Mental Floss

(2) Thomas Edison vs. (15) Richard James

Tournament of Genius

(2) Thomas Edison

The sheer scope of Edison's inventiveness is staggering. The Wizard of Menlo Park held a record 1,093 patents when he died in 1931. Everyone knows him for the light bulb, but Edison also had a hand in the invention of the radio, the phonograph, and an improved stock ticker. His achievements weren't all nerdy science, either; Edison's electric engraving pen needed just a few modifications to become the world's first tattooing machine.

(15) Richard James

Who the heck is Richard James? You may not know the name, but you know his claim to fame. James invented the Slinky. As the story goes, James was a naval engineer who was experimenting with using tension springs to hold up navigational instruments on rough seas. He dropped one of the springs, saw it kept moving, and came up with a toy idea that's delighted millions of children. (The Slinky has moved over 300 million units.) He also had an interesting personal life: after inventing the toy, James left his company to join a religious sect in Bolivia.

The Breakdown

In this battle of inventors, what side are you going to take: quantity or quality? You could argue that in either case, Edison's the winner. However, while the light bulb is certainly a great invention, it offers very little help in entertaining fidgety children. He's a longshot, but James has a chance.


[See the whole bracket here.]