Edison's Prescient Pre-Science
"The dependence of the country on electrical current for its life and health is itself a monument to Mr. Edison's genius." President Hoover
In this biography, a Pulitzer-prize winning author profiles America's most prolific genius---Thomas Alva Edison. A single theme permeates Edison's life: Electricity. "The breadth of his erudition in other sciences was extraordinary, but it was also linear, in the sense that a common force--electricity--[linked them]."
In addition to electricity, Edison's life had another unifying theme---he was ahead of his time. In 1972, a molecular biologist famously raised the question of "pre-maturity" in science---discoveries or theories that were too ahead of their time to be fully understood or explored. Edison embodied this phenomenon in both his work and observations. For example, he was ahead of the curve with electronics. In fact, "the theory of the electron, or charged subatomic particle, would not be [discovered] for another seventeen years" after Edison's work.
Similarly, he was a visionary in terms of energy systems. His premonition about solar, storage, and wind power was beyond prescient. It was pre-science. And it took about a century for his vision---quoted below---to begin taking shape:
"Someday some fellow will invent a way of concentrating and storing sunshine to use instead of this old, absurd Prometheus scheme of fire...This scheme of combustion in order to get power makes me sick to think of---it is so wasteful...We should utilize natural forces and thus get all of our power. Sunshine is a form of energy, and the winds and the tides are all manifestations of energy...There must surely come a time when heat and power will be stored in unlimited quantities in every community, all gathered by natural forces."