in fact, however, Menlo Park and the later laboratories were testing grounds for the full-scale industrial research organizations which would develop within private industries such as General Electric and the American Telephone and Telegraph Company by the turn of the cen-tury.
Edison hired university-trained scientists among his staff,including Francis R.Upton, a specialist in mathematical physics. Menlo Park was a team operation, the earliest research and devel-opment labortory in America; Edison established the place as an "invention factory," a place where invention might be made to order for private industry. He differed from much of his business.
Concerning himself with economics as much as technics,Edison viewed his key inventions in light of their commercial feasibilityㅡthat is, of competing technologies they might displace.
This was especially true of the elecric bulb. "The prime desideratum," notes Thomas P.Hughes, "was an incandescent light economically competitive with gas." That competition drove Edison to conceive of "the electric light problem" (in his own words) as part of "a complete system for the distribution of electric light in small units in the same general manner as gas."
And he recognized that the lighting system must be part of an even larger "Program" which included "the distribution of electric current for heat and power also." This meant, he wrote, "a comprehensive plan, analogous to illumination by gas, covering a network of conductors, all connected together, so that in any given city area the lights could be fed with electricity from several directions, thus eliminating any interruption due to disturbance on any particular section.