Edison ...Wasn’t He the Guy Who Invented Everything?





Invention may be mothered by necessity. But determining the father can require a paternity test.

Take the sound recording. Researchers said last week that they had discovered a recording of a human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman two decades before Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph.

An unusual case of innovation misconception? Hardly.

The reality is that the “Aha” moments of industrial creation are preceded by critical moments far less heralded. Behind and beside every big-name inventor are typically lots of others whom history forgot, or never knew. And it’s unusual that an innovation is created in a vacuum (including the vacuum, which itself claims several progenitors).

“It’s rare that you’ve got a major breakthrough that wasn’t developed by multiple people at about the same time,” said Mark Lemley, professor of intellectual property at Stanford Law School.


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