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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)

8. A Veterinarian "Shoes"
a Horseless Carriage
A Radio Talk by Charles F. Kettering

     Today we are surrounded by so many highly developed products, such as the electric light, the radio, the telephone and the automobile, that we are apt to forget how we came by them. They are so interwo­ven into our daily lives that we over­look their importance until some­thing threatens to deprive us of their use.

     Take the automobile, for instance. Until now, very few of us really ap­preciated how much the operation of cars, buses and trucks depended upon gasoline and rubber tires. While our thirty million pneumatic-tired vehicles today have the capacity to move every man, woman and child in the United States at the same time, yet there was not even a pneu­matic bicycle tire on the market sixty years ago.

Tricycle     But, thanks to Charles Goodyear, bicycles did have solid rubber tires. In Belfast, Ireland, in 1884, some of the streets were paved with what we call Belgian block, not exactly a smooth road for solid-tired bicycles. Every day, a small boy rode his hard­-tired tricycle over these blocks to school and complained to his father about the roughness. His father, Doctor John Dunlop, a veterinari­an, decided to do something about it. He made a wooden disc wheel, and around the edge of it fastened an inflated rubber tube held in place with linen cloth tacked to the wheel.


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