innovation

Was Thomas Edison more of a business man rather than an inventor

GeekHistory explores the legacy of Thomas EdisonPeople often make remarks about Thomas Edison such as, "he was primarily a businessman." The attitude would seem to lack the understanding that being successful in business is not mutually exclusive from being a successful inventor.

Many successful inventors realize that experimentation and research takes money. That is why some inventors hold on to certain patent rights, but sell others. They keep the ones they intent to develop and sell off others to raise money to continue their research.

The light bulb was not a single invention, but an ongoing improvement of one idea over another to create a finished product. There were many versions of the light bulb before Edison’s, and there were many versions after Edison. In 1879, Edison was first to devise a lamp that would last in long-term commercial use.

It is also not unusual for inventors to purchase patents to other inventions similar to their own. Sometimes in the larger scope of a project inventors will purchase the rights to similar projects so they have ownership of all the parts to their finished product.

It takes the work of many individuals and many patents (and inventions) coming together to reach a goal. George Westinghouse believed that AC (alternating current) was a better method of power distribution than Edison’s DC (direct current). George Westinghouse was himself an inventor and innovator, as well as a visionary businessman.

In 1885 Westinghouse became interested in the inventions of European Inventors Gaulard and Gibbs and purchased the American rights to their patents for AC current transformers. In 1888 Westinghouse heard of Nikola Tesla and the Tesla Polyphase System. Westinghouse purchased Tesla's alternating current patents on the electric systems and paid Tesla to work with him until they were fully implemented. Westinghouse also had his own team of engineers, such as William Stanley Jr., adding their own inventions in combination with the others to create the finished product. In the case of Westinghouse it was Alternating Current (AC) power transmission.

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