Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) was a prolific American inventor who held more than 1,000 patents on his inventions, including innovations such as the incandescent electric lamp (1879) and the phonograph (1877). Contrary to popular belief, he didn't "invent" the light bulb, but rather improved upon a 50-year-old idea. Edison’s light bulb (1879) used a small, carbonized filament that lasted 40 hours because his design was able to maintain a good vacuum.
On September 4, 1882, Edison opened the first commercial power plant, located on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, New York, that provided light and electricity power to customers in a one square mile area, signaling the beginning of the electric era. Edison invested in direct current (DC) power transmission and fought bitterly against Tesla and Westinghouse's alternating current (AC) transmission. However, Edison would be proven wrong on this front, as AC was much more convenient to transmit since it can be produced at high enough voltages to be transmitted over large distances, whereas DC cannot. His notable scientific discovery was the Edison effect, the emission of electrons from a heated cathode. Edison did not recognize the importance of this discovery, though subsequent scientists used the effect as the basis for the electron tube. Edison is famous for his slogan "genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."
Edison's Phonograph Recordings (U. S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service)
First Public Demonstration of Edison's Light Bulb (America's Library)
The History of the Edison Cylinder Phonograph (Library of Congress: American Memory)
Thomas Alva Edison - Short Biography (America's Library)