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Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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Thumbnail of Thomas Edison (source)
Thomas Edison
(11 Feb 1847 - 18 Oct 1931)

American inventor who was known internationally as “the Wizard of Menlo Park,” for the huge number of innovations coming from there, the world's first industrial research laboratory.


Thomas Edison Quote - Tinfoil Phonograph
“Mary Had a Little Lamb”

Illustrated Quote - Medium (500 x 350 px)

Thomas Edison quote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, recording track background+colorized photo of Edison & a later tinfoil phonograph
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Thomas Edison Tinfoil Phonograph - illustration from Scientific American (22 Dec 1877). Image thumbnail.
1877 (source)
“I was going to record talking, and then have the machine talk back. ... the foil was put on; I then shouted 'Mary had a little lamb', ... I adjusted the reproducer, and the machine reproduced it perfectly.”
— Thomas Edison
Describing the first recording he made on his tinfoil phonograph

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Thomas Edison photo - seated beside tinfoil phonograph on table
Thomas Edison and tinfoil phonograph
(probably 1878) (source)
Edison Valued His First Tinfoil Phonograph at $18

The condensed quote above comes from a longer description of his tin foil phonograph that Thomas Edison gave in his own account:

“I designed a little machine using a cylinder provided with grooves around the surface. Over this was to be placed tinfoil, which easily received and recorded the movements of the diaphragm. A sketch was made, and the piece-work price, $18, was marked on the sketch. I was in the habit of marking the price I would pay on each sketch. If the workman lost, I would pay his regular wages; if he made more than the wages, he kept it.

The workman who got the sketch was John Kruesi. I didn't have much faith that it would work, expecting that I might possibly hear a word or so that would give hope of a future for the idea. Kruesi, when he had nearly finished it, asked what it was for. I told him I was going to record talking, and then have the machine talk back. He thought it absurd. However, it was finished, the foil was put on; I then shouted ‘Mary had a little lamb,’ etc. I adjusted the reproducer, and the machine reproduced it perfectly. I was never so taken aback in my life. Everybody was astonished. I was always afraid of things that worked the first time. Long experience proved that there were great drawbacks found generally before they could be got commercial; but here was something there was no doubt of."1

It is said that Carman, the foreman of the machine shop, had gone the length of wagering Edison a box of cigars that the device would not work. All the world knows that he lost.1

Edison had given his first plans to Kruesi in Dec 1877. In the posed photo, shown here, Edison was sitting with an improved machine. Note that in this photo, probably taken in 1878, Edison would have be about 30 years old. We are more familiar from the documentary movies seeing him as a much older man, but this photo instead shows him in his prime years.

This, his first major invention brought Edison international attention. Then, in 1879, just two years after drawing his phonograph plans, Edison was demonstrating his successful light bulb design.

More Thomas Edison quotes >>


Phonongraph shown with illustrated quote is a later model, photo taken probably 1878. [1] Text of quote and cigars comment from Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin, Edison, his life and inventions (1910), Vol. 1, 207-209. (source)


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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Bible
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- 70 -
Samuel Morse
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Humphry Davy
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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Richard Dawkins
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Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
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JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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