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Edison and New Jersey: A Shared Legacy of Innovation

A celebration of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Centennial Anniversary would not be complete without a celebration of perhaps its most famous and influential founder – Thomas Alva Edison.

A petition signed by hundreds of New Jersey’s most prominent businessmen in 1911 led to the formation of the state Chamber and the Chamber’s original executive leadership invited Edison, by that time one of the nation’s and the state’s most prominent personalities, to serve as a vice president. Edison readily agreed.

As an innovator, Edison’s impact on American life cannot be overstated. He was awarded 1,093 patents in his lifetime. That number was recently superseded by the owner of a floral business in Illinois who has thought up an incredible diverse number of ways to package and present flowers.

Total number of patents aside, no one supersedes Edison in his impact on modern American life. His most famous innovations -- the practical electric light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture brought this country into the 20th century technologically. These innovations also created whole new industries and millions of new jobs in New Jersey and across the globe.

New Jersey – The Patent State

New Jersey is a comfortable partner to Edison’s legacy of innovation. The state has been awarded the fourth most patents in history.

Shortly after World War II, New Jersey researchers at Bell Laboratories gave the world the transistor, the building block for modern solid state electronics. Our state also gave the world the technology for the telephone network, broadcast and cable television and FM radio. New Jersey was birthplace and nursemaid to the laser, radar, sonar, solar panels, speech synthesis, bar codes and an equally dizzying array of medical and public health breakthroughs including water chlorination, blood pressure medicines, antibiotic creams, anti-arthritis drugs and the coronary artery stent.

New Jersey continues to build on this legacy today. Our state is home to corporate headquarters and significant R&D centers for many of the world’s most innovative companies. Our state is second to California in the amount of R&D activity, and 7 percent of all U.S. dollars spent on R&D are spent here in New Jersey.

Innovation creates demand and demand creates markets. It remains a sure-first remedy out of an economic downturn, as Edison was quick to remind his contemporaries.

“Be courageous,” he advised his countrymen during a tough economic stretch, “whatever setbacks America has encountered, it has always emerged as a stronger and more prosperous nation. Be brave as your fathers before you. Have faith and go forward.”