Elementary

Social Studies (X) - Computer Science (X) - Elementary (X) - American Experience (X)

Edison: Boyhood and Teen Years

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Find out how young Thomas Edison’s curiosity got him into trouble, and how, during his teen years, he lost his hearing but gained confidence as an aspiring inventor, in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. As portrayed through reenactments, we learn that Edison, who had just three months of formal schooling, grew up reading and conducting chemistry experiments. His job as a newsboy on a train inspired his fascination with the telegraph. After teaching himself Morse Code so he could send and receive messages, Edison took a job as a telegraph operator at the age of 15. Through his work, and despite premature hearing loss, he developed an understanding of how the telegraph system operated and how he might improve it. He began to think of himself as an inventor. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison Collection.

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Edison: Impact of Technology on Society

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Imagine the world when electric light was first introduced, and reflect on the impact that new inventions have on ordinary people in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. In late 19th-century America, machines were ushering the country into the modern world. But with the awe and wonder that radical change provoked, technology also brought a certain amount of anxiety to ordinary people. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison CollectionCaution: This video includes the use of the word "hell."

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Edison: Invention in Late 19th-Century America

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Experience the excitement of a changing world as inventors and their patents redefine the American identity in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. Inventions begin as ideas that are useful. Whether a device, a new approach, or a new technique, inventions can change the world. In the late 19th century, Americans began thinking of their country as a nation of inventors. Before then, many Americans felt inferior to Europeans because America lacked great universities and an arts and literature tradition. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison Collection.

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Edison: Invention Laboratory at Menlo Park

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Discover how Thomas Edison’s invention laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and the team he hired to work with him, all fit into his vision of how he would become a great inventor in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. In late 1876, Edison opened a fully equipped 5,000 square foot innovation laboratory that would provide him and a small group of experimental assistants and skilled machinists a place to invent. With all kinds of chemicals, organic materials, scientific instruments, and shop tools available to them, the men worked day and night, intent on figuring out things that nobody had yet thought of. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison Collection.

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Edison: From the Telephone and Telegraph Comes the Phonograph

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Discover how one invention led to another when Thomas Edison and his Menlo Park laboratory team refined Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and, along the way, invented the phonograph, in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. Bell unveiled the telephone in the spring of 1876, prompting Edison and his team to design a device that improved on it. Then, calling on his experience as a telegrapher, Edison experimented on a device capable of recording the human voice: a phonograph. The invention was truly groundbreaking. Until then, no one had ever played back recorded sound. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison CollectionNote: The word "damn" is stated in the video.

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Edison: Electric Light

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Discover how Thomas Edison’s team built on past innovations to develop the first successful electric light bulb in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. Edison announced he would start work on electric light in 1878, to address the problems with existing lighting options, which included gaslights and arc lighting. While many inventors had patented versions of the most promising technology, an incandescent bulb, no bulb could yet produce light for more than 15 seconds, let alone several hours. Edison used his fame to attract the funding needed for his team to test and prototype a solution. Their efforts eventually paid off. On October 22, 1879, a bulb fitted with a filament of carbonized cotton thread burned in Edison’s laboratory for more than 13.5 hours. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison Collection.

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