<p><strong>A hundred years ago this month, <a id="b9kw" title="Thomas Edison" href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/179233/Thomas-Alva-Edison">Thomas Edison</a>—whose 164th birthday is celebrated with a <a id="kbsj" title="Google doodle" href="http://www.google.com/doodle4google/history.html">Google doodle</a> Friday—laid out a long series of predictions as to how technology would transform the world.<br></strong></p><p>Writing in <em>Cosmopolitan</em>—then a general-interest magazine—the U.S. inventor was spot on about some things, such as speedy airplanes, but "absolutely wrong" on others, said <a id="li3v" title="Paul Israel" href="http://edison.rutgers.edu/israel.htm">Paul Israel</a>, director and general editor of the <a id="q7j4" title="Thomas A. Edison Papers Project" href="http://edison.rutgers.edu/">Thomas A. Edison Papers Project</a> at Rutgers University in New Jersey.</p><p>Among Edison's misses: that books (pictured, Dublin's Trinity College library) would be made of nickel, which Edison thought would make a cheaper, stronger, and more flexible material than paper. <strong><br></strong></p><p>"Certainly he never foresaw what's happening in terms of e-ink—digital replacing books," said Israel, also the author of <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Edison-Life-Invention-Paul-Israel/dp/0471362700/ref=sr_11_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1237199482&amp;sr=11-1">Edison: A Life of Invention</a>. </em></p><p>After Edison semiretired in 1908, he became the "nation's inventor philosopher," and his influence persists today, Israel said.</p><p>"While we maybe don't have quite the faith in technological progress that his generation did," he said, "Edison as a symbol of American innovation still resonates in the culture."</p><p>(Find out about a <a id="ifhh" title="lighting breakthrough announced on the anniversary of Thomas Edison's light bulb" href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/10/101021-energy-edison-light-bulb-leds/">lighting breakthrough announced on the anniversary of Thomas Edison's light bulb</a>.)</p><p><em>—Christine Dell'Amore</em></p>

Edison: Books to Be Made of Nickel

A hundred years ago this month, Thomas Edison—whose 164th birthday is celebrated with a Google doodle Friday—laid out a long series of predictions as to how technology would transform the world.

Writing in Cosmopolitan—then a general-interest magazine—the U.S. inventor was spot on about some things, such as speedy airplanes, but "absolutely wrong" on others, said Paul Israel, director and general editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers Project at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Among Edison's misses: that books (pictured, Dublin's Trinity College library) would be made of nickel, which Edison thought would make a cheaper, stronger, and more flexible material than paper.

"Certainly he never foresaw what's happening in terms of e-ink—digital replacing books," said Israel, also the author of Edison: A Life of Invention.

After Edison semiretired in 1908, he became the "nation's inventor philosopher," and his influence persists today, Israel said.

"While we maybe don't have quite the faith in technological progress that his generation did," he said, "Edison as a symbol of American innovation still resonates in the culture."

(Find out about a lighting breakthrough announced on the anniversary of Thomas Edison's light bulb.)

—Christine Dell'Amore

Photograph by Pete McBride, National Geographic

11 Thomas Edison Predictions That Came True—Or Didn't

Celebrated Friday with a Google doodle, Thomas Edison was the "nation's inventor philosopher." See how his predictions hold up in 2011.

Read This Next

Can science help personalize your diet?
Hogs are running wild in the U.S.—and spreading disease
Salman Rushdie on the timeless beauty of the Taj Mahal

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet