Thomas Edison Quotes

Thomas Alva Edison, 1847 – 1931

Born: 11 February 1847, Milan, Ohio
Died: 18 October 1931, West Orange, New Jersey

The youngest son of railroad man Samuel “The Iron Shovel” Edison had a wandering mind. His only schoolteacher called him “addled” and he only lasted three months. He was educated by reading with help from his mother. He had scarlet fever in childhood and numerous ear infections, leading to hearing difficulties. In 1854 the family moved to Port Huron, Michigan when the railroad bypassed Milan and Edison sold candy and newspapers on the train to Detroit. He saved a three-year-old boy from being struck by a runaway train, the boy’s father was a station agent at Mount Clemons, Michigan and trained Edison as a telegraph operator. In 1866 he moved to Louisville, Kentucky where he worked for Western Union handling the Associated Press wire at nights, an experiment with a lead-acid battery ended with a spill which leaked onto his bosses desk and he was fired after a year. He moved in with a friend and fellow telegrapher at Elizabeth, New Jersey and started inventing, his first patent was for an electric vote recorder in 1869. His breakthrough came in 1877 with the invention of the phonograph. This was a result of establishing the first industrial research lab at Menlo Park, since named Edison, New Jersey, with the proceeds from the sale of a patent to Western Union. It was here that Edison developed the first practical electric light, the stock ticker, the carbon transmitter for the telephone, the fluoroscope, the electric train, the motion picture camera, and many others, and here that the work was done on most of his 1,093 US patents. He created the electric utility business, although he stubbornly promoted direct current over the more practical alternating current that eventually became the standard. He organized the Edison Trust, a patent pool involving most of the players in motion picture equipment, supplies, and distribution, which established the current form of that business. Edison was an aggressive competitor and promoter, and he was never bashful about admitting that most of his success came from taking the work of others, improving it, and organizing production on a larger scale. Edison worked until his final illness, he died of complications related to diabetes.

Thomas Edison quotes:

Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.
    Thomas Edison

As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey.
    Thomas Edison

Be courageous. I have seen many depressions in business. Always America has emerged from these stronger and more prosperous. Be brave as your fathers before you. Have faith! Go forward!
    Thomas Edison

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration.
    Thomas Edison

During all those years of experimentation and research, I never once made a discovery. All my work was deductive, and the results I achieved were those of invention, pure and simple. I would construct a theory and work on its lines until I found it was untenable. Then it would be discarded at once and another theory evolved. This was the only possible way for me to work out the problem.
    Thomas Edison – “Talks with Edison” by George Parsons Lathrop, Harpers (Vol. 80, February 1890)

Everyone steals in commerce and industry. I’ve stolen a lot, myself. But I know how to steal! They don’t know how to steal!
    Thomas Edison

Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.
    Thomas Edison

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninty-nine percent perspiration.
    Thomas Edison

Great ideas originate in the muscles.
    Thomas Edison

Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.
    Thomas Edison

I am long on ideas, but short on time. I only expect to live about a hundred years.
    Thomas Edison

I am more of a sponge than an inventor. I absorb ideas from every source. My principal business is giving commercial value to the brilliant but misdirected ideas of others.
    Thomas Edison

I am much less interested in what is called God’s word than in God’s deeds. All bibles are man-made.
    Thomas Edison – The Atlantic Monthly (October 1921)

I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.
    Thomas Edison

I consider Paine our greatest political thinker. As we have not advanced, and perhaps never shall advance, beyond the Declaration and Constitution, so Paine has had no successors who extended his principles.
    Thomas Edison – The Philosophy of Paine (1925)

I find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.

Thomas Edison
I find out what the world needs. Then, I go ahead and invent it.

Thomas Edison
I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world.

Thomas Edison
I have more respect for the fellow with a single idea who gets there than for the fellow with a thousand ideas who does nothing.

Thomas Edison
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas Edison
I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.

Thomas Edison
I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.

Thomas Edison
I never once made a discovery … I speak without exaggeration that I have constructed three thousand different theories in connection with the electric light. Yet in only two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory.

Thomas Edison
I never pick up an item without thinking of how I might improve it. I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others. I want to save and advance human life, not destroy it. I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill. The dove is my emblem.

Thomas Edison
I owe my success to the fact that I never had a clock in my workroom. Seventy-five of us worked twenty hours every day and slept only four hours – and thrived on it.

Thomas Edison
I start where the last man left off.

Thomas Edison
If we did all the things we were capable of doing, We would literally astound ourselves.

Thomas Edison
In ‘Common Sense’ Paine flared forth with a document so powerful that the Revolution became inevitable. Washington recognized the difference, and in his calm way said that matters never could be the same again.

Thomas Edison

The Philosophy of Paine (1925)
It is absurd to say our country can issue $30 million in bonds and not $30 million in currency. Both are promises to pay, but one promise fattens the userers and the other helps the people.

Thomas Edison
It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains definitely and systematically to work.

Thomas Edison

Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.

Thomas Edison
Many a person who could not comprehend Rousseau, and would be puzzled by Montesquieu, could understand Paine as an open book. He wrote with a clarity, a sharpness of outline and exactness of speech that even a schoolboy should be able to grasp.

Thomas Edison

The Philosophy of Paine (1925)
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

Thomas Edison
Maturity is often more absurd than youth and very frequently is most unjust to youth.

Thomas Edison
My mind is incapable of conceiving such a thing as a soul. I may be in error, and man may have a soul; but I simply do not believe it. What a soul may be is beyond my understanding.

Thomas Edison

“Do We Live Again?” interview in The Illustrated London News (3 May 1924)
Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.

Thomas Edison
Nineteen hundred and three will bring great advances in surgery, in the study of bacteria, in the knowledge of the cause and prevention of disease. Medicine is played out. Every new discovery of bacteria shows us all the more convincingly that we have been wrong and that the million tons of stuff we have taken was all useless.

Thomas Edison
Ninety eight per cent of genius is hard work. As for genius being inspired, inspiration is in most cases another word for perspiration.

Thomas Edison

quoted in The Delphos Daily Herald, Ohio (18 May 1898)
None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

Thomas Edison

Press conference (1929)
Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.

Thomas Edison
Not only will atomic power be released, but someday we will harness the rise and fall of the tides and imprison the rays of the sun.

Thomas Edison
Of all my inventions, I liked the phonograph best. Life’s most soothing things are sweet music and a child’s goodnight.

Thomas Edison
One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But … I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.

Thomas Edison
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

Thomas Edison
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

Thomas Edison

People who will not turn a shovel full of dirt on the project [Muscle Shoals Dam] nor contribute a pound of material, will collect more money from the United States than will the people who supply all the material and do all the work. This is the terrible thing about interest.

Thomas Edison
Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.

Thomas Edison
Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.

Thomas Edison
Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.

Thomas Edison
The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.

Thomas Edison
The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.

Thomas Edison
The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.

Thomas Edison

“Wizard Edison” in The Newark Advocate (2 January 1903)
The first requisite for success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.

Thomas Edison
The successful person makes a habit of doing what the failing person doesn’t like to do.

Thomas Edison
The value of an idea lies in the using of it.

Thomas Edison
There is far more opportunity than there is ability.

Thomas Edison
There is no substitute for hard work.

Thomas Edison
There is time for everything.

Thomas Edison
There will one day spring from the brain of science a machine or force so fearful in its potentialities, so absolutely terrifying, that even man, the fighter, who will dare torture and death, will be appalled, and so abandon war forever.

Thomas Edison
There’s a better way to do it. Find it!

Thomas Edison

There’s a way to do it better – find it.

Thomas Edison
They say President Wilson has blundered. Perhaps he has, but I notice he usually blunders forward.

Thomas Edison
Through all the years of experimenting and research, I never once made a discovery. I start where the last man left off…. All my work was deductive, and the results I achieved were those of invention pure and simple.

Thomas Edison
Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the one thing that he can’t afford to lose.

Thomas Edison
To have a great idea, have a lot of them.

Thomas Edison
To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.

Thomas Edison
To my mind the old masters are not art; their value is in their scarcity.

Thomas Edison
Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless.

Thomas Edison
We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy; sun, wind, and tide…. I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

Thomas Edison
We are striking it big in the electric light, better than my vivid imagination first conceived. Where this thing is going to stop Lord only knows.

Thomas Edison
We don`t know a millionth of one percent about anything.

Thomas Edison
What a man’s mind can create, man’s character can control.

Thomas Edison
What you are will show in what you do.

Thomas Edison
When I have fully decided that a result is worth getting I go ahead of it and make trial after trial until it comes.

Thomas Edison

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