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Thomas A. Edison

 

Thomas Alva Edison—born on 11 February 1847 in Milan, Ohio—grew up in Michigan. As a child, he was slow in school and very poor in mathematics, but excelled as a reader. Hard work became a characteristic feature of Edison's life at an early age; as a teenager, he had already established a thriving business selling newspapers and candy on trains. In 1863, he became a telegraph operator and, in 1868, went to work for Western Union in Boston, Mass. Throughout that period, however, he also dabbled with chemistry and the application of electricity to telegraphy. He secured

 

a patent to his first invention, an electrographic vote recorder, in 1869. That same year, Edison joined the Laws Gold Indicator Co. as general manager and soon established a partnership with two others in the electrical engineering consultation business. He sold his portion of the latter firm in 1870, and the profits therefrom allowed him to establish his own shop with a staff of assistants. In 1874, he made quadruplex telegraphy, the simultaneous transmission of four different messages, practicable and, the following year, developed a resonator for analyzing sound waves. In 1876, the year in which he moved his laboratory to Menlo Park, N.J., he perfected the carbon telephone transmitter. In 1877, Edison invented the phonograph— perhaps his greatest achievement from the standpoint of inventive ingenuity.

 

If one can regard the phonograph as Edison's greatest invention, the one for which he is best remembered, the incandescent lamp, was not his at all. The principle had been known since Sir Humphry Davy's experiments in 1802, and inventors had toyed with the idea through the first three quarters of the 19th century, hampered at first by the lack of a satisfactory source of electricity and later by the twin problems of short life and poor luminous output. What Edison achieved in 1879, materially aided by better sources of electricity, was a refinement of his predecessors' efforts that produced a lamp with adequate life and luminous output.

 

Later, in 1883, he made his only truly scientific contribution when he discovered the "Edison effect." He showed that his incandescent lamp could act as a valve admitting negative electricity but rejecting positive. Ironically, he abandoned the discovery because, as an inventor, he saw no practical use for it. Later, his find became the basis for the vacuum tube so important to the development of radio and television transmission and reception.

 

Edison moved his laboratory to West Orange, N.J., in 1887, In 1891, he invented a "kinetoscope," a device for showing photographs in rapid succession to give the illusion of a moving picture. It was not a motion picture projector in the modern sense, for it utilized neither projector nor screen. It remained for Thomas Armat to devise a machine capable of projecting a picture from film onto a screen in 1895. Edison only acquired the patent to Armat's invention and improved it. He also used the projector in the first commercial showing of motion pictures on 23 April 1896 in New York City. Seventeen years later, he demonstrated a method of synchronizing sound with motion pictures and laid the foundation for sound movies.

 

When World War I erupted, Edison began devoting a large portion of his talent to defense-oriented inventions. He developed substitutes for drugs, dyes, and other items that the United States had previously imported from blockaded Germany. He also worked on a process to make synthetic carbolic acid and other substances necessary for the manufacture of explosives. He headed the Navy's consultative board and conducted research on such things as torpedo mechanisms, flame throwers, and submarine periscopes. Following the war, he continued his experiments despite his age, looking for improvements in wireless telegraphy, radio, electric power, motion pictures, and even the automobile and airplane. In his eighties, Edison embarked upon the attempt to produce synthetic rubber from domestic American plants. While so engaged, he collapsed in his laboratory on 1 August 1931 and died several weeks later on 18 October.

 

(SSBN-610: dp. 6,900 (surf.), 8,000 (subm.); 1. 410'; b. 33'; dr. 32'; s. 20+ k.; cpl. 110; a. 16 Pol., 4 21" tt.; cl. Ethan Allen)

 

Thomas A. Edison was laid down on 15 March 1960 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corp.; launched on 15 June 1961; sponsored by Mrs. Madeleine Edison Sloane; and commissioned on 10 March 1962, Capt. Charles M. Young (Blue crew) and Capt. Walter Dedrick (Gold crew) in command.

 

Following shakedown training off the eastern coast of the United States, Thomas A. Edison loaded Polaris missiles at Charleston, S.C., and embarked upon her first deterrent patrol on 7 November. She concluded that patrol at the base at Holy Loch, Scotland, whence she operated for the next four years and 17 deterrent patrols. In September 1966, her official home port was changed from New London, Conn., to Charleston, S.C., in preparation for her first major overhaul. She ended her 17th patrol at Charleston on 15 October 1966 and began her overhaul on the 28th. She completed repairs on 9 May 1968; and, after post-overhaul sea trials and shakedown, she embarked upon her 18th deterrent patrol on 22 September 1968. Over the next five years, she operated out of New London and Rota, Spain, from which ports she conducted another 19 patrols in the Atlantic.

 

In June of 1973, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet, arriving in San Diego on 11 July. After a short period of operations with Submarine Group 5, she moved to Vallejo on 6 August to begin another overhaul, this time at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. On 30 November 1974, the fleet ballistic missile submarine completed repairs and, following shakedown in January and February of 1975, she transited the Panama Canal again in March to fire test missiles near Cape Canaveral, Fla. She concluded that mission in July and retransited the canal on 8 August. Thomas A. Edison carried out operations along the west coast until December at which time she headed for her new home port, Guam. As of the beginning of 1980, the fleet ballistic missile submarine continued to conduct deterrent patrols from her base at Guam.

 

 


The ballistic-missile submarine Thomas A. Edison    (SSBN-610).