Thomas Alva Edison, American inventor, c 1920s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Thomas Edison is depicted here in old age, seated next to an 1889 'Edison' brand phonograph. Edison (1847-1931) was a prolific American inventor who registered over 1000 patents, many of which were related to the development of electricity. His inventions, in collaboration with his staff, include the automatic telegraph, the electric lamp, the phonograph (gramophone) and the kinetoscope, an early form of cinematography.