Celebrating 22 Years on the Web
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History Home

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)

5. Experiment vs. Theory
A Radio Talk by Charles F. Kettering

Pisa     It hasn't been so long ago, I believe, that we read in the papers that our Air Forces had bombed the Italian city of Pisa. That news probably brought to our minds a mental pic­ture of the Lean­ing Tower and we probably wond­ered if it had been hit. From the best information I am able to obtain, the Leaning Tower still stands. It is a great curi­osity in the archi­tectural world. But it is also a re­minder of one of the most interest­ing experiments that has ever been performed.

     In order to get the setting for this experiment, we go back to the 4th Century, B.C., and the Greek philos­opher, Aristotle. He was one of the first great scientists, and contrib­uted much to medicine and astron­omy; in fact, for 2,000 years follow­ing his death his writings were the only natural science books recog­nized by educators. In the 16th Cen­tury, a young student in Pisa, by the name of Galileo, figuratively threw a monkey-wrench in the ma­chinery by questioning some of Aris­totle's statements.

     It was a common belief at that time that all scientific problems had been settled finally and conclusively 2,000 years previously. But Galileo wasn't satisfied with this. Later, when he was a young professor him­self, he had quite an argument with some of the older ones on the cor­rectness ot Aristotle's theory that a heavy weight will fall faster than a light one, and he offered to prove his point.


- 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
who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.