Thomas Edison

October 6, 1889: Roll ’em

How rare it is in history for a scientific genius to also possess considerable business acumen and the ability to direct a large body of men working under him.  Thomas Edison possessed all of those gifts.  With one of the sharper minds granted to a man, he had the inspiration to invent hundreds of devices.  He directed eventually a large work force of employees, some of whom had intellects almost as sharp as his.  Finally he could take his inventions and develop markets for them.

Edison thought of “moving pictures” as doing for the eye what his phonograph did for the ear.  In February of 1888 Edison met with chrono-photographer  Eadweard Muybridge who used what he called a  zoopraxiscope to rapidly project painted images on a screen to give the illusion of music.  They announced they would combine this technology with Edison’s phonograph.  From the outset Edison envisioned “talkies”.  Most of the actual work in producing the first movies was done by Edison’s employee W. K. L. Dickson, who had served as Edison’s official photographer.

Edison devised the idea of a kinetoscope, but it was Dickson who brought it to reality, producing “moving” images by running strips of film across a light source.  Dickson invented the first practical celluloid film to serve as the medium upon which the photographs would be placed.  The first films were displayed as “peep shows” in penny arcades, the movies often focusing on boxing matches and other athletic contests.

Dickson went on to produce the first film for a pope, and had his camera blessed by Leo XIII.  Continue reading

In God We Trust Adopted as National Motto

Yesterday we had a post which noted the appearance of In God We Trust on US coinage after the passage of the Coinage Act of 1864.  The phrase became the national motto in 1956 pursuant to a Joint Resolution of Congress which should be celebrated for its brevity as well as for its substance:



Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

That the national motto of the United States is hereby declared to be “In God we trust.´´

Approved July 30, 1956.


President Eisenhower summed up the sentiments that led to the adoption of “In God we trust” as the national motto in remarks he made on October 24, 1954 in observance of the 75th anniversary of the light bulb:

FAITH, faith and the American individual. Yes, it is on these two pillars that our future rests.

It was Thomas Edison who said: “Be courageous; be as brave as your fathers before you. Have faith. Go forward .”

Seventy-five years ago this very week, Tom Edison–a humble, typical sort of American–put this credo into action and gave a new light to the world.

It is faith that has made our Nation–has made it, and kept it free. Atheism substitutes men for the supreme creator and this leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship. But we believe–and it is because we believe that God intends all men to be free and equal that we demand free government. Our Government is servant, not master, our chosen representatives are our equals, not our czars or commissars.

We must jealously guard our foundation in faith. For on it rests the ability of the American individual to live and thrive in this blessed land-and to be able to help other less fortunate people to achieve freedom and individual opportunity. These we take for granted, but to others they are often only a wistful dream.

“In God we trust.” Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American motto. Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them meaningless for us.

We carry the torch of freedom as a sacred trust for all mankind. We do not believe that God intended the light that He created to be put out by men.

Soon we will be celebrating one of our holidays, one that typifies for me much of what we mean by the American freedom. That will be Halloween. On that evening I would particularly like to be, of course, with my grandchildren, for Halloween is one of those times when we Americans actually encourage the little individuals to be free to do things rather as they please. I hope you and your children have a gay evening and let’s all give a little prayer that their childish pranks will be the only kind of mischief with which we Americans must cope. But it can be a confident kind of a prayer too, for God has made us strong and faith has made and kept us free.

Good night. Continue reading

The Age of Innovation

Good post from Carl Olson on Steve Jobs that casts a different light on the man than some of the hagiography that we’ve seen.  What caught my attention and what I wanted to post about, however, was another article that he linked to which was written by Vaclav Smil.  It hits upon a subject I’ve been meaning to blog about since Jobs’s death.  The long and short of it: Steve Jobs was no Thomas Edison.

I have no desire to disparage or dismiss anything Jobs has done for his company, for its stockholders, or for millions of people who are incurably addicted to incessantly checking their  tiny Apple phones or washing their brains with endless streams of music—I just want to explain why Jobs is no Edison. Continue reading

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