The First Electronic Church of America

S A I N T S   &   B I R T H D A Y   P A G E

February 11, 1997

Saint Of The Day:

Thomas Alva Edison

Edison was born on Feb. 11, 1847, a year when Michael Faraday practically invented alternating current. When Edison died on Oct. 18, 1931 (at the age of 84), the whole world was running its industry on power plants fashioned after Edison's own design, and reading its books and magazines and newspapers under light bulbs of Edison's invention. The man held 1093 patents, including several for the first motion picture camera (called the kinetescope), and the phonograph. He invented the carbon button transmitter, which is still being used in most of our microphones and telephones, the first alkaline storage battery, the mimeograph machine, flexible celluloid film and the first movie projector. Later, he would make the movies talk. Young Tom Edison grew up in Port Huron, Michigan. Because of hearing problems that made it difficult for him to follow the class lessons, his teachers considered him to be a dull student and his school attendance became sporadic. Nevertheless, Edison became a voracious reader and at age 10, he set up a laboratory in his basement. When his mother could no longer stand the smell of his chemistry lab, Edison took a job as a train boy on the Grand Trunk Railway, selling magazines and candy. He spent all he earned on books and apparatus for the chemical laboratory he set up in an empty freight car. He was twelve at the time. (Go to your local video store and rent a copy of the MGM movie, "Young Tom Edison," starring an Oscar-winning Mickey Rooney. Some of that movie is myth, but it is myth that captures the spirit of this budding genius, who, at age 13, was printing his own weekly newspaper for the train's passengers, which he called the Grand Trunk Herald.) While Edison was working for the railroad, something happened that changed the course of his career. Edison saved the life of a station official's child, who had fallen onto the tracks of an oncoming train. For his bravery, the boy's father taught Edison how to use the telegraph. From 1862 to 1868, Edison worked as a roving telegrapher in the Midwest, the South, Canada, and New England. During this time, he began developing a telegraphic repeating instrument that made it possible to transmit messages automatically. By 1869, Edison's inventions, including the duplex telegraph (which sent messages in opposite directions at the same time on the same wire) and the message printer, were progressing so well, he left telegraphy and began a career of full-time inventing and entrepreneurship. At age 22, Edison moved to New York City, and there he perfected a telegraph printer used by the New York financial community now known generically as a "stock ticker." That ticker made the financial world go round. Brokers decided to buy Edison's patents on it. How much did he want? He stammered, thought he'd ask for $3,000, then said, "Suppose you make me an offer." They gave him a check for $40,000. It was equivalent to several million in today's dollars. With this windfall, Edison was able to establish a laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and later in West Orange, where he continued to turn out a prodigious amount of work for the rest of his life in what would become a model of the modern industrial research laboratory. In 1878, Edison began work on an electric lamp and sought a material that could be electrically heated to incandescence in a vacuum. During these experiments on the incandescent bulb, Edison noted a flow of electricity from a hot filament across a vacuum to a metal wire. This phenomenon was known as thermionic emission, or the Edison effect, and it led one of Edison's engineers, William J. Hammer, into the discovery five years later of the vacuum tube, later adapted by Lee de Forest and called "the audion tube" -- a key component of something Billy Marconi ended up calling "radio." Edison, therefore, was one of the godfathers of radio -- and of television. In the late 1870s, backed (at first haltingly) by leading financiers including J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts, Edison established the Edison Electric Light Company. In 1879, he publicly demonstrated his incandescent electric light bulb. In 1882, he supervised the installation of the first commercial, central power system in lower Manhattan. Tom Edison believed in the spirit, and in life after death. In 1920, Edison said that he had long believed that the cells of the human body possessed "intelligence," and, taken together, constituted "a community made up of its innumerable cells or inhabitants." A man, he concluded, was not merely an individual, but also "a vast collection of myriads of individuals." The intelligence of a man, then, consisted of the combined intelligence of all the cells, or "entities" within him, "as a city is made up of the combined intelligence of its inhabitants." After death, those cells were separated and diffused, yet persisted in some new form, served over and over again, lived forever, and could no more be destroyed than matter. Thus, he demonstrated, he had burned his thumb. But the skin was perfectly formed and replaced. "The life entities," he said, "rebuilt that thumb with consummate care." Edison told a writer for American Magazine, that he was "at work on the most sensitive apparatus I have undertaken to build, and await the results with the keenest interest." Such an apparatus, he said, "might be operated by personalities in another existence or sphere who wish to get in touch with us; it will give them a better opportunity to express themselves than ouija boards or tilting tables." Edison was a great man with great intuitive powers. In positing "the intelligence of cells," we believe Edison was on to something -- something that would be elaborated at much higher and more serious speculative levels decades later by Jean-Emile Charon, a French atomic scientist and, in his later years, a philosopher who explored the frontiers between physics and metaphysics.

MODEL: Edison's curiosity. He was a man who believed that "truth is where you find it." Edison kept looking (and finding) all his life.

Your Birthday Today:

February 11
Day of Improvement Aquarius

Unselfish, Inventive, Appreciative

Intrusive, Insensitive, Excessive

The good life. If you were born on February 11, you enjoy improving the quality of life--for yourself or those around you. You believe things can always be improved. Ruled by the number 2 and the moon, you make a better coworker or partner, rather than a leader.

Hedonism or altruism? Only less advanced February 11 people seek improved comfort for themselves. This is fine for awhile, but eventually leads to possessiveness, dissappointment, envy and pain. More highly evolved individuals strive to improve the lives of others and gain much more satisfaction.

For the good of mankind. If you are of the latter variety, you may wish to make life easier and more meaningful for others, improving conveniences that allow people more time for intellectual, spiritual or creative projects. You can enjoy the pleasures of life without drowning in them and forgetting the important things.

Freedom. It is a driving force in your life. Rising above the limitations of your handicaps, physical or otherwise, can be challenging and rewarding for you. You hate to see yourself or others held down by physical, mental or financial binders.

Advice for the altruists: Respect people's privacy. Remember that most people prefer to stubbornly do things their own way, even if they make a mess of things. Your new ways may antagonize those threatened by change. You must learn tact and diplomacy, to know when it's best to keep your mouth shut.

Also born on this day: Thomas Edison (inventor of light bulb, phonograph) Mary Quant (Brithish fashion designer, innovator) Virginia Johnson (sex researcher) Joseph Mankiewicz (film producer, director) Burt Reynolds (actor) Lloyd Bentsen (US senator, vice-presidential candidate) Manuel Noriega (Panamanian dictator) Tina Louise (Ginger of Gilligan's Island) Leslie Nielson (actor) Gene Vincent (rock & roll singer)