Mathew Brady photograph, from the Archives of the Academy, courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Edison National Historic Site

Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Edison (who would be 150 this year if he had also invited a longevity device) was invited to exhibit his phonograph and his modification of the telephone at the April 1878 meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, but he was not considered for membership until the 1920s.

Even then, he faced opposition. Edison was nominated by the engineering section, and at the 1926 annual meeting physicist Robert A. Millikan rose to endorse the nomination. But when Millikan said (he thought rhetorically), ” I am sure that no physicist would wish to opppose Mr. Edison’s nomination,” A. A. Michelson, then thought to be the greatest physicist in the world, rose and said, “I am that physicist.”

Edison, with his more than 1,000 patents, was rejected that year but was elected to membership in 1927, four years before his death.

Cite this Article

"Archives." Issues in Science and Technology 14, no. 1 (Fall 1997).