Reader’s Digest: Freeberg Sets Record Straight on Edison

Reader’s Digest recently featured Ernest Freeberg, head of the Department of History, in an article titled “18 History Lessons Your Teacher Lied to You About.”

In this article, Reader’s Digest sets the record straight for many misconceptions that are relayed to students as they grow up. One of these common misconceptions is that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.

Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb, he developed it. According to Freeberg, there is a huge difference. 

“Edison was in a very competitive race where he borrowed—some said stole—ideas from other inventors who were also working on an incandescent bulb,” said Freeberg.

Freeberg is the author of The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America. In his book, Freeberg shows that the light bulb reflected the work of many inventors, rather than Edison’s lone genius. 

“What made him ultimately successful was that he was not a lone inventor, a lone genius, but rather the assembler of the first research and development team at Menlo Park, N.J.,” said Freeberg.