Thomas Edison Home & Laboratory
(Ft. Meyers, Fl.)

March 22, 1998....

Today we visited the home and laboratory of Thomas Edison (1847-1931). We had known he was a fantastic inventor, and that he was deaf, but had not realized he was also great botanist. The original buildings and a small informational museum, are on 14 acres of land overflowing with plants Edison collected and nurtured from around the world. All visitors become part of a guided tour, which we found very educational.

In his day, Thomas Edison was considered quite a work-aholic, sleeping only 5 hours per day and thinking the rest of the time. He built a 1500 ft. pier for fishing in the deep water, but was known to go fishing without any bait so he could be alone with his thoughts. In those days fishing was serious business, and a man would never be disturbed if he was 'fishing'. He had a progressive philosophy as far as medicine was concerned and once said: "The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease." Edison also had a good sense of humor and was known to serve a guest a slab of rubber instead of steak smothered in gravy just to watch with glee.

Next door was an identical house which was the home of Henry Ford (maker of automobiles and first american billionaire). The two of them were great pals. Thomas Edison not only founded General Electric and made light bulbs, he also made batteries, and developed one to start the car so it didn't need to be hand cranked. Together they dreamed of the battery opperated car. Another good friend of theirs was Mr. Firestone, who made tires. Edison's last years were spent trying to find alternate sources for rubber for tires. The three famous businessmen worked hard, but truly enjoyed nature and were known to take great camping trips. Ford proudly escorted his friends into the wilderness in his camping buggy, a modified Model A Ford with a kitchen built on the back.

Edison's huge garden was really part of his laboratory. After testing hundreds of plants he discovered that 12 gallons of latex for rubber could be extracted from 100lbs of goldenrod. He was also very interested in bamboo. Did you know bamboo is really a grass? It can grow 8-12 inches overnight, and grows 60 ft. tall. Initially, Edison used bamboo filaments for his light bulbs. In addition to the many exotic plants, Edison also grew bees. He used them not only to pollinate his gardens, but to collect beeswax for his first phonograph records.

We found the gardens fascinating. One of our favorite trees was the "traveler's tree". It is a type of palm that has leaves that spread like a fan. It always grows facing east-west so it gives travelers directions. When you break off a leaf, it stores water in its base, so the tree also provides refreshments for travelers. Another interesting tree is called the "sausage" tree. This African tree grows very large and has gourd like seed pods that look like giant sausages. They are at least a foot long and weigh about 14 pounds. There are two kinds of these sausage trees. On the second kind the sausages look the same but instead of growing on the limbs like oranges or grapefruits, they grow on a long cord that looks like a tail, these trees are nick-named "rat trees" because the sausages look like giant rats hanging by their tails.

There were so many interesting plants you could easily spend the whole day in wonder of nature's, fantastic colors, shapes, and variety of patterns. We didn't take pictures, or make any drawings, but took notes on a few fun names: fried egg tree, sand box tree, ear tree, fuzzy caterpillar plant, panama hat plant, pony tail tree, queens wreath, and angel's trumpet. Edison's home was truly an inspiration, and we would recommend it as a good place to visit for people of all ages and interests.


Last Updated: 4-22-98
By: Ted Handel


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