Thomas Edison, Chemistry and Cooper Union

Thomas Alva Edison, the famed American inventor, is well-known as having taught himself certain principles of chemistry as a young man (there are famous stories about his setting his basement and, later, a freight car on fire as a result of his early experiments). Given his lifelong interests in chemistry, it should come as no surprise that the one time Edison decided that he needed to enroll in a course at an institution of higher learning, he enrolled in a chemistry course at the Cooper Union.

In 1872, Edison was loaded with debt and has just struck out on his own with his new financial partner, Joseph T. Murray. Edison and his invention collaborator, Charles Batchelor were trying to develop new technologies for printing telegraphs. In November he was hired by the American Telegraph Works and the Automatic Telegraph Company to develop a functional automatic telegraphy system. He began by trying to improve an existing system developed by George Little which had never been functional, but ran into problems.

-Quoted from Robert Conot, Thomas A. Edison: A Streak of Luck (Da Capo Press, New York, 1979).

This page was compiled by Prof. Robert Topper, Department of Chemistry, The Cooper Union.

Click here to learn more about Peter Cooper and the Cooper Union.

Peter Cooper's invention of Jell-O is chronicled here.