On the original Star Trek series, one of the running jokes was ensign Chekov’s tendency to claim that this or that technology was “invented in Russia”. Well, he may not have been right but the popular notion that the most celebrated inventions of the 19th century were the products of lone (American) inventors is definitely wrong.
The legend of Thomas Edison shines a little dimmer, thanks to researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who have played a 10-second recording of a woman singing made in 1860–17 years before Edison received a patent for the phonograph. The recording was made by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and inventor, on a device known as a phonautogram, which captured sounds and recorded them on paper.
The second article discusses why some inventors become legends and others fade into obscurity. As it turns out, many of the inventions, such as the telephone, radio and light bulb, that are attributed to single inventors were actually developed independently by several individuals.
1. Researchers play tune recorded before Edison, March 27, 2008
2. Edison… Wasn’t he the guy who invented everything?, March 30, 2008