Today, I read a quote attributed to Thomas Edison, “We don’t know one millionth of one percent about anything.”
In honor of that quote and the current trials and tribulations of the incandescent light bulb, both here and abroad, let’s take a look at a special Edison Collector’s Set.
The outer box was long and blue with the US Mint’s logo above the title, “Edison Collector’s Set.”
Another box inside the first included a blue-toned image of the Edison Illuminating Light Corporation’s building with Thomas Alva Edison Commemorative Coin written at the top beside an early form of the light bulb.
The back of the box provided information about Thomas Alva Edison’s philosophy on learning, trying and succeeding:
“His only rival was the sun. He didn’t really conquer the darkness; fire had beaten him to that. But fire was at least as dangerous as it was useful. Edison harnessed fire. He took a good thing and made it even better. For Edison, the pursuit of knowledge really was its own reward. There are those who believe he worked so hard to perfect the incandescent light bulb simply to lengthen his day and thereby increase his ability to work on other things. Like many of history’s most accomplished figures, Edison was perfectly suited for his time. He was a genius who thought with his hands, mixing destruction and creation in equal measure, curious and impossibly driven to succeed. ‘I have not failed,’ he once said. ‘I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’
“Seldom, if ever, has an individual done more to improve the quality of life for those with whom he shared the world. His marvelous machines captured music and shared it with the masses, and they watched in stunned amazement as still pictures began to move before their eyes. His invention of the incandescent light bulb helped man conquer the night, dispelling forever the shadows of antiquity. It is likely his inventions frightened as many people as they inspired. They called him the Wizard of Menlo Park, for who but such a man could possibly do the things he did? Edison, of course, would hear none of it. He said, ‘If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.’ On that, Thomas Alva Edison spoke with absolute authority.”
Inside the box, the left portion includes a picture of Mr. Edison, from which the coin’s obverse design was adapted, with the Certificate of Authenticity and coin specifications below.
Opposite, an image of an old-style light bulb contains a small bulb at the juncture of its filaments while the uncirculated Thomas Alva Edison commemorative silver dollar forms the base of the light bulb.
Most likely, Mr. Edison would be intrigued by the batteries and circuitry provided to light the small bulb in this special set.
The Thomas Alva Edison Commemorative Silver Dollar in the Edison Collector’s Set is an uncirculated coin, but let’s view the details, obverse and reverse, of a proof version of the coin.
As you see, the obverse design is not quite the same as the picture, but it’s similar with Mr. Edison in his suit and holding one of his light bulbs in his right hand. Instead of his left hand held at his waist outside his coat, the coin’s image has his hand casually and comfortably in his left pocket.
For the reverse, the light bulb:
This bulb with its rays of light compares closely to the artistic image of the bulb inside the box.
More information can be found about Thomas Alva Edison at the Smithsonian. A picture of one of Mr. Edison’s early light bulbs can be seen here. Plus, more information about Edison’s life and inventions, the light bulb and many more, are found here.
In closing, he overestimated our knowledge. Just look at the rapid changes in technology and what we are still learning from the depths of the oceans and the vastness of space. We could restate his comment as, “we don’t know one billionth of one percent about anything,” or maybe even one-trillionth.
But, the best lesson he provided is to keep learning and to keep trying even after you find the ways that don’t work.