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The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World | [Randall E. Stross]

The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World

At the height of his fame Thomas Alva Edison was hailed as “the Napoleon of invention” and blazed in the public imagination as a virtual demigod. Newspapers proclaimed his genius in glowing personal profiles and quipped that “the doctor has been called” because the great man “has not invented anything since breakfast.” But Edison's greatest invention may have been his own celebrity.
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Publisher's Summary

At the height of his fame, Thomas Alva Edison was hailed as “the Napoleon of invention” and blazed in the public imagination as a virtual demigod. Newspapers proclaimed his genius in glowing personal profiles and quipped that “the doctor has been called” because the great man “has not invented anything since breakfast.”

Starting with the first public demonstrations of the phonograph in 1878 and extending through the development of incandescent light, power generation and a distribution system to sustain it, and the first motion picture cameras - all achievements more astonishing in their time than we can easily grasp today - Edison's name became emblematic of all the wonder and promise of the emerging age of technological marvels.

But as Randall Stross makes clear in this critical biography of the man who is arguably the most globally famous of all Americans, Thomas Edison's greatest invention may have been his own celebrity. Edison was certainly a technical genius, but Stross excavates the man from layers of myth-making and separates his true achievements from his almost equally colossal failures. How much credit should Edison receive for the various inventions that have popularly been attributed to him - and how many of them resulted from both the inspiration and the perspiration of his rivals and even his own assistants? How much of Edison's technical skill helped him overcome a lack of business acumen and feel for consumers' wants and needs?

This bold reassessment of Edison's life and career answers these and many other important questions while telling the story of how he came upon his most famous inventions as a young man and spent the remainder of his long life trying to conjure similar success. We also meet his partners and competitors, presidents and entertainers, his close friend Henry Ford, the wives who competed with his work for his attention, and the children who tried to thrive in his shadow - all providing a fuller view of Edison's life and times than has ever been offered before. The Wizard of Menlo Park reveals not only how Edison worked, but how he managed his own fame, becoming the first great celebrity of the modern age.

©2007 Randall E. Stross (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"As he demonstrated in his earlier examinations of the creative lives of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, organizational historian Randy Stross once again reveals a keen eye for the hidden details and forgotten nuances in the lives of great men. His recreation of the life and achievements of Thomas Edison will become the standard reference to which all historians will turn for years to come. And yet the book is written with an eye for detail and a flair for observation that reads more like a great mystery novel than your standard biography. A must read!" (Roderick Kramer, William R. Kimball Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford Business School, Stanford University)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (189 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Richard Daniel Fort Worth, TX USA 05-06-12
    Richard Daniel Fort Worth, TX USA 05-06-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Fast paced account of Edison"

    I got got interested in Edison when seeing the Menlo Park exhibit at the Henry Ford in Michigan. This is the first book that I've heard that covered his life and the impact he had on so many aspects of America.

    Grover Gardner is my favorite narrator. There are a few sections that I think can be condensed. This shows the failures as well as the successes of Edison and he managed to alter our lives.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Houston, TX, United States 06-23-13
    Robert Houston, TX, United States 06-23-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Interesting review of Edison's life"

    But the subtitle is misleading. I didn't really get a sense of "how TE invented the modern world". How his greatest inventions isn't covered in much depth. It does present a overall picture of the man, warts and all that was very interesting.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Bellevue, WA, United States 08-25-12
    Elizabeth Bellevue, WA, United States 08-25-12 Member Since 2007

    A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!

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    "Enlightening, but not compelling"

    My knowledge of Edison was basic and based largely on folk lore. Reading this book taught me more about Edison--celebrity was important to him, did he really invent things or just take credit for them, he expected more of others than he gave himself, he had a profound hearing loss and he went camping with Ford & Firestone. Those are my lasting impressions.

    I am glad I read (listened) to the book and learned more about Edison, but I do feel my bubble was burst as this great inventor and American hero became a self-centered, aloof man. I guess reality had to set in at some point.

    The book, in general, was well written, although at times it seemed to drag on and failed to be compelling.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RealTruth Investor Relations, MN 03-04-13
    RealTruth Investor Relations, MN 03-04-13 Member Since 2011

    RealTruth

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    "Good book about Edison"

    Thorough biography about Thomas Edison and his discoveries. Lengthy discussion of phonograph, incandescent light bulb, moving pictures and other finds.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick Bothell, WA 08-10-12
    Rick Bothell, WA 08-10-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Well written and full of historical tidbits"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World to be better than the print version?

    I haven't read the print version


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    this book was a bit overlong and had too many details that didnt help tell the story in some places.


    What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

    After listening to this book I will be a permanent fan of Grover Gardner. He's not particularly varied in his voice performance but he's very comforting and easy to listen to.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    "We've invented a movie, about a book that was invented to tell the story of an inventor who didn't really invent much!!"


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katie DICKINSON, TX, United States 08-07-12
    Katie DICKINSON, TX, United States 08-07-12
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    "Good narration weak story"

    The overall impression from the book was disjointed. It tells a story of Thomas eddision, but I really feel like it didn't touch on some very well known points of his life and it was not clear alot of the time how he got to where he got. Overall a good listen but not what I had expected

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    André ORLANDO, FL, United States 06-21-14
    André ORLANDO, FL, United States 06-21-14 Member Since 2011

    I love AUDIBLE! I never get mad at traffic jams and can listen to many different books, despite my short time.

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    "Good book, but lacks a clearer image of Edison"

    I like biographies and I longed for a Thomas Alva Edison's. This book is well researched and well written, but something is missing: a good picture of Edison, a palpable one, like Roosevelt's or Tesla's. It left me with a goshtlike image of a great man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Motes Tampa 01-31-14
    Sam Motes Tampa 01-31-14 Member Since 2011

    Audible obsessed lifelong learner.

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    "Brilliant inventor yet flawed business man"

    A very interesting look into the life of Edison that paints the picture of a brilliant inventor that was flawed with traits of being very vain, elitist, over opinionated, and a very poor business man. Obviously in hindsight but the author tells a story of missed opportunities due to his character flaws keeping him from thriving of his inventions similar to the story of the McDonnell brothers in the fast food world. The business and personal relationship between Edison and Ford was the most interesting part of the book for me. Grover Gardner does a great job of narration as usual.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    matthew pen argyl, PA, United States 09-17-12
    matthew pen argyl, PA, United States 09-17-12
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    "interesting, but could have been better"
    Would you try another book from Randall E. Stross and/or Grover Gardner?

    maybe depends on topic of book


    What did you like best about this story?

    it tried to tell the story about Edison


    What three words best describe Grover Gardner’s performance?

    just ok


    What else would you have wanted to know about Randall E. Stross’s life?

    nothing


    Any additional comments?

    some books should not be made into audio books

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Framingham, MA, United States 08-06-12
    William Framingham, MA, United States 08-06-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Great story"
    Where does The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The title was a bit misleading for a techie as most of us know of the California Menlo Park, but this story is an excellent one about one of history's greatest inventors. Entertaining and engaging, always keeping us wondering what new invention Edison was dreaming up next.


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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