Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Why Thomas Edison? It's the light bulb, stupid.

Jan 26, 2012. CNet -- Edison, the creator of the light bulb and phonograph, among many other inventions, earned the top title among 52 percent of those polled by Lemelson-MIT, a program that tries to honor inventors who have improved our lives and gauge peoples' perceptions about innovation.

Since Edison did not create the light bulb and his phonograph failed miserably as a practical innovation, it's hard to understand why young people chose him as the greatest innovator of all time. Further, I'm really surprised that Henry Ford, the creator of the mass production system, didn't make the list at all.

It would be interesting to see whether the results of the poll would be different, if people thought about important inventions/innovations first, and then matched them to the names of their creators. For example, today's energy system is based largely on Nikola Tesla's inventions and entrepreneurial efforts of George Westinghouse. When we consider the world of information and IT, the integrated circuit should win the invention race hands down. Robert Noyce would be the primary inventor, while Andy Grove the innovator. In communications, wireless and optical transmission of information is absolutely essential to the modern civilization (Tesla, Marconi, Gould, Chambers, and others.) In medicine, invention of the vaccine saved billions of lives (Jenner), etc...

Would Edison top the list if we used an outcome-based logic for selecting great inventors and innovators? I doubt it very much.

tags: invention, innovation, detection

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