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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)

2. The Birth of an Idea
A Radio Talk by Charles F. Kettering

Conductor     This Sunday afternoon, in every part of the country, people are listening to this great orchestra. Radio can carry this music to any place in the world.


     How long has it taken man to do this? The records show we have been developing the elements of radio for about a hundred years. But, if we made a more careful study, we would find the thing really started in the year 600 B.C. - more than 2,500 years ago. It really started as a thought - a very weak, vague idea. In the year 600 B.C., a Greek philosopher, Thales of Miletus, found that by rubbing amber he produced a force that would pick up straws.

     Two thousand two hundred years later, Sir William Gilbert, Queen Elizabeth's physician, did a little more thinking and experimenting with the idea and called the phenomenon electricity. Sixty years later, Otto von Guericke, a German, built a machine to generate static electricity.

Ben Franklin     One hundred years later, Benjamin Franklin identified positive and negative electricity and proved lightning and electricity were the same thing. In 1820, Oersted, a Dane, proved that electricity would produce magnetism. And about the same time, Faraday did some experimenting and discovered the principles of the electric motor.


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