I’m reading Remarkable Engineers to write a review for a web site. The prose is pretty bland, though it got spicier in the chapter on Thomas Edison. It seems the author felt he needed to take Edison down a notch.
The career of Thomas Edison was not that of a great man of science, or even that of an inventive genius … His only major scientific discovery was the fact that a vacuum lamp could act as a rectifier, passing only negative electric currents. … He was said to have invented the business of invention.
So Edison was an engineer rather than a scientist. This criticism seems odd in a book devoted to remarkable engineers.
Surely Edison was an inventive genius; he held over a thousand patents, more than anyone has ever held. That is not to say anyone believes he came up with over a thousand unprecedented ideas completely by himself. He built on the work of others. He coordinated the work of his employees. He took ideas that were not being used and commercialized them. Perhaps he was more of an entrepreneurial genius than a scientific genius, but he was a genius nonetheless.