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Historian Ernest Freeberg at Computer History Museum

Historian Ernest Freeberg said, "[Thomas] Edison invented a new style of invention, a coordinated program of scientific research and product development" that paved the way for "a world where we assume invention is not just something that comes along when someone has a great idea, but this is a force that can be shaped and controlled." Freeberg is the author of "The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America."

 

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Thomas Edison: Inventor or Innovator?

Historian Ernest Freeberg sheds light on era that sparked America's preeminence in modern research and development.

 

The tech companies of Silicon Valley consistently strive to produce better, faster and cheaper products and services, many of which people may not yet know they want or need. Today's systematic approach to technology research and development, according to historian Ernest Freeberg, can be traced to Thomas Edison, the fabled 19th century inventor of the light bulb.

 

Freeberg points out that more than the light bulb, Edison's contribution was the first commercially practical incandescent light, which he patented in 1879. The incandescent bulb successfully illuminated the world in large part because Edison forged an enormous ecosystem to support it, including electrical distribution, switches, meters and a new craft of lighting design. In his new book, "The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America," Freeberg explores how the advent of ubiquitous light, driven forward in part by Edison's innovative and entrepreneurial skills, gave rise to unforeseen industries and uses, many of which continue to proliferate today.

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Taken on March 21, 2013