A human brain being measured  with a measuring tape. Human Intelligence

Human Intelligence: Historical influences, current controversies, teaching resources.

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Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison

"one of the most prolific inventors of the late 19th century"


  • Formal schooling for only three months (age 7), thereafter tutored by his mother, an avid reader 
  • Starting in 1862, Edison began printing, publishing and selling "The Weekly Herald" on a train that was part of the Grand Trunk Railroad (Port Huron, MI).
  • Age 15 Edison became manager of a telegraph office. 
  • Inventor / Developer 

Currently, approximately 5 million pages of Edison's papers are being archived a the Edison National Historic Site.  These sources of information about the inventor's work include pocket notebooks, unbound scraps of paper, letters, scrapbooks, among other forms of his writings. 

Major Contributions 

Edison's first patented invention was the Electrical Vote Recorder, in 1868.  His other inventions include the incandescent lamp, first central electric light-power station, automatic telegraph, stock ticker, phonograph, alkaline storage battery, a magnetic process to separate iron ore, and the carbon microphone.  "...His introduction of flexible celluloid film and his invention of the movie projector aided the development of motion pictures."  At the age of 23 he sold his first invention, a "Universal Stock Ticker"

Edison's "...early laboratories were forerunners of the modern industrial research laboratory, where skilled researchers jointly solve technological problems."  By the time Edison died in 1931, he had patented 1,093 inventions. 

Regarding intelligence:  Edison stated that he believed the cells in the human body posessed "intelligence".  These cells, taken together, constituted a community made up of its innumerable cells or inhabitants.  A man, then, was not just an individual, but also a "vast collection of myriads of individuals".  Thus, the intelligence of a man consisted of the combined intelligences of all the cells, or "entities" within him, "as a city is made up of the combined intelligence of its inhabitants".  Upon the death of the body, those cells become separated and diffused, yet persist in some new form, serve over and over again, live forever, and can no more be destroyed than matter.

He was dubbed by Life magazine as the "Number One Man of the Millennium."  

References: 10

Image Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

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