Edison contributed numerous practical advancements to western civilization, including the tin foil phonograph and the first machine to record and reproduce sound. He is often credited with the invention of the light bulb; however he only developed incandescent light into a more practical form, i.e. light bulbs in their modern form.
It may be more accurate to say, in general, that Edison was a great developer, rather than a great inventor. In order to develop incandescent light into practical form, he had first had to develop the parallel circuit, a durable light bulb, an improved dynamo, an underground conductor network, devices for maintaining constant voltage, safety fuses and insulating materials and light sockets with on-off switches. In sum, it’s no wonder he is often credited with having invented the light bulb, for, without the aforementioned developments he is responsible for, the common light bulb may not have taken the shape it did, nor operated in the efficient way to which we have become so accustomed.
Edison is also responsible for the development of the electric utility industry, in that through the individual developments that encompassed the process by which he developed the modern light bulb, he took an immeasurably important step en route to bringing electricity to the world. As a testament to this very real contribution, the original name of General Electric was Edison General Electric. He is also credited with the development of the kinetoscope, which was so essential in the development of motion pictures.