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"Thomas Edison, Chemist," by Byron M. Vanderbilt

What is the focus of "Thomas Edison, Chemist"? How is the book organized? What aspects of Edison's life does it cover? What are the author's theses? How effectively does the author support his arguments? A summary is given.

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"Thomas Edison, Chemist", by Byron M. Vanderbilt, studies the career of Thomas Edison, focusing on the American inventor's contributions to the field of chemistry. In the process, the author explains that Edison was a chemist who "made major contributions in the field of applied chemistry and chemical engineering. Here was a story largely untold. This book is an attempt to tell that story" (p.vii). While it is clear that Thomas Edison's work very often utilized chemistry, chemical analysis, or the use of chemicals in a new way, Vanderbilt's argument is only partially convincing. As a result, while the author tells a number of interesting stories, his work is only partially successful.

The book is organized into ten chapters. The first nine chapters are divided topically, each focusing on a particular study or development in Edison's career. These chapters are then ordered in a vaguely chronological way, according to Edison's first efforts in each field or endeavor. Chapter 1, "The Youthful Chemist," concentrates on Edison's self-education and his early chemical experiments while working as a telegraph operator. Chapter 2, "Chemistry of the Light Bulb," covers the establishment of the Menlo Park research facility and chronicles the experimentation which led to the invention of the incandescent light bulb. Chapter 3, "Accessories for the Electric Light," focuses on the things invented by Edison (like insulated wiring, fuses, circuit breakers, meters, switches, and dynamos) which were necessary for the successful commercial distribution of the light bulb.

Chapter 4, "Materials for the Phonograph," details Edison's invention of the phonograph and surveys a number of later developments in the phonograph industry. Chapter 5, "Iron Ore Concentration," follows the inventor's efforts to develop an effective process for concentrating iron ore from sources with low iron content through the use of magnetism. Chapter 6, "Edison's Venture in Cement and Concrete," analyzes Edison's transition from the concentration of iron ore to production of concrete, particularly for use as a building ...

Solution Summary

"Thomas Edison, Chemist" is summarized.