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Short Stories of Science and Invention

A Collection of Radio Talks by
Charles F. Kettering


Weekly, from September 1942 to July 1945, Charles F. Kettering gave five-minute intermission talks about Science and Invention during the radio broadcasts of the General Motors Symphony of the Air.

Kettering invented the first automobile self-starter, and for 31 years directed a research laboratory for General Motors.

These radio talks are a fascinating legacy from the mind of a prolific inventor. The obvious anachronisms now add a historical perspective of the war-time period in which they were written.

These web pages now preserve some of the most popular stories for a new generation to read The text and art come from a General Motors booklet of selected talks. (Reprint, March 1959)

3. Ideas Are More Permanent Than People
A Radio Talk by Charles F. Kettering

Map Pins     Today I should like to tell you about the work of a friend of mine who has studied the distribution of our cultural and industrial activities. In making these studies he has a large map of the World and on this map he puts pins for the things he is comparing. If it is music and inventions - he would choose a period of time - say 50 or 100 years - select the important composers of the period - and put red pins at the location of their homes. He would then pick out the outstanding inventions of the same period and locate the inventors' homes with blue pins. It is surprising how they group together. He points out that all of our activities are much more interrelated than we normally think - and that no great development is ever possible in one line without having some effect on all others.

     As a very simple example - take the period from 1850 to 1900. During that time lived one of the greatest composers - Richard Wagner, whose music we are hearing this afternoon. Contemporary with Wagner - we find the name of Rudolph Diesel who invented the engine which today appears in the headlines in connection with submarines, tanks, landing boats and streamlined trains. Both were Germans. But the comparison sometimes goes further than the simple geographic location. For instance Wagner was exiled from Germany and some of his greatest work was done while he was out of his own country. The Diesel family was in Paris at the time of Rudolph's birth and, because of the political situation, they were forced to return to Germany. That particular period was a very turbulent one and it seems to have affected all forms of human activity.


- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

by Ian Ellis
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