How to Succeed as an Inventor: Chapter 1 by Goodwin B. Smith
“Patience and the investment of time and labor for future results are essential factors in every inventor’s success.”
(1) The field of invention is closed to no one. The studious mechanic may design and improve on the machine he operates. The day laborer, if dissatisfied with his lot, may devise means for lessening the toil of his class, and largely increase his earning capacity. The busy housewife, not content with the drudgery incident to her household cares, may devise a means or article which will lighten her task, and prove a blessing to her sisters. The plodding clerk, without an iota of mechanical knowledge, may perfect a system or an office appliance which will prove of vast benefit to himself and his fellows. The scientist may discover new forces and make new applications of old principles which will make the world marvel,—and so on through the whole category of crafts, occupations, and professions.
(2) If one of the old Kings of Israel, centuries ago, voiced the sentiment that there was nothing new under the sun, do we not possess, at the present time, a similar mental attitude, and are we not apt to say with him that there appears to be “nothing new under the sun”? Civilization begets new needs and wants; opportunities for new inventions are multiplying at a tremendous rate. In other words, where an inventor, two centuries ago, would have had one hundred chances to “make good,” today the chances are multiplied many thousand-fold.
(3) No avenue of business can open up the possibilities of such enormous honors and fabulous money returns as a real invention which is in universal demand. The discoveries of the past form a record which is not only glorious, but points the man of genius of today in an unswerving manner to the possibilities which the future holds, and which are vastly greater than anything which has gone before. Each age finds the people convinced that human ingenuity has reached the summit of achievement, but the future will find forces, mechanical principles, and combinations which will excite wonder, and prove to be of incalculable benefit to mankind.
(4) Our old friend Darius Green and his flying machine, that we heard about when we were children, was not as great a fool as he was imputed to be. Witness at the present time the marvelous results attained by inventors with airships. We are proud of Wilbur and Orville Wright, who at this writing have just broken all records for Aeroplanes, or “machines heavier than air.” It seems that in five or ten years from now the navigation of the air will be a problem perfectly solved.
(5) (Since writing the above, on Thursday, September 17th, Orville Wright, at Fort Myer, Va., met with an accident to his machine, which resulted in the death of Lieutenant Selfridge, of the U.S. Army, and severe injuries to the inventor. The accident is said to have been due to the breaking of one of the propellers.)
(6) When you think that the first locomotives that were invented were considered wonders if they made a speed of eight to ten miles per hour, the chances are that within the next few years we will have airships going through space at incredible rates of speed.
(7) We might also, at this time, refer to the experiments of Count Zeppelin and Santos- Dumont, and the American, Professor Baldwin, in “dirigible balloons.” This type of airships will undoubtedly be superseded by the “Aeroplane,” or the “Helicopter.” The principal inventors in this line are Henry Farman, the French inventor, and Delagrange, the German. Wright Brothers hold the world’s record, at this time.
(8) Little did Murdock (who erected, in 1792, while an engineer in Cornwall, England, a little gasometer which produced gas enough to light his house and office) think that in the year 1908 no house would be considered as modern unless it was fully equipped with the gas for lighting and heating which he discovered and brought to practical use. It is also said that “while Murdock resided in Cornwall he made gas from every substance he could think of, and had bladders filled with it, with which, and his little steam carriage running on the road, he used to astonish the people.” No one is astonished at “little steam carriages,” or, in other words, automobiles, nowadays, one hundred and sixteen years later.
(9) Our grandparents, when they were young people, imagined that they were living in the “Golden Age,” and yet, we today would consider their lack of what we nowadays consider positive necessities a mighty primitive and inconvenient manner in which to live. When the “wisest man,” centuries ago, is chronicled as saying, “There is nothing new under the sun,” they lived in tents, rode camels, fought with bows and arrows, sling shots and battering rams! While the Tower of Babel was possibly the first “skyscraper,” it did not contain express elevators, hot and cold water, telephones, call boxes, yale locks, granolithic floors, fire escapes, transom lifts, automatic sprinklers, stationary wash stands, water closets, steam or hot water heat, electric and gas lights, push buttons, sash weights, and so on ad infinitum. So you can readily appreciate the marvelous strides the human race is making in the way of material development, and all, or nearly all of which has been due to the fertile brain and nimble wit of the inventors! Who will have the temerity to say when and where this development will stop, when Solomon, centuries ago, thought they had reached the limit?
(10) What will be the next wonderful invention? For instance, the perfected telephote? You, by stepping into a cabinet in Philadelphia, could have your photograph taken and shown in Boston, all by and through an electric wire! The Telephote may transmit light and color as the Telephone does sound; why not a combination of the two, so you can see your friend perfectly when you talk to him on the ‘phone?
(11) Our grandparents thought they were as comfortable as possible, and they were, because they did not know any better. Do we know better? One hundred years from now, possibly, our great, great-grandchildren will consider us as having lived in the “stone age.” The field of invention has no bars up,—you, all of us, are free to enter.