Thomas Alva Edison was an American genius. One can hardly imagine the twentieth (or twenty-first) century without his inventions: the electric light, the phonograph, and the motion picture. But Edison might not have capitalized on his genius in any other country. Educated on its railroads and in its great cities, possessing driving energy and optimism, jealous and competitive, a master of self-promotion, yet a humble man who wished only to keep working, Edison personified American ambition and free enterprise and capitalized on opportunities available in no other country. By the time of his death in 1931, he was revered around the world.