November 30, 2004
Excerpts: 10 Lessons from History's Innovators - Part V
Lesson #4 - DIFFIDENCE WONT DO. An idea may work only when pushed to its limits. Samuel Insull and Juan Trippe went to extremes in the size of the engines they demanded respectively for power generation and aircraft. Halfway measures would not have yielded cheap power and air fares. There is a parallel in some of the sciences. Nineteenth-century experimenters trying to make cheap polarizers from crystals found that small crystals crumbled, so they moved to larger crystals and still failed. In the 1920s the youthful Edwin Land succeeded by going entirely in the other direction to crystals of microscopic size. Rubber, that ubiquitous substance, was unusable for decades because on hot days it turned to a sticky, smelly goo. Charles Goodyear accidentally exposed a treated sample to prolonged heat in his wifes oven, and vulcanization became a commercial prospect. From the book THEY MADE AMERICA by Harold Evans, with Gail Buckland and David Lefer. (c) 2004 Little, Brown & Co.