Thomas Edison in popular culture

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Thomas Edison has appeared in popular culture as a character in novels, films, comics and video games. His prolific inventing helped make him an icon and he has made appearances in popular culture during his lifetime down to the present day. He is often portrayed in popular culture as an adversary of Nikola Tesla.

Biographical works[edit]

  • Young Tom Edison was a 1940 biographical film starring Mickey Rooney as Edison.[1]
  • Edison, the Man was a 1940 biographical film starring Spencer Tracy as Edison.[2]
  • "The Electric Sunshine Man" is a musical for young voices about the life, times, and inventions of Thomas Edison; generally performed by youth choral groups in schools.
  • The Schoolhouse Rock song "Mother Necessity" featured Thomas Edison first as a child intending to be an inventor when he grows up "to make a lamp to help my mommy see..Wowee!/What an excellent application of electricity!" and then as a smart, rich man.
  • Edison occasionally appeared in caricature form on Histeria! His first major appearance was in a sketch in which he comes up with the light bulb while his nephew (played by Loud Kiddington) and his friends fool around in his office. The show also featured a song about Edison's partnership with Henry Ford.
  • "Edison's Medicine" is a song by the band Tesla from the album Psychotic Supper, which features the War of Currents between Edison's DC and Tesla's AC.
  • "The Wizard of Menlo Park" is a song by Chumbawamba on their album Un.
  • The song "Edison" by the Bee Gees from their 1969 album Odessa is a reference about Thomas Edison.
  • Czech poet Vítězslav Nezval wrote a lengthy epic poem titled Edison (1930), in which Edison is celebrated and apostrophed there as symbol of courage in search of meaning of life in modern civilisation. This work is considered[by whom?] to be one of the best poems of modern Czech literature.
  • The Current War is an upcoming biographical film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison.

Alternate histories[edit]

  • Edisonade is a category of fantastic fiction with young inventors travelling to distant parts and having adventures. Not only did the genre use his name, but a number of Thomas/Tom Edisons appeared in the early adventures.
  • In the Assassin's Creed series, Edison is portrayed as a member of The Knights Templar and one of the founders of the Abstergo Industries, attempting to discredit Nikola Tesla, an ally of the Assassins Order.
  • Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss (1898) is an unofficial sequel to The War of the Worlds in which Edison finds and reverse engineers Martian technology.
  • And Having Writ..., a 1978 alternate universe novel by Donald R. Bensen, features four aliens stranded on Earth whose comic misadventures lead to Edison being chosen by the Republican National Committee to run for President of the United States instead of Secretary of War William Howard Taft in 1908. He wins and becomes the 27th president. In 1912, he decides not to run for a second term and is succeeded by former president Theodore Roosevelt, who also preceded him.
  • Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog by Kurt Vonnegut (1953). A short story about Edison's accidental discovery that dogs have superhuman intelligence (and can talk) while working on an intelligence analyzer invention. Edison's dog Sparky reveals that dogs keep their intelligence a closely guarded secret, as they live a life of luxury while their humans "owners" do all the work & have all the worries. Edison and his young neighbor are featured in the story (told as a flashback from the now elderly neighbor's point of view), which goes on to divulge that it was Sparky who suggested to Edison the crucial component of the first incandescent light bulb.
  • L'Ève Future, an 1886 novel by Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam that popularized the term 'android.' In it, a fictionalized Edison creates what he argues is the perfect woman, the android Hadaly, in order to cure his friend Lord Ewald's infatuation with singer named Alicia, who is represented as shallow and immoral.
  • In the Japanese tokusatsu, Kamen Rider Ghost, the ghost of Thomas Edison helps the main character Takeru Tenkuji/Kamen Rider Ghost to unite the 15 Heroic Spirits and to access his electricity/gun-wielding Edison Damashii form.

Time-travel scenarios[edit]

Historical fiction[edit]

Characters based on Edison[edit]

  • "Tom Edison Jr." was the star of eleven adventure books written by Philip Reade. The first book was Tom Edison Jr.'s Sky Scraping Trip; Or Over the Wild West Like a Flying Squirrel (1891). Tom Edison Jr. is the son of Tom Edison Sr. a famous inventor who, they are at pains to emphasise, is not supposed to be famous inventor Thomas Edison.
  • To Mars With Tesla; or, the Mystery of the Hidden World by J. Weldon Cobb (1901) featured "Young Edison", a fictional nephew of Thomas Edison, helping Nikola Tesla in his adventures with Martians.
  • In the cartoon series Clone High, Thomas Edison's clone is shown as a short, sniveling nerd who seems to spend most of his time working with A.V equipment (a reference to the fact that Edison invented the projector).
  • Expiration Date by Tim Powers in which a boy possessed by the spirit of Thomas Edison is hunted through Los Angeles by people wanting to consume the ghost he carries.

Other references to Edison[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Young Tom Edison". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 17, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Edison, the Man (1940)," The Internet Movie Database.

External links[edit]