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it had that great and good result which so often systems of education fail to produce—the awakening of a passion which developed into a habit of knowledge seeking. It is true that this thirst for information must be a part of Edison's nature, or he could not have pursued knowledge with such an unfailing passion; but it is also true that to teach a child to read for himself and to desire information, is both a rarer and more effectual education than any college cramming or school system. His mother was industrious and ambitious; these qualities she imparted to him, and the habit of concentrated study which he early acquired has been of incalculable value to him. As a child, though not noticed in any way as being brilliant or remarkable, he was always busy, full of experiments and ideas. He was anxious to get to work when very young, and at the age of twelve he went as train-boy on the Grand Trunk Railway. He obtained the exclusive newsdealers' right between Detroit and Port Huron; he made a dollar a day at this time, which small fortune he handed over to his mother. When he first went to Detroit he began to read in the library, and started with the idea that he could read the whole of it. Under this impression he read through fifteen feet of a bottom shelf, and then gave up the attempt
a and adopted the more practical plan of selecting books from the general
In the course of this extraordinary progress of fifteen feet he had gone through Newton's “Principia," Ure's scientific dictionaries, and
“ Burton's “ Anatomy of Melancholy.” There is something Titanic in the ideas this boy had of what he could accomplish; and certainly, when one reflects that he did accomplish fifteen feet of dry treatises without any skipping, it is plain that he was an omnivorous reader. Mr. Edison distinguished himself, while on this railway as train-boy, by turning a car, which was unused because it had neither springs nor ventilation, into a laboratory; but his great deed during this part of his career was publishing and printing a weekly paper on the train, called the Grand Trunk Herald. This wonderful paper was sold at 3 cents, and its subscribers numbered several hundreds. It was printed by the most primitive method, that of pressing the sheets with the hands upon the type, and on one side of the paper it was blank. The contributors were baggagemen and brakesmen. George Stephenson, our great engineer, when passing over the railway, saw Edison busy at his travelling printing office, and ordered an extra edition for himself. The Herald was shown by some traveller to the London Times, and was noticed as being the only news. paper printed on a railway. The paper ran for six months; but, alas! one day the water in Edison's phosphorus bottle evaporated, the fiery drug fell on the floor and ignited the car. The conductor with difficulty extinguished the fire, thrashed Edison, and threw the materials out of window, so that the successful career of the Grand Trunk Herald came to an unexpected termination. Its history is interesting because the features of it are characteristic of Mr. Edison's way through life: difficulties appear to add zest to his determination.
Telegraphy, from his first elementary insight into it, absorbed and interested him; became, indeed, a hobby. He made innumerable experiments in the cellar at home; the oddest of which was attempting to generate a current by means of rubbing a couple of cats vigorously at each end. The result was unsuccessful, perhaps partly in consequence of the very sudden departure of the cats. But soon Edison got a helper in his hobby, and this in consequence of an act of bravery and humanity on his own part. At Mount Clements station the operator's little boy of two years old crept in front of the cars ; Edison sprang from the train and snatched him away, barely saving his life. The child's father offered to help Edison learn telegraphy, in gratitude for the brave act, and after that, when Edison had got to the end of his route, he would return to Mount Clements, working there at night upon his favourite study. After some five months of this he was able to obtain work in the telegraph office at Port Huron. He left it in six months because remuneration promised for extra work was not paid. After this he wandered about a good deal. He was perhaps a little too active in mind for the peace of superintendents. For instance, at Canada, the operators were required to report “ six ” every half-hour to the circuit manager. Edison got out of this by inventing a machine which would write the fgure six and sign his office calls while he quietly slept. Although for various reasons he lost situations, he never seems to have lacked them, for operators were in request. At Cincinnati, where he worked a day wire, and “subbed ” for the night men whenever he could obtain the privilege, he reached a new platform in his work. After he had been there three months, a delegation of Cleveland operators came to organise a branch of the Telegraphers' Union. On a certain evening the whole force struck, with a single exception, and left the office to go upon a great spree. When Edison came in as usual to practise, and found the office so nearly deserted, he took the press report as well as he could, and worked on through the night. The next day he was rewarded by an increase of salary and one of the best wires in the office, the Louisville. Bob Martin, considered one of the fastest senders in America, worked the Louisville end, and from the experience obtained by working with him, Edison dates his reaching this new platform—that of first-rate ability as an operator. Among his fellow-workmen at this time, Edison got the nickname of “luny” or crazy man; this was earned in a very innocent fashion, principally perhaps by his total indifference to dress, his passion for reading and for solving " impossible" problems. But it is aptly suggested that his pleasure in working at all hours had a great deal to do with it. A love of work for its own sake must be a very unintelligible quality to the ordinary workman, from what is generally seen of him. Edison could be induced to do other men's work, out of his good nature, and sometimes, when surrounded by dissolute and idle companions, would accomplish an enormous amount of labour. He would lend money, or he would spend it in books and apparatus, but in other respects he was abstemious almost to stoicism. In 1868 he appeared in Boston, where he began to find some real success. He was one of the most accomplished operators, and here some of his inventions began to be noticed. Yet he entered New York in a disconsolate and dispirited state, to find real success after the years of wandering which had preceded it. He hung round the office of the Gold Indicator Com. pany for some days, when first in New York; their apparatus were constantly out of order, and at last one day Edison“ happened in ” just as a catastrophe of the kind had occurred. The superintendent was out, and Edison offered to fix the machinery. The president was amazed, but, being in despair, allowed him to try. He soon succeeded, and the next day he was offered an important post with the Company. He invented a printer of stock and gold quotations which they at once adopted ; the Western Union Telegraph Company took him up. His fortunes had turned. He devoted himself to telegraphic inventions, and from thenceforth he“ kept the path to the Patent office hot with his footsteps." Edison's inventions soon replaced the old apparatus of the gold and stock telegraphy, and the two companies who employed him paid him a large salary for the privilege of the first option of purchase of all his intentions relating to telegraphy. He started a great electrical manufacturing establishment at Newark, which was formed of three large shops and two laboratories ; here he employed 300 men, and was himself the busiest man in America.
Mr. Edison is a phenomenon in his defiance of the ordinary rules of weakness which man is subject to. On one occasion he had accepted a very large order for improved printers. The first instruments for practical use proved a failure, and he could not discover the defect, till at last he took four or five of his best men and retired with them to the top floor of his factory, with the remark that they would never come down till the printer worked. He laboured for sixty consecutive hours, , and when he left that top floor the printer did work. After sixty hours of such labour most men would have a brain fever, but Mr. Edison can rebuild his strength by a sleep of thirty hours. He says, however, that
, after going without sleep longer than usual he grows nervous, and ideas flow rapidly into his mind. This extraordinary capacity for labour places him in a very fortunate position; when he sees an idea he is capable of pursuing it to the last. He chooses his assistants not only for their skill and their willingness to do what he wishes, but also for physical endurance, which is very necessary to him. For himself be knows of no difference between day and night. Work appears to be the
one great fact of his existence, and all the necessities of ease-loving mankind are subordinated to it. His labours throughout his life have been gigantic, and his ambition that of a giant rather than such as one would expect from a slim young American in the present day. But his natural insight into the powers of our world and the possibilities of our race carries him through those difficulties which to the blind and unbelieving would be impossible. Many of his inventions have a strangely doubtful value, which has made them very acceptable to the comic journalists. The New York Times suggested in 1878 that something really ought to be done to Mr. Edison, and that perhaps it had better be done with a hemp rope ; the phonograph seemed to be altogether too much for that respectable paper. The idea that your friends might keep a concealed phonograph in their drawing-room, so that when you went to call you never dare whisper how ugly and ill-furnished the room was, while you were left alone in it—that idea was bad enough; but when it came to the aerophone, then the New York Times became serious. An invention which converts whispers into is really too much; as the Times pointed out pathetically, talk is the ruin of republics, and conversation the bane of private life. America still wishes to preserve her great inventor, he should be requested to limit himself in the extension of man's powers to those which will add to our joys, and not to our already accumulated sorrows. Edison has unconsciously provided quite a new field for the comic sketcher: pictures of an exhausted and dying millionaire whispering his will into a phonograph; of a lady buying so many yards of a sermon, and so many of a lecture; of a prima donna singing to the great public in the seclusion of her own sanctum ; and of safe war conferences by help of the aerophone, have made us all familiar with the funny aspect of these new powers. But with the laughter of all the comic papers in Europe ringing in our ears, we feel these things to be so grand that the ridicule is very ephemeral. These mysterious powers which lie about us, waiting the man wise enough find them out, are indeed aweinspiring. We cannot guess to what dimensions we are capable of growing. Already, though pigmies in actual size, we are giants upon the earth, and convert the elements into our slaves; perhaps the future holds in its hand some power which shall enable us to break the bonds of this round globe, and speak with the far planets.
Mr. Edison's work for the science of telegraphy has been incessant and invaluable. From 1869 to 1873 Mr. Edison was engaged in a series of experiments in electric telegraphy, with a view to the improvement of the automatic telegraph by the invention of a system which should combine increase of speed with diminution of cost. The first automatic telegraph was originated by Alexander G. Bain, a Scotchman, in 1846, and the systems of subsequent inventors were developments and modifi
cations of his, the main principle being retained in all-viz., the transmission of messages by means of telegraphic characters composed of groups of dots and dashes punched into paper. The perforated paper is introduced between two rollers connected with the wire, and a metal cylinder connected with the battery. The paper being a non-conductor, breaks the circuit between battery and line so that no electricity can pass over, but as the paper is moved forward, by hand or mechanism, the rollers and cylinder touch each other through such punctured holes in the paper as successively present themselves, and a current of electricity is transmitted along the line of wire. At the other end the current is received on a strip of paper prepared by chemicals sensitive to electricity, and the message is recorded by the decomposition of the chemicals through the action of the electricity producing marks on the paper. The three chief requisites for a perfect systein of this kind arefirst, a mechanism for puncturing the telegraphic characters swiftly and surely at one end of the line ; second, a chemical solution appropriately sensitive to the electric current at the other end of the line; third, some method of neutralising the effects of what is known as the static dis. charge-a phenomenon common to all telegraph lines.
Mr. Edison set to work upon the punching apparatus, and found that the great obstacle to complete success was the difficulty of obtaining mechanism that should satisfactorily punch out the dashes; he therefore substituted for the dash an arrangement of three holes in close proximity, a larger one over two smaller ones. The electric current enters by the small dot-bole on the left, passes to the larger hole above, and thence to the small dot-hole on the right, thus making a continuous current, which records itself at the receiving end of the line as one continuous mark—in fact, a dash; thus the letter A in telegraphic character by a dot and a dash is punched as a dot and three dots, and records itself as a dot and a line ; B, as two dots and a line, &c. The punching mechanism is connected with a keyboard, on which the operator can perform as on a musical instrument, striking each letter at will, and setting in motion the mechanism for punching it. The perforated paper is received into a box from which it is taken up by the machine. The speed averages thirty or thirty-five words a minute, but an exceptionally skilled operator attained to the speed of one hundred and ten words averaging five letters in each word.
Mr. Edison next turned his attention to the subject of the “static discharge.” He found that a message sent at an average speed over a few miles only of wire was perfectly decipherable at the other end; but if either the speed or distance were increased, the message became blurred, and on further increase was received as one continuous line. This was owing to the surplus electricity, or static current, which accumulated in the wire and prevented the current from the battery from being broken