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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)

7. The Wright Way
A Radio Talk by Charles F. Kettering

     We often receive letters from young people or their parents asking where the best opportunities for the future lie. Our answer is that special oppor­tunities do not exist in the particular industry or profession - they exist within men themselves.

Wrights     On December 17, 1943 the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first successful flight of a self­powered airplane - and I can think of no better time to review some of the highlights in the early career of the inventors­ the Wright broth­ers. After you have heard the simple story of their lives - I wonder if you will think they were conscious of what Destiny had in store for them?

     Wilbur Wright was born on a farm near Millville, Indiana - in 1867 - and Orville was born four years later in Dayton, Ohio. Their father was the Reverend Milton Wright. In this period - just after the Civil War - there were yet no electric lights, telephones or auto­mobiles, and their home town, Day­ton, was a typical American town of about thirty thousand people. The Wrights were not wealthy people and the boys had no special advantages, except their home en­vironment. Their parents encour­aged them to investigate whatever aroused their curiosity, but urged them to try to earn enough to cover the costs of their experiments. The boys tried many things,Wright Shop and to fi­nance their experiments they sold kites, folded papers, and collected junk. When bicycles became the fad, the Wright boys each saved up enough money to buy one. This was a new field to them and, after a thorough job of investigation, they went into the bicycle business. Business grew; they not only sold several makes but repaired them, and in 1895 even brought out a custom model of their own make - the Van Cleve.


- 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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