Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Young Tom Edison

Borrowed the 1940 film from the library and sat down with the kids yesterday to watch it. (This was actually for history as much as science; I asked the kids to research inventions, and Anthony picked the movie camera.)

Although Thomas Edison is known for electrical inventions, there was a lot of messing about with chemicals in this biopic. First he fills the schoolhouse cloakroom with smoke, trying to see if concentrated ammonia and hydrochloric acid mix. (In real life, Edison's mother taught him at home after he was kicked out of school.) Then he stops a train when they find out he's got a bottle of nitroglycerin on him.

(Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel became rich developing a safe form of nitroglycerin: dynamite. After his death, he dedicated his wealth to the establishment of the prize named for him.)

It certainly had its hokey side, but the film was touching at times too. And amazingly, most of the unbelievable incidents are actually true. Edison really did start a boyhood business selling newspapers on a train and did chemistry experiments in the boxcar. saved a child on the train tracks and learns Morse Code from the boy's grateful father.

Not a bad little flick, if you're in the right mood. I'm hoping to pick up the sequel, Edison the Man, starring Spencer Tracy, for next week.


Becky said...

You gave me a start, or rather the picture did! I've been hoping for both flicks on DVD for ages, and because neither on video are anywhere in our library system, I've asked my parents in the U.S. to tape them for US from TMC. Young Tom was on not too long ago, and now we're waiting for Spence to complete the set!

Tom Edison is one of our home school's guiding spirits :)

Kathy Ceceri said...

When I get too frazzled to put together lessons, I find movies very helpful to keep the momentum going. I found Young Tom and Edison the Man on the list at (I don't subscribe, just browse their lists.)

Our library is part of a lending system that is actually pretty complete, between the 2-3 "big" libraries with the up-to-date DVD collections and the little one-room rural libraries that are still hanging on to their old VHS tapes. The two Edison movies (just got Spence this afternoon)are on tape. I don't know if they're available on DVD at the moment.

One film I couldn't find at all in the system, was Madame Curie, so I bought a used video on I'll be blogging that one when it comes. Apparently scientist films were a fad for a while in the '40s: Pasteur, Alexander Graham Bell, even "Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet," about the man who cured syphilis. (THERE'S one for the kids!)

Oh, don't forget "October Sky." The book is even better in describing kids engrossed in their experiments, though it touches on some more mature themes.