Edison's examinations are no joke, according to Mr. J. H. Vail, formerly one of the Menlo Park staff. "I wanted a job," he said, "and was ambitious to take charge of the dynamo-room. Mr. Edison led me to a heap of junk in a corner and said: `Put that to- gether and let me know when it's running.' I didn't know what it was, but received a liberal education in finding out. It proved to be a dynamo, which I finally succeeded in assembling and running. I got the job." Another man who succeeded in winning a place as assistant was Mr. John F. Ott, who has remained in his employ for over forty years. In 1869, when Edison was occupying his first manufacturing shop (the third floor of a small building in Newark), he wanted a first-class mechanician, and Mr. Ott was sent to him. "He was then an ordinary-looking young fellow," says Mr. Ott, "dirty as any of the other workmen, unkempt, and not much better dressed than a tramp, but I immediately felt that there was a great deal in him." This is the conversation that ensued, led by Mr. Edison's question:
"Can you make this machine work?" (exhibiting it and explaining its details).
"Well, you needn't pay me if I don't."
And thus Mr. Ott went to work and succeeded in accomplishing the results desired. Two weeks afterward Mr. Edison put him in charge of the shop.
Edison's life fairly teems with instances of unruffled patience in the pursuit of experiments. When he feels thoroughly impressed with the possibility of accomplishing a certain thing, he will settle down composedly to investigate it to the end.
This is well illustrated in a story relating to his invention of the type of storage battery bearing his name. Mr. W. S. Mallory, one of his closest associates for many years, is the authority for the following: "When Mr. Edison decided to shut down the ore- milling plant at Edison, New Jersey, in which I had been associated with him, it became a problem as to what he could profitably take up next, and we had several discussions about it. He finally thought that a good storage battery was a great requisite, and decided to try and devise a new type, for he declared emphatically he would make no battery requiring sulphuric acid. After a little thought he conceived the nickel-iron idea, and started to work at once with characteristic energy. About 7 or 7.30 A.M. he would go down to the laboratory and experiment, only stopping for a short time at noon to eat a lunch sent down from the house. About 6 o'clock the carriage would call to take him to dinner, from which he would return by 7.30 or 8 o'clock to resume work. The carriage came again at midnight to take him home, but frequently had to wait until 2 or 3 o'clock, and sometimes return without him, as he had decided to continue all night.
"This had been going on more than five months, seven days a week, when I was called down to the laboratory to see him. I found him at a bench about three feet wide and twelve to fifteen feet long, on which there were hundreds of little test cells that had been made up by his corps of chemists and experimenters. He was seated at this bench testing, figuring, and planning. I then learned that he had thus made over nine thousand experiments in trying to devise this new type of storage battery, but had not produced a single thing that promised to solve the question. In view of this immense amount of thought and labor, my sympathy got the better of my judgment, and I said: `Isn't it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven't been able to get any results?' Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: `Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won't work.'
"At that time he sent me out West on a special mission. On my return, a few weeks later, his experiments had run up to over ten thousand, but he had discovered the missing link in the combination sought for. Of course, we all remember how the battery was completed and put on the market. Then, because he was dissatisfied with it, he stopped the sales and commenced a new line of investigation, which has recently culminated successfully. I shouldn't wonder if his experiments on the battery ran up pretty near to fifty thousand, for they fill more than one hundred and fifty of the note-books, to say nothing of some thousands of tests in curve sheets."
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