Edison's legacy not challenged by French inventor

MILAN Edison was not just an echo of an earlier inventor, local experts say. Though French inventor Edouard-Leon Scott
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

MILAN

Edison was not just an echo of an earlier inventor, local experts say.

Though French inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville created a machine that could record sounds 17 years before Thomas Edison's phonograph reproduced sound, local Edison experts say Scott's invention does not change Edison's legacy.

"I don't think there's any question: Edison is the individual (who) was able to make a machine that would talk back to you," said Don Gfell of Sights and Sounds of Edison in Milan.

Last week, the New York Times reported that researchers had played a recording made by Scott that predated Edison's recordings.

"Scott's device had a barrel-shaped horn attached to a stylus, which etched sound waves onto a sheet of paper blackened by smoke from an oil lamp," according to the Times. "The recordings were not intended for listening... Scott sought to create a paper record of human speech that could later be deciphered."

So while Edison was the first to reproduce recorded sound, researchers contend that Scott was the first to simply record it.

Local Edison experts are aware of Scott's invention, but say it was only half the invention Edison's phonograph was.

"I don't think (Scott's invention will) do much to (Edison's) legacy," said Larry Russell, curator of the Edison Birthplace Museum in Milan.

"Certainly nobody was making records ... until Edison did," Russell said.

Thomas Edison was born in 1847 in Milan, where he lived with his family until he was 7 years old.

"(Edison) had 1,093 American patents to his credit," Russell said. "But the phonograph was his favorite."

Edison's phonograph, invented in 1877, was the most original patent ever applied for, Gfell said.

The first phonograph is on display at the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, N.J.