( From «My Most Unforgettable Character» by Charles Edison)
1.Read the text The Lights Still Burn and a) give your idea of the author’s choice of the title.
b)Work in pairs, choose the title on your own.
Thomas Alva Edison never looked like a man whose inventions had changed the world. And he never acted like one either. He moved about his laboratory at Menlo Park, New Jersey , with a funny walk that was more of a shuffle.His hair fell down over one side of his forehead. There were always chemical burns on his unpressed clothing. No, he didn’t look like a man who had changed our world.
Yet every day, those of us who were close to him realized what a great man he was. His contributions to better living were 1093 inventions, but it is not for these that I remember him. It is for his courage, his imagination and determination, his humility, his wit.
Because he spent such long hours in the laboratory, he was at home very little. But he did find time to go fishing and take short trips with the family. And when the children were young, he often played games with us. He might start the day exploding a huge firecrackerat dawn, awakening us and the neighbours, too. Then he would shoot off fireworks of different kinds all day long.
Always Father led us to experiment and explore for ourselves. He had provided all sorts of material and got us to work with them laughing, joking, questioning. He had me washing-bottles in his laboratory when I was six. When I was ten, he helped me start building a full-sized car. It never did get any seats, but it did have a fine engine by the time I finished with it. It worked, too.
At home or at the laboratory, Father seemed to know how to get other people to do things. He could and did give orders, but he liked better to inspire people by his own example. This was one of the secrets of his success.
He was not, as many people believe, a scientist working alone in his laboratory. After he sold his first successful inventions for $40,000, he began hiring chemists, mathematicians, engineers – anyone who knew things that he thought would help him solve a difficult problem.
Often Father had money troubles and couldn’t pay his men. Father himself usually worked 18 or more hours a day. «Achievement provides the only real pleasure in life,» he told us. He slept only four hours each night, with a few additional short naps. «If you sleep too much,» he said, «you get dopey. you lose time and opportunities, too.»
His many successful inventions are well-known. Among them were the phonograph, which he invented when he was 30; the incandescent bulb, which lighted the world, and moving pictures. These are only three of hundreds. He also made the inventions of other people into practical things that could be bought and sold. Without his work, the telegraph and telephone, for example, might have remained unknown.
It is sometimes asked, «Didn’t he ever fail?» The answer is yes. He failed quite often. But he never hesitated to act because he was afraid of failing.
His feelings about money were somewhat the same. He never hesitated to spend every cent that he had. He considered money a material, like metal, to be used rather than kept. He put nearly all his money into his experiments. Several times he was almost completely without money, but that didn’t stop him.
I especially remember a freezing December night in 1914, when Father’s experiments on another invention of his were still a great disappointment. Father had spent ten years and a lot of money on it. Only the money from his motion-picture machines and photographs was keeping the laboratory open and his family alive.
On that December evening the cry «Fire» was heard in the laboratory. Within moments everything was burning. Chemicals were exploding like fireworks. Firemen from eight nearby towns arrived, but the heat was so great and the waterpressureso low that they could do nothing. When I couldn’t find Father, I became worried. Was he safe? Would losing his laboratory make him losing his courage and determination? He was 67, too old to begin again, I thought. Then I saw him in the yard running toward me. «Where’s Mom?» he shouted, «Go get her! Tell her to tell her friends! They’ll never see a fire like this again.» At 5.30 the next morning the fire was still burning but under control. He called his workmen together. « We are going to build again,» he said. And he started giving orders.
Because he was able to lose everything and start again, and because he invented so many practical machines both before and after the fire, he appeared to have a magic power. He was often called « The Wizard of Menlo Park.»
And Father never changed his sense of values. It has often been said that Edison had no schooling. And it is true that he went to school for only six month, but his mother taught him at his boyhood home in Port Huron, Michigan. With her help, he was reading histories of the Roman Empire at the age of eight or nine. After he started selling newspapers on Michigan trains, he spent whole days reading in the Detroit Free Library. In our home he always had books, magazines and a half dozen daily newspapers.
From childhood, this man who was to achieve so much was almost completely deaf. He could hear only the loudest noises, but this did not trouble him. He believed that it drove him to reading when he was young, provided silence in which he could think, and saved him from small talk.
He enjoyed music, and he could «listen» by putting one end of a pencil between his teeth and the other end on the phonograph.The vibrations came through perfectly. The phonograph was his favourite of all his inventions.
Father never stopped working. And he was not afraid of growing old. At the age of 80, he began to study botany, a science – new to him. He wanted to find a North American plant which would produce rubber. He experimented with 17, 000 kinds of plants and finally got rubber from an ordinary roadside plant, the goldenrod.
Finally, at 84, his health started to fail. Newspapermenarrived at our door to keep watch. Every hour the news was sent out to them: «the light still burns.» But at 3:24 in the morning of October 18, 1931, the word came: « The light is out.»
On the day he was buried, all electric lights in the nation were to be turned off for one minute in his honour. But this seemed too dangerous and costly. Instead, only certain lights were turned low for a minute. The work of the nation was not stopped, even for a second. Thomas Edison, I am sure, would have wanted in that way.
2. Read the text again and discuss in pairs the answer to the questions:
1. Who wrote the story about Thomas Alva Edison?
2. What did the great inventor look like?
3. What did the author remember the great man for?
4. What life episodes did the author choose to describe Edison as a father?
5. What were the secrets of Edison’s success?
6. Which of Edison’s inventions were the most successful?
7. Which inventions of other scientists were made by Edison into practical things?
8. How many years had been spent on disappointing experiments by the time Edison lost his laboratory in a fire?
9. What made Edison’s son feel worried about his father on the day of the fire?
10 Why were people sure that Edison had a magic power?
11. How did the contemporaries give honour to Edison on the day he was buried?
3.Underline the following words in the text then match a verb and a noun to make verb patterns.
watch over something
money into experiments
somebody to something
4.Complete the sentences with word patterns from the box above. Mind the tense.
1. Sometimes the scientists who worked at Edison’s laboratory didn’t get a salary for months, because he _____ _______ ___ _______ .
2. Although Edison made a fortune in motion-picture machine sales his family often _____ _______ _________ .
3. When fire started in the laboratories chemicals ______ like ______ .
4. Edison was deaf and he was sure that it ______ him ___ _______.
5. Edison was a busy man, but he always found the time to spend with his kids, they ______ ________ and ______ _______ at dawn.
6. When Edison was dying, the newspapermen wanted to get news and ______ ______ over the events.
5. Read the text again and find out what circumstances might have prevented Edison from becoming a great scientist and inventor.
6.Edison often said, « There is always some value in every trouble.»
Work in pairs think of the meaning of Edison’s words and say what, according to Edison, the value of these troubles was. Share your own point of view.
1. From childhood, this man was almost completely deaf.
2. He had a lot of disappointing experiments.
3. His laboratory was completely ruined by the fire when he was 67.
7.Skim through the abstracts from the text and make predictionsabout Edison’s traits of characterwhich led him inevitably to success in spite of plentiful obstacles.
Discussing Edison’s Personality
· Edison always led us to experiment and explore for ourselves. He provided all sorts of material and got us to work with them laughing, joking, questioning.
· Thomas Alva Edison never looked like a man whose inventions had changed the world.
· He never acted like one either.
· He was not, as many people believe, a scientist working alone in a laboratory.
· After he sold his first successful inventions for $ 40,000, he began hiring chemists, mathematicians, engineers – anyone who knew things that he thought would help him solve a difficult problem.
· He put nearly all his money into his experiments. Several times he was almost completely without money, but that didn’t stop him.
· Once, when a visitor asked whether he had received many honours and medals, he replied, «Oh, yes, Mom has baskets of them up at the house.»
· « If you sleep too much, you get dopey. You lose time and opportunities , too.»
· «We haven’t failed,» he told an unhappy worker during one set of disappointing experiments.
· «We now know 100 things that won’t work. So we are much closer to finding one that will.»
· He was often called « The Wizard of Menlo Park.»
· It has been said that Edison had no schooling.
8. Edison’s words of wisdom. Read these sentences. What do they mean?
«Education isn’t play and it can’t be made to look like play. It’s hard work but it can be made interesting work.»
«If you do not learn to think when you are young, you may never learn.»
« Achievement provides the only real pleasure in life.»
« Genius is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.»
9.Draw a conclusion:
· what made Edison world famous and worthy of respect ;
· what features essential to a scientist he possessed;
· what lesson a young scientist can learn from Edison’s life.
10. What modern inventions would be admired by Edison? Give reasons for the choice.
11.Work in groups of four. Suppose you are to write a film script about Edison’s life.
Say which facts you would choose for a documentary film and which episodes from Edison’s life you would select for a feature film. Say what evidence you can find in the story that: