Many successful people downplay their native gifts and emphasize their willpower, and Thomas Alva Edison was no exception. Genius, he said so quotably, is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Whatever the ratio, Edison had genius. Phonographs, electric lightbulbs, motion pictures, telephones we trace all of these and many other inventions to this one man.

Now there is a hefty new biography worthy of the extraordinary man, Edison: A Life of Invention by Paul Israel. Editor of the ongoing Edison Papers project at Rutgers, and author of Edison's Electric Light, Israel seems to know everything there is to know about his subject. He calmly clears away the misty fables and shrinks Edison from godlike to no-less-imposing human stature. Along the way, he impressively explains the origins of the modern industrial world. The story of Thomas Edison would demand nothing less.

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