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In Milan, Ohio, where Thomas Alva Edison was born in 1847, there is a grassy town square just around the corner from Edison’s first home. It was to this square that his father dragged “Tommy” one afternoon for a public whipping, because the curious lad had just burned down the barn in an effort to figure out how fire worked. Or so the legend says. But consider where we’d be without inventors such as Edison and all those others who gave the 20th century world its electrical standard of living.

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