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Short Stories of Science and Invention

A Collection of Radio Talks by
Charles F. Kettering

INDEX

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)

1. The Intangible in Human Progress
A Radio Talk by Charles F. Kettering

     We have just been listening to some of the world's great music. The writing of this fine music has many "intangibles." The notes and intervals and sequences are arranged so as to produce a pleasing, a dramatic, or an inspiring impression. The timing and the arrangements and all the other things that go into a composition determine how much you, the public, will like it. These great musical masterpieces are the final result of inspiration, of cut and try - rewrite and try again. The dramatic stories from the lives of great composers tell this process much better than I can.


Musician     Now, composition is to musical notes and tones and intervals what inventions are to iron, and steel, and copper. The difference between good compositions and bad ones, between good inventions and bad ones, is an intangible coordination which is very poorly understood.


     You people out there listening to me are sitting in front of a radio. It may be a popular-priced one. It may be a very expensive one. That is not important. But did you ever stop to think just how much that radio of yours is really worth? I mean, if you took it apart and put prices on the parts just as you would on your dinner today. Say, so much for the spinach. So much for the cup of coffee. So much for the lamb chop - that is, if you could get one.




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