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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)

10. Time and Distance
A Radio Talk by Charles F. Kettering

     When the Axis planned the war, they took into consideration all of the facilities of communication and transportation then known to mankind. For our Army and Navy to meet this, a large part of our produc­tive capacity was turned to making communication and transportation materials.

Columbus    To appreciate the nature of the transportation accomplishment, we must briefly retrace our develop­ment. As someone has facetiously said, "We need so much transportation because no one is where he wants to be and nothing is where you can use it." Since most of the Earth's surface is covered by water, man began by making various types of small boats, propelled at first by hand. But it wasn't until sails came into general use that he could cross the oceans. Columbus made a most historic trip when he sailed from Palos, Spain to the West Indies in 70 days. The improved sailing vessels shortened the time but they were still at the mercy of the prevailing winds.

Steamboat    Early in the 19th Century, John Fitch, John Stevens and later Robert Fulton were trying ways and means of harnessing steam to boats so as to be independent of the winds. Fulton was most successful and in 1807 the Clermont inaugurated a new era in travel. Twelve years later, in 1819, the steam ship Savannah made the first trans-Atlantic crossing under power from Savannah, Georgia to Liverpool in 25 days - about twice the time of the packet boats.


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