Edison, by Edmund Morris

Nine stars

History is full of people whose lives have impacted mine in some form or another. While I have always loved reading biographies, I find particular interest in people whose names I know but whose lives remain a mystery to me. While the name Thomas Edison has always been synonymous with the invention of the lightbulb, there is much more to the man’s life. Pulitzer-prize winning author, Edmund Morris, takes the reader through the life and times of this most complex man. While the lightbulb was surely one of his most well-known inventions, Edison was always thinking up new and exciting things to better the world. Averaging one US patent every 12 days of his adult life, Edison was passionate in his ventures, which seemed to change drastically every decade. By dividing the book into parts that loosely depict these scientific ventures, Morris explores the attention to detail that Edison undertook. He was keen to stay ahead of the trends and use his imagination to bring these ideas to life. With little formal scientific training, Edison baffled many around him with the detail and intricacy of his inventions. He proved to be not only an inventor, but also a businessman, manufacturer, family man, salesperson, and critique of others in the domain. What Morris explores is that Edison was also highly opinionated when it came to his interests, not caring who he upset or their notoriety in the world. Morris pairs this with Edison’s extreme deafness, which led to many interesting interactions with others, as well as curious steps taken throughout the experimental process. In a book that is full of Edison’s discoveries and advancements, the reader will discover just how much of an impact the man had on the world, and all because of his imagination paired with a determination to succeed. Recommended to those who love learning about all things scientific and innovation-related, as well as for the reader whose passion is in biographical tomes.

There is so much to learn about Thomas Edison, as shown in this thorough biography. Edmund Morris, award-winning author, does a fabulous job amassing a great deal of information in this singe tome, telling the wonderful aspects of Edison’s life, while constantly reminding the reader of his independence. Morris tackles the book in a series of parts, dividing Edison’s explorations in decade chunks. This is highly effective, as it gives the reader some context and allows the themes to effectively divide the book. Within each part, Morris explores the scores of inventions and plotting that Edison did, linking different decades together with ease. However, as if in a response to a quote by Edison’s daughter found in the introduction, Morris sheds a great deal of light on the man behind the inventions, offering up a great deal of raw truths about that man’s life and personal connections with other, rather than simply the inventor whose made ideas spilled out so readily. In an oddity that I have not seen in other biographies, Morris works in reverse chronology with these aforementioned parts of the book, beginning with the 1920s and working backwards. This proves to be somewhat confusing for the reader used to linear development of a person’s life, with children and grandchildren appearing in the beginning and turning to babies or non-existent throughout. I have not looked to see what others thought of this technique, but it seemed to work well for me. I picked up quickly on names and locales, looking to see when they entered the narrative later (earlier?) in the book. Each part stands as its own massive chapter, with smaller vignettes within them to keep the reader intrigued and not overwhelmed. Morris shows his superior writing style by presenting a great deal of technical information in an easy to digest format and keeping the story intriguing throughout. I have decided to read a little more about Edison and his life-long friendship with Henry Ford in another tome, but felt this was a wonderful start.

Kudos, Mr. Morris, for a wonderful biography of a sensational man.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons