not failed 10000 times. I've successfully found 10,000 ways that do not work." Such a buoyant attitude would serve him well during his lifetime.
I must tell you that reading "Edison and the Rise of Innovation" was an absolute blast. I would guesstimate that there are around 200 terrific photos and images in this book that greatly enhance the author's fine narrative. There is certainly something to be said for purchasing the physical book! Sprinkled throughout the book are dozens of historic black and white photographs of Edison's various contraptions, candid photos of those who toiled in his various companies and fascinating pictures of a number of his laboratories and other facilities. This is history at its absolute best! "Edison and the Rise of Innovation" also features dozens of actual handwritten documents, sketches and advertisements from the Edison archives. When all is said and done Leonard DeGraaf has certainly kindled my interest in the life and work of Thomas Edison. I want to learn more. As a result, my wife and I are planning a visit to the Thomas Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, NJ in the near future. "Edison and the Rise of Innovation" would be a great choice for history buffs, technical geeks and general audiences. A great idea nicely executed! Very highly recommended.
What did you think of this review?