Edison has frequently remarked that out of a hundred experiments he does not expect more than one to be successful, and as to that one he is always suspicious until frequent repetition has verified the original results.
This patient, optimistic view of the outcome of experiments has remained part of his character down to this day, just as his painstaking, minute, incisive methods are still unchanged. But to the careless, stupid, or lazy person he is a terror for the short time they remain around him. Honest mistakes may be tolerated, but not carelessness, incompetence, or lack of attention to business. In such cases Edison is apt to express himself freely and forcibly, as when he was asked why he had parted with a certain man, he said: "Oh, he was so slow that it would take him half an hour to get out of the field of a microscope." Another instance will be illustrative. Soon after the Brockton (Massachusetts) central station was started in operation many years ago, he wrote a note to Mr. W. S. Andrews, containing suggestions as to future stations, part of which related to the various employees and their duties. After outlining the duties of the meter man, Edison says: "I should not take too young a man for this, say, a man from twenty- three to thirty years old, bright and businesslike. Don't want any one who yearns to enter a laboratory and experiment. We have a bad case of that at Brockton; he neglects business to potter. What we want is a good lamp average and no unprofitable customer. You should have these men on probation and subject to passing an examination by me. This will wake them up."
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.
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