This chapter explains the background to the rise of the charismatic inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Alva Edison. Edison was born to humble origins and, because of the dwindling finances of his father, was home-schooled by his mother and had to sell newspapers on a train. In 1879, Charles Brush set up his dynamo-powered lighting system in Cleveland’s Monument Park, at which time gas lights were the only means of public lighting. The regulated carbon arc, Jablochkoff candle, and incandescent lamps started to be accepted as public lighting because they were cheaper than gas lamps. William Sawyer, who had a reputation as a drunkard, created a carbon lamp, but Edison, embittered by Sawyer’s approach, declined to collaborate with him; however, the carbon lamp set off the impulse for the creation of the first electric lamp.
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