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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)

11. Inventor - Business Man
A Radio Talk by Charles F. Kettering

     On a warm August day in 1807 a large crowd of people lined the banks of the Hudson River not far from where I am now speaking. They had been told they would see the first trip of a boat without sails. And the skeptics, as usual, were there laughing at the strange looking craft, and ridiculing the idea it could move without sails or oars.

Clermont     But presently smoke began to pour from the stack and the catcalls and ridicule changed to cheers as the weird looking boat moved slowly up the river. Robert Fulton, that day, successfully accomplished something that Fate rarely permits an inventor to do - he proved his idea was practical and at the same time opened up a large part of America to pioneers and settlers.

     Robert Fulton did not begin his career as an inventor; very few men ever do. Although in his youth in Lancaster, Pennsylvania he exhibited considerable mechanical ingenuity, his ambition was to become an artist like another Pennsylvanian, Benjamin West. West was the great American painter who later became president of the Royal Academy of England. So, at seventeen, Fulton went to Philadelphia to study painting. Benjamin Franklin helped him and very soon he earned a reputation as a painter of portraits and landscapes. He could also make excellent drawings of machinery, bridges and buildings.


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