Thomas Edison and his struggles with Dyslexia


Thomas Edison holding a LightbulbThomas Edison was the last of seven children born to Father and Mother Samuel and Nancy Elliott Edison, Thomas Alva. Edison was born on the eleventh of February in the year 1847.

Thomas Edison is considered to be one of the greatest inventors of all time but achieving that stature did not come without its fair share of struggle. By all early accounts, Thomas Alva Edison’s name should have faded off in to unknown obscurity.


Things were sparse in the Edison household throughout Thomas’s childhood. His father Samuel, who came to the United States after being exiled from Canada for his participation in the Mackenzie Rebellion, was a wheeler-dealer and provided for their large family through a variety of business ventures. Unfortunately for the six of them {three of Thomas’s siblings died at childbirth} most of his endeavors ended in failure leaving them with little beyond what they needed to survive.

In addition to the family’s financial difficulties, Thomas had his own struggle. Early on he showed signs of dyslexia one of which was not mastering the ability to walk on his own until the age of four.

His Early Battle with Dyslexia

Because of his particular circumstance, Thomas Edison did not begin attending school until the late age of 10. His formal education was short live however, as his teachers found him to be a distraction in the classroom. The constant disruption caused by young Thomas asking so many questions and being restless in class was more than his teachers could bear and 12 short weeks after starting school, his mother had no choice but to remove him from the public school system.

Thomas’s mother assumed the role of educator and taught him the standard grade school curriculum of reading, writing and arithmetic. Being able to afford the extra time necessary to accommodate her son’s learning disability, within a year she had help Thomas to succeed in developing a solid foundation from which he would expand his knowledge on his own. For his mother, her assistance in furthering her son’s education had come to an end as she had taught him all that she knew herself. There was however one final contribution that she would make to her son’s education, that being the gift of a library card. From that point forward, everything Thomas learned he learned though reading books, despite being dyslexic.

Thomas not only found sanctuary in books but he also discovered his passion for knowledge in any form, there was no topic off limits to the young Edison. It was his curiosity of all things that drove him to become one of the greatest inventors in human history.

Later in his life Thomas would quote, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”

Overcoming Adversity

Call it luck or maybe fate but the saving of a small child’s life by the young entrepreneur selling candy and newspapers to the passengers riding the Grand Trunk Railroad forever changed Thomas Edison’s life.

He was 15 at the time and in a debt of gratitude, the father of the son whom Thomas had saved taught him the trade of telegraph operator, a job well suited to his dyslexia. Thomas spent the next several years traveling the mid-west, working as a telegraph operator during which time he began to hone his skills as an inventor, having made several improvements to telegraph technology of which he bears no official credit.

It was in 1868 just after moving to Boston that Thomas debuted his first invention, the electronic vote counter. Unfortunately, there was little interest for such a device so it was back to the drawing board for the budding inventor. And it didn’t take long as Edison achieved his first major success as an inventory the following year when he was paid $40,000 for the rights to his improved stock ticker. Thomas Edison was now on his way. He was only 22 years old.

Mr. Edison’s success as an inventor rose rapidly and in 1874 he hit pay dirt with his quadruplex telegraph, a device which revolutionize the telegraph industry by allowing more than one message to be telegraphed at a time.

All told, Mr. Edison is credited for 1093 patents in his lifetime of which includes his most notable, the durable lightbulb as well as the first movie theater and the first power plant. And ironically enough, one of his favorites of all his inventions was the phonograph, despite being partially deaf.

From childhood until death, Thomas Edison never let his dyslexia hold him back from doing great things as is proof by his many world changing inventions!

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