Free Science Studies: Thomas A. Edison

Thomas Edison was an American businessman and inventor best known for his inventions of devices that changed the world including the light bulb, phonograph, and motion picture camera.

Read the following:

“Other Famous Inventors of To-Day: Thomas A. Edison”

  • Map the following (you’ll find mapping resources below):
  • Learn more about the exploits of young Edison in the video or one of the recommended books below.
  • Before he died, Edison had filed 1,093 successful patents in the United States. If you include the number of successful foreign patents the number rises to 2,332. View a list of his U.S. patents at Rutgers. Use the menu at the top to navigate through each section.
  • View Edison’s first patent and diagram for the electric vote-recording machine at Rutgers.
  • Explain (narrate) the value of the electric vote-recording machine and why it was not wanted (pg. 248).
  • Read the An account of the fire at Edison’s plant.
  • Learn more about Edison’s electric light.
  • Learn more about Edison and the first phonograph at the Library of Congress site for kids.
  • Listen to Edison’s first recording.
  • View a replica of Edison’s first phonograph at
  • View a photo of an 1899 home phonograph version.
  • Learn more about Edison’s motion picture camera at (scroll down).
  • Edison is known for many inspiring quotations. Choose one of these quotations at to adopt and illustrate (see resources below for helps).
  • Many of Edison’s character traits are described in the chapter. Create a character sketch of Edison.
  • Create a timeline showing the major events and/or inventions in Thomas Edison’s life (you’ll find helps below).
  • More about Thomas A. Edison from the Book of Knowledge:

    Perhaps the greatest single inventor in the field of electricity was Thomas Alva Edison, who was born in Ohio in 1847. He had very little schooling, and at the age of twelve was a train boy, selling newspapers, on a branch of the Grand Trunk Railway in Michigan. He saved the life of the son of a station agent, and the father taught him telegraphy. Edison became an expert operator, but he disliked routine work at any one place.

    While in Indianapolis in 1864, he invented an automatic telegraph repeater, the first of a long series of inventions and improvements. Later he invented a commercial stock indicator, which he sold to New York capitalists for $40,000. With this money he established a plant to manufacture electrical devices, and later on he opened his famous laboratory in New Jersey. He was a pioneer in the development of the large industrial research laboratories that now form an important part of all great industries….

    Among the hundreds of Edison’s inventions have been the phonograph, a telephone for long-distance transmission, a system of duplex telegraphy (later developed into four- and then six-message transmission), the carbon telephone transmitter and the incandescent electric light. The incandescent electric light is the basis upon which radio and television have been built up.

    Edison’s inventions and improvements were so numerous, and so important, that it can be said that there are today scarcely any electrical appliances or apparatuses that he did not invent or improve or help to develop.

    “The Makers of Telegraphs, Telephones and Radio” from The Book of Knowledge


Further Investigation

Thomas Edison
Brief ThinkQuest biography.

Thomas Alva Edison
Biography at MIT.

Edison Invents Motion Pictures
A look at one of Edison’s inventions from the Library of Congress kids’ site.

Edison’s Failed Inventions
Library of Congress kids’ site takes a look at the inventions that didn’t work!

Thomas Edison’s Inventive Life
Biography and inventions at the Smithsonian.

Edison Museum Exhibits
Photos of several of Edison’s inventions at the University of South Florida.

Edison’s U.S. Patents
Directory at Rutgers.

Timeline of Edison’s life from the National Park Service.


What if Thomas Edison Hadn’t Turned Failure Into Success
Interactive from The Henry Ford to help students learn more about Edison.

The Edison Test
See how well you do on a test Edison gave prospective employees at the National Park Service.

4 Useful Science Projects from Edison {Free Downloads}
Four downloads from the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation that include tons of information, activities, and experiments pertaining to Edison’s inventions.

My Motto
A fun way to copy one of Edison’s quotes at

Thomas Edison Timeline
One way to make a timeline — at

Interactive Timeline Maker {Free}
Use this interactive at to create a timeline showing the major events and inventions in Edison’s life.


“A Great Inventor”
Chapter covering Edison from Stories of Great Inventors by Hattie E. Macomber written for early readers.

“Thomas Alva Edison”
Fun telling of Edison’s early life for young students from The Child’s Book of American Biography by Mary Stoyell Stimpson.

Thomas Alva Edison

The Story of Thomas Edison by Margaret Cousins
This Landmark series book is a great first biography of the inventor!

The Boy’s Life of Edison by William Henry Meadowcroft
Interesting public domain work covering Edison’s life.

“Thomas A. Edison”
Chapter for older students from Inventors by Philip G. Hubert.

A Brief Biography of Thomas Alva Edison by John D. Venable
Edison’s life and inventions.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans
Edison’s Incandescent Light Bulb: A Unit Study

Edison’s Incandescent Light Bulb: A Unit Study
Our own look at Edison’s greatest invention. Packed with resources, activities, and downloads.

The Invention Factory: Thomas Edison’s Laboratories
Lesson plan from the National Park Service where students explore Edison’s laboratories, their functions, and how they were used to build complex products.

Inventions 1: Edison and the Light Bulb
Lesson plan from the American Association for the Advancement of Science that helps students understand how inventions impact society by looking at Edison’s life and inventions.

Inventions 2: The Impact
Second part to the lesson above that helps students understand what an inventor has to think about by becoming inventors themselves.

Simply Shocking: An Introduction to Electricity
A Core Knowledge lesson plan for younger students that looks at the basic parts of simple electrical circuits with a brief overview of Edison and his contribution.

A Time Line of Edison and His Era
Download from the National Park Service with timeline and associated questions.

Thomas Edison’s Inventions in the 1900s and Today
Lesson plan from the National Endowment of the Humanities with four activities that explore the technology of the 1900s to better understand some of Edison’s less familiar inventions.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

United States Map
At for locating Ohio and New Jersey.

Ohio State Map
Map for locating Milon.

New Jersey State Map
Map for locating Menlo Park.

Thomas Edison
Printable coloring page at for notebook.

This Wizard of Ours
Interesting information page from Rutgers with Edison facts suitable for notebook.

Drawing & Writing Notebooking Paper {Free Download}
Room at the top for illustrating and room at the bottom for copying one of Edison’s quotes.

Thomas Alva Edison Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the entire series:
Free Science Studies: Great Inventors & Their Inventions
Free Science Studies: Great Inventors & Their Inventions

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