Thomas Edison’s magnetic brain experiment

Say you were curious about what happened when a human brain came into prolonged contact with a strong magnetic field. To find an answer, you might learn more about the nature of magnetism and the biology of the brain and make some hypotheses. Later, you’d run some experiments using dead tissue, or perhaps live animal models. This is because you are a good person.

If you were Thomas Edison, on the other hand, you’d find the nearest street urchin and keep him inside a giant electromagnet. It’s OK, though, science writers would later say, because there turned out not to be much of an effect, and, anyway, the boy liked it.

Many years ago, Mr. Thomas Edison made the following interesting experiment in his laboratory. Wishing to see what, if any, influence is produced by the passage of strong magnetic flux through the brain, he kept a boy for a long time inside a huge electro-magnet with his head placed between the poles so that the flux passed directly through his brain. If now a magnet is capable of producing any effect whatever on the body it should certainly have done it in this case. But as far as could be seen no effect whatever was felt by the boy. When asked privately how he felt he replied confidentially, “The experiment is bully. I am all right in the magnet. I like to be here for I do not have to work while the experiment is going on and I can take a nap occasionally. But don’t tell Mr. Edison. I hope he will keep me here for a long time.”

Anecdote taken from The Wonder Book of Magnetism, by Edwin James Houston. Published in 1908.

via The further adventures of Thomas Edison, asshat – Boing Boing.


  1. The more I read about Edison the more I think he was an egotistical , opportunistic creep !
    And prolonged exposure to a strong magnetic field has been linked to an increase in brain tumors and other cancers . There have been other effects on mood . One study found subjects became more content when specific parts of the brain were exposed to high amounts of magnetism .
    Anyone do a follow up on the boy to see what he died of ?


    1. Edison took credit for a lot of Tesla and others work, I remember reading somewhere that tesla called him a “dirty tinkerer”, Edison thought that DC was better than AC and waged a disinfo campaign killing animals and such with large voltages of AC……but we all use AC today…..

      Edison’s only original “invention” was the ELECTRIC CHAIR-


      1. Exactly, he also screwed Tesla out of a $50,000 bonus for his work he did for Edison .Tesla quit working for him at that point . Edison gets way too much credit for others work and Tesla gets too little credit for the major work he did .


      2. I agree with your comment Edison got too much credit when Tesla should have had more credit for what he did.He was a lot smarter man.


  2. Who really cares? Edison and Tesla are both dead now. Can’t we stop bickering about these dead arguments and get on with our lives?


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