Be Electrific Day
annually on February 11th (since 1998)
Carolyn Finch in 1998
Be Electrific Day was started by professional speaker, body language expert, and speech pathologist Carolyn Finch. She defines electrific as "an abbreviation for an electrification project - which means to put light where light has not been before." In a sense, this was done by Thomas Alva Edison, whose birthday it is today, when he invented the modern light bulb. Be Electrific Day celebrates Edison's birthday, but also, according to Finch, "the electricity within us." It is to be a day to discover the electricity within our own bodies.
Thomas Edison, who would become known as "The Wizard of Menlo Park" and register 1093 patents, was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. He had little formal education and began working on a railroad before he was a teenager. In the 1860s, he began working in telegraphy, but he was largely deaf, which put him at a disadvantage. He made the switch to full-time inventing in 1869.
Between 1870 and 1875, while working in Newark, New Jersey, he developed products for the telegraph for the Western Union Telegraph Company and its rivals. He ran into financial troubles in late 1875, but with his father's help, he was able to build a laboratory and machine shop in Menlo Park, New Jersey. This was the first industrial laboratory in the world.
In 1877, Edison developed a carbon transmitter, which made telephone calls more audible, transmitting voices at a higher volume with more clarity. He invented the phonograph that same year. He recorded sound on indentations on paraffin-coated paper, and then placed the paper under a stylus in order to reproduce the sound.
The following year, Edison began focusing on inventing a safe, inexpensive electric light to replace the gaslight—something scientists had been working on for a half-century. After getting the backing of the Vanderbilt family and J.P. Morgan, he set up the Edison Electric Light Company, where research and development were done. In October 1879, he came up with a bulb that used a platinum filament. Then, in the summer of 1880, he began using carbonized bamboo as a filament, which lasts much longer. His incandescent lights were showcased at the International Exposition of Electricity in 1881 in Paris, and at the International Electric Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1882. In 1892, his electric company merged with another company to form the General Electric Company.
In the 1880s, he built a large estate and research laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. During these years, he worked on a commercial model of a phonograph and also worked with William K.L. Dickson to create a motion picture camera called the Kinetograph, and a viewing instrument called the Kinetoscope. He continued to work into his eighties, until he passed away at the age of 84 on October 18, 1931. He is known more than anyone else for his contributions to technology during the age of electricity, and we celebrate his birthday today, and the electricity within our bodies.
How to Observe Be Electrific Day
Here are a few ideas on how to celebrate the day:
- Use some of Thomas Edison's inventions, such as the light bulb or phonograph.
- Read a biography on Edison.
- Visit the Thomas Edison Center.
- Visit Edison's grave.
- Try to invent something that uses electricity.
- Celebrate the electricity within yourself.