PRIOR to this, no complete, authentic, and authorized record of the work of Mr. Edison, during an active life, has been given to the world. That life, if there is anything in heredity, is very far from finished; and while it continues there will be new achievement.
An insistently expressed desire on the part of the public for a definitive biography of Edison was the reason for the following pages. The present authors deem themselves happy in the confidence reposed in them, and in the constant assistance they have enjoyed from Mr. Edison while preparing these pages, a great many of which are altogether his own. This co-operation in no sense relieves the authors of responsibility as to any of the views or statements of their own that the book contains. They have realized the extreme reluctance of Mr. Edison to be made the subject of any biography at all; while he has felt that, if it must be written, it were best done by the hands of friends and associates of long standing, whose judgment and discretion he could trust, and whose intimate knowledge of the facts would save him from misrepresentation.
The authors of the book are profoundly conscious of the fact that the extraordinary period of electrical development embraced in it has been prolific of great men. They have named some of them; but there has been no idea of setting forth various achievements or of ascribing distinctive merits. This treatment is devoted to one man whom his fellow-citizens have chosen to regard as in many ways representative of the American at his finest flowering in the field of invention during the nineteenth century.
It is designed in these pages to bring the reader face to face with Edison; to glance at an interesting childhood and a youthful period marked by a capacity for doing things, and by an insatiable thirst for knowledge; then to accompany him into the great creative stretch of forty years, during which he has done so much. This book shows him plunged deeply into work for which he has always had an incredible capacity, reveals the exercise of his unsurpassed inventive ability, his keen reasoning powers, his tenacious memory, his fertility of resource; follows him through a series of innumerable experiments, conducted methodically, reaching out like rays of search-light into all the regions of science and nature, and finally exhibits him emerging triumphantly from countless difficulties bearing with him in new arts the fruits of victorious struggle.