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GE: Thomas Edison’s Legacy

April 16, 2012

Thomas Edison is a giant in the field of technology. His invention of the incandescent electric bulb spanned a new era in the way people lived their lives. He took us out of using candles and gas powered lamb posts.

Not everyone is as aware that he also left behind what is now one of the largest companies in the world. With all his energy focused in making new inventions and discoveries he did make a business move that would define General Electric. He consolidated all his business interests by establishing Edison General Electric Company in 1890.

At about the same time The Thomson-Houston Company also gained prominence for electrical innovations.  Through a series of mergers it also had technological patents that were of significant use. With both companies expanding with competing technologies, it came to a point where wide-spread electrification was stalled with patent-infringement problems.

The merger of these two companies in 1892 formed the General Electric Company that we know today. It was also a turning point in the electrification of the U.S.  Being more of the inventor Edison did not head the company but became a consultant. He eventually sold all his shares in 1894.  It was the head of The Thomson-Houston Company, Charles A. Coffin who headed GE and set it to a course of great expansion, constructing large electric motors and going into power field transmission among other undertakings.

With its origin all having to do with technology, GE has been a significant contributor to technological innovations in America and the world.  From appliances, to power plants, to jet engines, it’s involved in many things that had to be built with technology being a part of the equation. It has expanded into health care and financial services.

Today the company is a behemoth. It’s one of the largest conglomerates in the entire world. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2011 the company’s assets stood at a staggering $717 billion, with revenues of $147 billion and 301,000 employees.  GE stands out today involved in significant businesses in the like manner Edison was making significant inventions.

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