- Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, was considered to be one of the first computer programmers.
- Inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, was also a socially-conscious man.
- The Wright Brothers took the sky with minimal funding and support.
Human existence and technology goes hand in hand. Indeed, we are an inventing and thinking animal. All of us are inventors in our own right. Some of the greatest inventions of all time have radically changed the world and our lives. From igniting fire to developing the microchip, we shape our environment and our lives as we see fit through our inventive genius.
Throughout history some women and men have exceeded all expectations and had truly inventive spirits. We look toward them as trailblazers, icons, and as people we inspire to be.
Here are a few select biographies about luminaries who helped shape the modern world.
Alexander Graham Bell: The Life and Times of the Man Who Invented the Telephone
We all remember Alexander Graham Bell as the man who created the telephone. What a lot of us don’t know is that Bell was a polymath in his time and an exceptionally gifted scientist who was verse in a number of fields. He was an expert in aviation, solar power, laser communication (before most scientists even considered this science valid) and even expressed interest in new and efficient ways of educating children
On top of being such a great scientist, Bell also was concerned about human carbon-emissions and the potential to raise the Earth’s temperature. Bell had a wide range of interests and was also a gifted teacher, who actually went on to teach Helen Keller to speak. Bell championed civil rights at the time, women’s suffrage and was an early environmentalist. The biography hits upon all of these moments and interests in Bell’s life and makes for a compelling and quick read for a figure we often overlook as just the man who invented the telephone.
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
Computing has been on our minds for centuries in one form or the other. This cross generational biography of computer innovators starts with a woman named Ada Lovelace, who attended the legendary polymath Charles Babbage’s legendary salons where he was building a calculating machine called the Difference Engine. Lovelace also happened to be Lord Byron’s daughter and is considered by many to be the first computer programmer.
Author, Walter Isaacson explores how these theoretical concepts laid down by Lovelace would assist Alan Turing and his innovations on the first computers. There a dizzying amount of lone geniuses, collaborative teams and general cross pollinating scientific advances that led up to the digital age we know today. Isaacson brings all of these characters to life as he digs deep into the men and women that made the digital revolution happen.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography up until the year 1757. So it misses out on a lot of the more historical events we know him for. Those including, the Revolutionary War and his time serving in the Continental Congress. Franklin paints an intimate picture of his earlier years. It is the rise of a young man and considered by many contemporaries of his time and historians of today as the first renaissance man of the American era.
Few people of the time or even today can compare to Benjamin Franklin. An autodidact with a wide range of interests, he was scientist, inventor, and one of the great philosophers of the time. The charm of this book comes from the fact that we get to see Benjamin Franklin in the time that he wasn’t the famous and mythical man many know him as today. Instead we see the classic story of a self-made man as he faces the tried and trued trials and tribulations of a legend on the rise.
The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World
Thomas Edison is a name synonymous with invention. From the first public demonstrations of the phonograph in 1878 and development of the light bulb, Edison was an emblematic symbol of human ingenuity and invention.
Author Randall Stross does not deny the greatness that Edison possessed, but tries to temper the myth and legend with a more sobering view of one America’s most famous inventors. Stross pushes forward the point that Edison, although a technical genius was also a man dedicated to his celebrity and branding.
The Wright Brothers
Written by Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough, the book provides unparalleled insight into the mythical story of the Wright brothers. Wilbur and Orville Wright were two genius and inventive brothers that were the first humans to take to the skies and fly.
Orville was a gifted engineer and Wilbur an all around genius. With barely any money, nothing more than a high school education and no friends in high places – the brothers did the unthinkable and impossible as they learned to fly. Born in Dayton, Ohio the brothers became interested in flight at a young age.
Mechanically gifted they used to make toy helicopters in their youth. When the inspiration hit to learn to fly, the brothers obsessively watched and studied birds while beginning to design an emulation of the flight they witnessed.
McCullough tells the story of their childhood, their relationship to their family and the many early attempts that led to that famous first flight in 1903.