Article ID: CBB000932496

Edison and Science: A Curious Result (2009)


In November 1875, Thomas Edison made the sensational announcement that he had discovered a new force of nature, etheric force. It was to emerge some years later that the phenomenon Edison described was a form of wireless transmission, but Edison failed both to advance his theory and to exploit his discovery in new inventions. I contrast Edison's approach to doing science with what he did when inventing, and also with the approach used by his principal scientific opponents. This contrast reveals that he failed, not so much because he was an inventor who did science badly, but because when he ventured into scientific theory-making he abandoned key techniques that made him America's most successful inventor. From this I argue that we can identify artefact creation processes in science that parallel the process of invention, and that Edison failed because his opponents created better artefacts.

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Authors & Contributors
Frercks, Jan
Wills, Ian
Janssen, Michel
Stross, Randall E.
Dalzell, Frederick
Klein, Ursula
Physics in Perspective
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
European Physical Journal H
Philosophy of Science
Crown Publishers
MIT Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
New York, City University of
Temple University
Inventors and invention
Methodology of science; scientific method
Electricity; magnetism
Discovery in science
Edison, Thomas Alva
Fizeau, Armand Hippolyte Louis
Lorentz, Hendrik Antoon
Einstein, Albert
Sprague, Frank J.
Thénard, Louis Jacques
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
United States

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