The Rise and Fall of American Technology

By Lynn G. Gref | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4. THE TECHNOLOGY PLAYERS

“Accident is the name of the greatest of all inventors.”—Mark Twain

ln this chapter, we explore the people and the organizations that perform the different phases of the technology development life cycle. By now, one can anticipate the basic conclusion of this chapter that different people and organizations perform each phase in technology development. As will be seen, this is because each phase requires different talents, training, and facilities.

Let us start at the beginning: Phase One—discovery. This is the world of Sir lsaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Alternatively, in the case of the development of the transistor it is the world of German physicist, Ferdinand Braun. People who engage in Phase One research are those who find answers to paradoxes. They develop theories for what might be, or they validate theory through experiments, measurements, and observations.

Consider Albert Einstein as an example of a discoverer. As a secondary student in Aarau, he wrote in an essay, “lf I were to have the good fortune to pass my examinations, I would go to Zurich. I would stay there for four years in order to study mmathematics and physics. I imagine myself becoming a teacher in those branches of the natural sciences, choosing the theoretical part of them. Here are the reasons, which lead me to this plan. Above all, it is my disposition for abstract and mathematical thought, and my lack of imagination and practical ability.” Einstein succeeded and graduated in 1900 as a teacher of mathematics and physics.

Looking back, it is hard to imagine that Einstein had trouble finding a teaching position after graduation. Three of his fellow students obtained positions as assistants at Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zurich—a position Einstein wanted very much. It was not until mid-1901 that Einstein found a temporary job as a teacher at the Technical High School in Winterthur and had given up getting a teaching position at a university. After another temporary teaching position at a pri

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