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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... Thomas Alva Edison.


CURWOOD: This year marks the 150th birthday of the man who seems to have single-handedly invented the 20th century. It's darned near impossible to overstate the importance Thomas Alva Edison has had on our lives. There are of course the inventions. The electric light, alkaline batteries, the phonograph, motion picture cameras and projectors, the mimeograph machine, and a thousand more. Edison was also responsible for the generators and wiring that brought electricity into our homes and workplaces. It was 105 years ago that the Pearl Street central power station in Lower Manhattan went on line, initiating the electrical illumination of the world. The environmental impact of these products has been incalculable. For example, without Edison's inventions, there would be no need for power plants. The ones run by coal, gas, or oil foul our air. Electricity from nuclear power comes with troublesome waste and the threat of contamination. Even the large dams used in hydropower have devastated ecosystems. But without electric light human activity would be largely limited by the setting and rising of the sun. And for this week that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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