1. Thomas Edison Patents
2. What If I Want to Search Edison’s Patents?
3. The Phonograph
4. The Light Bulb
5. Motion Picture
6. The Electrographic Vote Recorder

Thomas Edison Patents

Thomas Edison patents total 2,332 during his lifetime. These patents, 1,093 of which were U.S. patents, were in a variety of technology fields.

Edison’s first patent was executed on October 13, 1868, when Edison was 21 years of age. While a complete list of Edison’s patents does not exist, it is widely known that approximately 1,239 of his patents are non-U.S. patents that were awarded to him in 34 different countries. Moreover, during his lifetime, Edison filed roughly 500 patent applications that were rendered unsuccessful or abandoned.

Edison’s patents were either entire systems or components that support such systems. His patent applications were submitted throughout his lifetime; however, a majority of his most successful applications were filed either between 1872-1890 or 1897-1912. In fact, Edison recorded his work in 4,000 notebooks that included his inventions and ideas.

What If I Want to Search Edison’s Patents?

If you need to find Edison’s patents in Britain (1872-1880), you can find them in the Charles Batchelor collection. If you need to find any of his U.S. patents, it may be more difficult to do so, as his patents are too irregular to find them by certain word searches. While there is an online database that you can use to search, which can be found on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, patents awarded before 1975 are only searchable by patent number and classification. Furthermore, patents that were issued between 1780 and 1836 are assigned by chronologically ordered ‘x’ numbers.

Edison’s U.S. patents are grouped into eight categories, including:

  • Batteries (147)
  • Cement (49)
  • Electric light & power (424)
  • Mining & ore drilling (53)
  • Motion Pictures (9)
  • Phonographs & Sound Recording (199)
  • Telegraphy & Telephony (186)
  • Miscellany (50)

The Phonograph

  • Edison’s invention of the phonograph recorded spoken voice and played it back.

  • When speaking into the receiver, the sound vibration of one’s voice caused a needle to indent on a drum that was wrapped with tin foil.

  • Later in his lifetime, Edison adopted cylinders and discs to record music with it.

The Light Bulb

Believe it or not, Edison didn’t actually invent the light bulb. The light bulb had been around for several years; however, it was unreliable at that point in time. Therefore, Edison altered the way in which the light bulb was constructed in order for it to actually have a long lifespan. Other inventors were already in a race to enhance the light bulb when Edison joined the race to see who could successfully alter and enhance the light bulb the quickest.

Edison created a vacuum inside the light bulb and found the correct filament, which allowed for a lower voltage to run through the bulb. With this innovative approach, Edison was able to create a light bulb that lasted for several hours. Of course, over time, the light bulb was enhanced in such a way that it can now last up to several years.  

Motion Picture

  • His first motion picture resembled his phonograph, with a spiral arrangement of photographs that were made on a cylinder.
  • Initially, the motion picture could only be viewed through a microscope. However, Edison eventually developed the Strip Kinetograph. With this invention, sprockets in a stop-and-go motion moved the film. However, even with this, only one person could view the movie at a time.
  • The movie was viewed via the Kinetoscope, which was very large in size (4 feet tall) with a small hole magnifier allowing the viewer to watch the film. The film itself had to be illuminated with a battery-operated lamp.

The Electrographic Vote Recorder

This was Edison’s first patent. Edison was only 22 years old at the time this product was patented. The goal of this device was to help legislators record their votes more quickly. In order to work, the voting device was connected to a clerk’s desk where names of each legislator were embedded. The legislators would then move a switch to ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ which would then send electric currents to the device itself. This would help keep track of the votes while also identifying the result.

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