Gone Edison

A True Story of Betrayal

Have you ever had an idea that was just….brilliant? An idea that you curated and honed, then used with wild success?

If you’ve done this, you know what pride and success you feel in having brought an idea to fruition. You may start to use this idea, build upon this idea, and even make this idea part of your business – or start a business with this idea.


But what happens when someone takes that idea and uses it as their own? What happens when someone touts the idea as common knowledge, not crediting you for it’s inception? What happens when your work and dedication to your craft is cast as a reproduction of someone else’s work? What if that same person chooses to share your craft, your intellectual knowledge, with a group of common peers for their own personal, or professional, gain?

That, my friend, is pulling an Edison; or as we call it: Gone Edison.

Why an Edison?

My husband and I are both scientists – though one engineer and one biologist. We have a passion to follow the truth. I was shocked to learn, not in high school, but late in college of Nikola Tesla and his contributions to the world, particularly through electricity. It’s now {hopefully!} common knowledge as many books and documentaries exists on the subject:

Edison did not invent electricity!

Why was I an adult before I knew this information? The Oatmeal, a Seattle comic writer, has an excellent infographic on this subject:

Why Nikola Tesla was the Greatest Geek who ever Lived

In a nutshell: Edison had the power, money, and influence to tout ideas as his own. He could monetize the ideas he’d gained from others, both those working for him and others in various fields, and make money off them.

Talk about white privilege. Thank you for creating this awesome infographic, Matthew Inman.

Screenshot from The Oatmeal and his thought on Edison’s place in history


Full Disclosure: I am in no way associated or making money from The Oatmeal, all content is the intellectual property and authority of Matthew Inman. I just think he’s pretty awesome. And though I make no money on this product placement, a cool game he made that our family loves is Exploding Kittens!

In Edison’s day and age, people didn’t have the information and education that is so widely available today to fact check and recheck commonly held beliefs. No one asked: How could one man really do all this on his own?

Of course, since most of the public at this time who could read and were making decisions were, you guessed it: white males. They didn’t question another man — unless, of course, it infringed on his own marketability or income.

I digress, could go on and on, but let me continue….

This happened recently in my circle. While it didn’t happen to me, personally, I did witness the inspiration, cultivation, and heard of feedback from this super unique idea. It revolutionized a process goes for my writing partner. He, unwittingly, shared his amazing idea with a couple of people he trusted to keep it to themselves. The next thing you know, the idea is presented at a conference as merely a technique that had been developed by people over time. Touted as:

An idea built upon, but not sole intellectual ownership of, my partner, which is completely a false claim.

I was, and am still, dumbfounded. It’s taken me weeks to even write about because, although I’m unfortunately not surprised when taking the long view of this individual, I am infuriated. Infuriated that someone we’d considered an ally to turn coat:

He’d Gone Edison

That’s right: he conversationally asserted his mastery of this topic, shared it with an audience that did not have the privileged access to receive said information, and was given accolades for asserting this technique as something he, not my partner, provided to the community. And to top it off, my partner did not want this tool provided to the community.


As I’ve contemplated, and my partner and I have discussed this breech of not only etiquette, but respect of intellectual property, I am livid. It’s not my battle, it’s not my fight, but I’m finished with this individual. In hindsight, I should have realized this person was willing to do whatever it took to get ahead, he’s done it before; I just never realized that would come at the price of someone he claims to respect.

I don’t know how this story will end. In many ways, it may have already ended. It’s a Tragic Tale:

at worst, deceit and traitorous character; at best, ignorance and disregard.

It could also be described as arrogance or ignorance on our part. In any case, this is a cautionary tale of allowing people of questionable, unsavory, character into your inner circle. If a person has the character to make, in your opinion, unsavory choices, the odds are that person will continue to make those unsavory choices.

I’m not talking about not agreeing on religion, political party, or favorite color. I’m talking about moral values: do they cheat on their taxes, their significant other; hide assets; always talk about their successes neglecting the admiration of others success; lie, cheat, or steal to get ahead? These are some telltale signs of the sort of cheater behavior which is, in my opinion, a character flaw.

Choices made by individuals with these behaviors are always narcissistic and self-serving. These sorts of individuals will step on whomever they need to to cut in line, get ahead, and take advantage of situations. I’ve heard people talk about these behaviors and ask: Aren’t you just jealous you didn’t think of it first? The answer, always, is unequivocally ‘no’. To lie, cheat, or steal to get ahead is not a real victory – it’s a temporary solution to an ongoing situation: Life.

Sometimes you get ahead by being at the right place at the right time, sometimes you are just better than someone else, and sometimes you’re not. Realizing this, I’ve been reaching out to the people in my life who are beacons of light – people I respect and have good moral character. By contrast, I’ve limited the amount of time spent with people who are soul suckers. Users who get ahead at the cost of others.

This guy that’s Gone Edison: He’s always been the same and there’s little chance he’ll change. That’s his choice, his life – it doesn’t have to be mine or yours.

My life?

I choose to move on, without him in mine.



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