Thomas Edison was an Asshole

I assume that everyone has heard that Steve Jobs passed away yesterday (Rest in Peace).  I value his work and insight, but some of things being said about him I find just a wee bit frustrating.  From a facebook friend (sorry friend!):

Our parents had JFK, we had Steve Jobs. Edison gave us electricity, Jobs gave us the Jetsons in real life. We lost an icon today. You will be missed.

UGH – Is it necessary to mention JFK, Edison and the Jetsons in one facebook status?  I hate this for so many reasons, but I will focus on one thing:  Is Steve Jobs the Thomas Edison of our Generation?

So I was excited to see that the Los Angeles Times today had an article called “Comparing Jobs to Edison doesn’t quite capture it” (couldn’t find it online).  I was hoping it would shed light on the type of businessman and so called inventor that Edison was, but it didn’t.  In fact the article mentions Edison once and just uses all the stupid assumptions we learned about him in elementary school.

So, I’ll go out and just say it… Thomas Edison was an ASSHOLE.  Below you will find some of the reasons why:

Don't trust the charm or that hair...

1.  The Patent Wars

Edison holds over 1,000 patents, and is considered one of the most prolific inventors of all time.  Many of these patents dealt with movie cameras and similar equipment.  The Edison Film Manufacturing Company owned the majority of patents of the film equipment used in the early 20th century.  It wasn’t enough that Edison would receive money for all the equipment he sold, he demanded licensing fees from all film producers, distributors and exhibitors.  He formed a legal monopoly and began blacklisting or suing independent companies who didn’t follow his rules.

So-called outlaws (including the names you may recognize of Laemmle and Fox) moved out to California to avoid the legal retribution of Edison’s Trust.  On a happy note, these outlaws were involved in a lot of the innovation of the time and helped form Hollywood.  Edison though…He was the MPAA of the early 20th century.  Anti-innovation all in the name of $$$$$.

ASSHOLE POINTS: 3.5/5 – An Anti-trust lawsuit was eventually filed against him, so he didn’t end up getting away with it. (MPAA on the other hand 4.5/5)

2.  He destroyed Tesla’s Life Work and his Reputation

He had no hobby, cared for no sort of amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene. [...] His method was inefficient in the extreme, for an immense ground had to be covered to get anything at all unless blind chance intervened and, at first, I was almost a sorry witness of his doings, knowing that just a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90% of the labour. But he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor’s instinct and practical American sense.

The so-called “War of the Currents” was a scientific battle (yay nerds!) between supporters of Alternating Current (like Tesla) and supporters of Direct Current (like Edison).

How did Edison respond? A gentleman’s campaign perhaps? HELL NO.

When Tesla began to go public with the superior Alternating Current system, Edison decided to spread a publicity campaign warning of the dangers of AC current.  Edison and crew would publicly kill and electrocute animals (such as stray dogs and cats) to show the dangers of electrical current.  Tesla lost a whole bunch of credibility through fear tactics. There’s a video of an elephant being shocked which you can find online if you want, but I won’t link to it.

To see an amazingly funny rendition of the Tesla v. Edison feud performed by John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover as narrated by a drunk person.  See this:

Asshole Score: 5/5

3.  He lied about inventing the light bulb
Why do schools feel the need to simplify history as if children won’t understand a slightly more complex version?  If I was 8 and someone said to me “so little child, the technology for the light bulb was actually invented 50 years before Edison got into the picture, but it wasn’t perfected yet.  Edison lied to newspapers and said he perfected the bulb, but that was a lie.  He later paid off some poor schmuck to take credit for it”   I would get it.  I mean, I understood the Lion King and that’s based on Hamlet.  I used to watch Lawrence of Arabia all the time (okay maybe a bit weird), but kids are smarter than you think!
If we just respected kids, we wouldn’t be repeating historical lies until our dying day and writing stupid articles in the LA times (yea, I’m talking to you Michael Hiltzik).  Read more about the whole light bulb invention thing here if you are curious.
Asshole Score:  3.5/5
4.  His middle name is Alva
Point Taken.
Asshole Score: 5/5

6 thoughts on “Thomas Edison was an Asshole

    • You should be ashamed of yourself . Not only for your limited vocabulary, but to demean such a wonderful man who gave us so much. By the way you do not even know the man. Jf k was a male whore and a liar, what do you call him? If Edison had not discovered what he did Jobs and the rest of us may still be in the dark. I realize people like you know no shame. Most of the people in America do not any more. Shame, integrity,honor, truth, fidelity, morality,trust, dependability, the bible things that made America great no longer mean much anymore and we are feeling it’s effects more and more every day.So sad. I lived in an America that those under 50 -55 will NEVER know. America itself does not mean much to so many that is why it is in danger of destroying itself. Gary

      • Hey Gary, open a book sometime and get your facts straight. More people outside of America know more about your history than you do dude! Edison didnt “discover” most of what he credits himself for you d**k, its common knowledge that he stole ideas and patents from people he could a) manipulate b) run out of business or c) disclaim/disprove in one way or another. Wake up dude

  1. Finally someone with enough balls to call it how it was. Just because history records things doest mean it was recorded correctly. We owe it to future generations to continually test and improve our knowledge of past events, not just swallow “facts” as spoon fed to us. If we did this, then every single thing on this planet was invented by Americans and no-one would know of a larger (braver) world outside of it.

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