Last night I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which led me to do a little research on Georges Méliès, one of the earliest filmmakers. One of his most famous films was A Trip to the Moon, which you’re probably familiar with, even if you don’t realize it.
According to Wikipedia, “A print of the film was acquired by Thomas Edison, who then duplicated and distributed it in the United States, where it achieved financial success; however, Edison did not pay any revenues to Méliès. In 1913, Georges Méliès’ film company was forced into bankruptcy by the large French and American studios and his company was bought out of receivership by Pathé Frères. Méliès did not grasp the value of his films, and with some 500 films recorded on cellulose, the French Army seized most of this stock to be melted down into boot heels during World War I. Many of the other films were sold to be recycled into new film. As a result many of his films do not exist today.” Luckily, Méliès was later rediscovered, honored for his work, and given numerous prestigous awards.
Other people were not so lucky, and were doomed to fade into Edison’s shadow.
Do you know who Joseph Swan is? He was a British scientist who invented the light bulb in 1879. Edison patented his lightbulb in 1880. Swan was actually one of many other people who were developing the light bulb at the time, but Edison is the one who always gets the credit.
Anyway, those are just a few examples of how Edison piggybacked on the work of other inventors. Everyone thinks he’s so great, and I’m sure we do have a lot to thank him for…but I still don’t really like him.