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  Innovation vs. Invention | Future Innovations | Who Did We Miss?

Who Did We Miss?
Read people's comments on the 64 innovators profiled on this site, and other ones who might have been included.

ANDY WARHOL! Besides creating amazing art, he created the concept of pop culture, produced The Velvet Underground -- the first punk rock group that inspired generations of rock groups. He produced indie films that imitated and made fun of Hollywood. He flaunted the commercial aspect of art/ "culture" and managed to be a counter-culture force at the same time, or maybe pointed out that have become one in the same.

J. R.
Houston, TX

Al Capone is one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. There should be room for both sinners and saints in the list.

Al Slartman
West Carolton, OH

Yes, Tesla was missed. Tesla oscillator and his wireless transmission of electricity were only 2 of many items that were also disregarded by most. If only he had more time and money, and Edison hadn't had a circus/roadshow attempting to discredit his brilliance.

S. Cochrane
Victoria, BC ----

Amazing, you people STILL think the white industrialist MADE America... thinking still history began with Columbus... history was taking place long before Columbus or the invasion of whites... shame on you for not having more programs/correct information on Indian history. Seems there's just enough, a sprinkling if you would, to appease the Indians, but not nearly enough. To me, every day is 'Native American' day...

Pamela Robedeaux Hickman
Osage/Otoe Mason City, IA

Russell Simmons and the liberation of the black man through the urban poetry of hip hop is extraordinary... Congratulations American Experience producers, for your wonderful series. You simply made a mistake to promote the mean-spirited, misogynist Beastie Boys... Intelligence is your business PBS, stick to that and don't get in bed with misogyny. I loved the Orphan Trains and so many of your specials. Eschew the Beastie Boys!

Julie Remington
Portland, OR

Samuel Insull was not only involved with power plants but bought up most of the electric railroads in the midwest and rebuilt them into modern, fast transportation. Every line got new equipment, improved track, Spanish style stations, and the most modern power generation for high speed service. Some of the railroads lasted long after Insull died and one is still operating in the midwest. Some of his improved holdings were The Indiana Railroad, The Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad, The Chicago Rapid Transit (the L) -- now part of the CTA, The North Shore Line, The South Shore Line -- this still operates with many Insull improvements still visible. I had the enjoyment when I was a kid in the 60's to ride the North Shore Line and The South Shore plus the L. If Insull had stayed alive more of these railroads will still be carrying passengers, I always wondered what he would think of the Electroliners which were built in 1941 and racked up millions of miles at close to 100 miles per hour on their 5 runs between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Tom McNeely
De Pere, WI

As a long time Fedex employee (18 years) I think a can give you some inside perspective into some of Mr. Smith's success in the last few years. I acknowledge he was a great innovator and has built a tremendous business. But like most major corporations much of their success has come from leveraging employees programs such as this: do a great job of showing success of a company from a stockholders view but almost never do you do any research to find out how the everyday employee is faring...

I'll give you a few examples. As our stock has risen we employees haven't had a salary increase... About 3 years ago our profit sharing program was suspended and almost at the same time the company announced they would now pay a dividend to their stock holders. Our stock is at record value yet still no profit sharing reinstated. I'll leave it to you to figure out where that money went. Or better yet maybe do another show and ask Mr. Smith these questions... I thank you for this forum to get some facts out there... I would love to see someone do a show on the plight of the American worker in these corporations who buy companies, sponsor stadiums, sponsor race teams like I buy groceries. And then they tell their employees they are sorry we can only give you a 2 percent increase but you will have to pay another 8 percent of your health benefits.

David Dawson

The real first inventor of a working steamboat [was] James Rumsey of Shepherdstown, VA (now WV). Both Rumsey and an even earlier inventor from France, preceded Fitch in conceiving of a design for a steamboat. However only Rumsey's boat actually worked -- and this, before an audience of notables and citizens. Old Michael Fouke was heard to say, "She moves! Why sir, she could manage the Straits of Gibraltar!!"

Rumsey and his guests and mechanics crossed the Potomac River and headed up stream. All of his maneuvers went perfectly. History books of the Shephardstown area all confirm the crucial events. Apparently, Rumsey was invited to speak of his invention to a prestigious English society. However, he suffered a heart attack and died the night he was to speak and thus the energetic inventor and his new boat dropped out of the contention that later brought fame and fortune to Robert Fulton -- who likely took many aspects of his designs from both Rumsey and Fitch. Before he died, Rumsey had complained that many of his designs showed up on Fitch's boat. Rumsey's story needs to be told...

Dick Matteson
College Park, MD

---- Who really "made America" were the black slaves of the South who carried this country on their back for many years and the Chinese laborers of the railroad who built that celebrated system painfully, rivet by rivet. Their lives deserve to be celebrated.

Corinne Low

[American Experience replies: please visit our network of U.S. history Web sites, including Transcontinental Railroad, The Time of the Lincolns, and Reconstruction: The Second Civil War, for many stories of the contributions of laborers and slaves, including the Chinese and Irish immigrants and Civil War veterans who worked on the railroad, and the slaves and freed slaves on whose labor the cotton economy was based.]

Admiral Grace Murray Hopper the inventor of COBOL should have been included in this list. She designed and wrote the first general purpose programming language with english like syntax. It revolutionized the use of computers in business and industry in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

J. E. T.
Chicago, IL

NIKOLA TESLA!! He was responsible for more inventions that we use EVERY DAY than anything Edison ever "invented." Tesla invented the alternating current electrical system that is use in every corner of the globe. It literally powers our world. It was Tesla, not Marconi, that invented radio (as confirmed by the U.S. Supreme court in 1943). The list goes on, but without Tesla, PBS wouldn't have the technology to tramsmit this laughably incomplete program to me over the air, nor would I have the electrical power to power the TV to watch it.

J. C.
Albuquerque, NM

Thomas Paine. Founding Father during the American Revolution. He was influential in devising and spreading the idea of separating America from Britain...which was heresy until then. And he contributed to the new political ideas of representative government, when monarchy dominated. There's also some minimal evidence that he contributed to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.

Thousand Oaks, CA

Bill Gates/IBM PCs made available for everyone. The Mac 1! it gets tricky here but you can make it right. What about Carnegie, JP Morgan, Charles Chaplin (Hollywood)? The liberty boats?

M. Z.
New York, NY

Steve Jobs. I can understand why Bill Gates was not included, but Steve Jobs? We are all using a form of the Macintosh and always will. He made this technology availble to the masses, jump started the internet with GUI and gave Microsoft a tremendous gift.

Todd Rockey
Little Falls, NJ

Nikola Tesla was one of the premier inventors and visionaries of Americas history-- George Westinghouse would have been bankrupt if it had not been for Tesla's patents and financial largess. Teslas invention of the AC Motor and AC generation is such a huge contribution to the world that everything else pales. He turned his back on AC power and gave it all to Westinghouse. He alone is responsible for the basic electrical generation that we have to this day. This is only one of his many contributions to America and the World.

Michael Bokrosh
Seattle, WA

page created on 11.9.2004
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