On this date in 1847, Thomas Alva Edison was born in Ohio, the youngest of seven. The inventor—famed for reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire before the age of ten, and for vowing at age 12 to read the entire contents of the Detroit Public Library—was largely self-taught. Supporting himself at a very early age, Edison sold newspapers, worked for railroad companies and became a telegraph operator. He invented the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and improved the telegraph and telephone, becoming a highly successful businessman and manufacturer. Edison, who held more than 1,300 U.S. and foreign patents, famously noted: "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Edison told The New York Times in an interview (June 8, 1915): "I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill." A lifelong freethinker, one of his oft-repeated lines (for which we could find only secondary sources) is: "So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake. . . . Religion is all bunk." D. 1931.
Thomas Alva Edison
“I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul. . . . I am an aggregate of cells, as, for instance, New York City is an aggregate of individuals. Will New York City go to heaven? . . . No; nature made us—nature did it all—not the gods of the religions.”
—Thomas Alva Edison, The New York Times, Oct. 2, 1910 ("No Immortality of the Soul" Says Thomas A. Edison, interview by Edward Marshall)
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor
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