Credit Where Credit Is Due For Inventions

Al Gore neither invented the internet or even claimed to have done so.  John McCain didn’t invent the BlackBerry. Contrary to a couple of comments in Barack Obama’s speech last night, it looks like Americans did not invent everything. Marc Ambinder writes:

After a period of prolonged study and meditation (ie, I consulted Wikipedia for 45 minutes after the speech), I have concluded that these claims are questionable at best and false at worst. Not quite sixteen words, we-invaded-Iraq-on-the-strength-of-this-information false. But probably false. Here is my evidence:

An English scientist by the name of Willoughby Smith first discovered that selenium was photoconductive, and a French scientist named Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect. That was the basis of “solar technology.” That, and the English Chemist Edward Weston apparently holds the first American patent for a solar cell.

The history of automobiles is more complicated, but Wikipedia has the rundown here. In a nutshell: The British, French and Russians (!) had all developed some form of steam-powered automobile in the 18th century. (The British were apparently doing pretty well until something called the Locomotive Act of 1865 came along: It required that any motorized vehicle be preceded by a man waving a red flag. Talk about stifling innovation.)  Anyway, here’s the kicker: “It is generally acknowledged the first automobiles with gasoline-powered internal combustion engines were completed almost simultaneously by several German inventors working independently.” German inventors, it must be observed, are not American.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment