Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1899.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving of Edison speaking into the phonograph. Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) was a prolific American inventor who registered over 1000 patents. His inventions include the automatic telegraph, the electric lamp, the phonograph (gramophone) and the kinetoscope, an early form of cinematography. This engraving shows Edison recording speech on a phonograph. The phonography works by means of a stylus, vibrating in sympathy with the sound. This is the 'perfected' version, which includes an electric cell to drive the motor, wax cylinders which had replaced the tinfoil around the drum, and a 'hearing tube' to listen to the recording.