Here Are All The Things That Thomas Edison Didn't Actually Invent, But Took The Credit For Anyway

Thomas Edison was one of the greatest inventors of all time - or was he? Most people think Edison was the inventor of the light bulb, but that doesn't seem to be the case, which begs the question, "Who truly invented the light bulb?" There is a lot of contention over famous stolen inventions, and unfortunately it's impossible to not bring up Edison when it comes to the subject.

The list of things Edison didn't invent is as long as the list of things he did, but he was really good at taking credit for the ideas and inventions of others. Edison was incredibly skilled at improving upon the inventions of others and adding the contributions of his colleagues - not stolen inventions, per se, but that may depend on who you ask. As a result, Edison made some enemies throughout his career - most notably Nikola Tesla - and it's understandable, given the wealth and acclaim Edison received and how many people he stepped on to get there. 


  • Storage Batteries Made Edison A Lot Of Money But He Didn't Invent Them
    Photo: Smallbrainfield / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Storage Batteries Made Edison A Lot Of Money But He Didn't Invent Them

    Edison wasn't the first person to invent a storage battery - Volta did that decades before him - but he did rework what was already invented into some lucrative products. He worked on developing a storage battery to be used in automobiles during the last decades of the 19th century.

    Edison experimented with nickle-iron alkaline storage, but wasn't able to invent a battery in time to meet the needs of the growing automobile industry. His batteries were later used for industrial purposes.

  • Edison Abandoned X-Ray Technology Because He Was Afraid Of It
    Photo: emptyage / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Edison Abandoned X-Ray Technology Because He Was Afraid Of It

    Neither Nikola Tesla nor Thomas Edison invented x-rays - German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen did that in 1895 - but Tesla and Edison did disagree over the use of x-ray and radar technology during World War One. Tesla proposed the use of radar for monitoring submarines while Edison took higher ground and claimed he was "proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill."

    As for x-rays, after Rontgen's discovery, numerous doctors and physicists began experimenting with the applications of x-ray technology. Edison's own assistant, Clarence Dally, died of skin cancer in 1904 after work with x-rays and prolonged exposure to radiation. In the end, Edison said, "I am afraid of radium and polonium too, and I don’t want to monkey with them."

  • Edison Took Credit For Wax Paper But Had Nothing To Do With It
    Photo: Seija183 / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Edison Took Credit For Wax Paper But Had Nothing To Do With It

    Wax paper was probably invented in 1851 by Gustav Le Gray, not Thomas Edison. As an artist, Le Gray used a dry, wax paper in his photography process but, by the late 1880s and early 1890s, Edison used wax paper with his "electric pen" in a stenciling-type system of copying documents.

    The pen itself was loud, un-usable, and one of his unsuccessful creations.

  • Edison Didn't Invent The Power Generator But Got Credit For It Anyway
    Photo: Klintberg / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Edison Didn't Invent The Power Generator But Got Credit For It Anyway

    Electric generators were well in use by the 1870s, in large part to Michael Faraday's discovery of electromagnetic induction. Both AC and DC power were common and Edison built  his "dynamo," or direct current (DC) power generator, with his assistants Charles Batchelor and Francis Upton. 

    Edison considered DC power to be efficient and used it for his lighting systems. Nikola Tesla invented an alternating current generator (AC) in 1888.