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Edmund Morris

Could You Work for Thomas Edison? Answer These Questions

After World War I, one of history’s most prolific inventors came home to the company he created and a future that was leaving him behind.

Thomas Edison.

Thomas Edison.

Photographer: George Rinhart/Corbis Historical

The following is adapted from “Edison,” which is being published by Penguin Random House this month.

In 1920, at the age of 73, Thomas Alva Edison returned to the company he’d founded after an absence of four years. During that time, America’s great inventor had led the Naval Consulting Board under President Woodrow Wilson, where he was tasked with developing new defense technologies for World War I. To his annoyance, the bureaucracy adopted very few of his inventions, and he left government service frustrated by the whole experience.