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Success and Failure of Gifted Scientists

Posted April. 25, 2003 22:25,   


Vol. 1: Thomas Edison Steals Electricity

Vol. 2: Scientist Bill Gates Strikes It Rich

Written by Michael White, translated by Lee Sang-won

Vol. 1: 290 pages, Vol. 2: 330 pages, each volume retails for 9,500 won, published by Science Books

“In the world of industries and commercial business, everyone steals from everyone. I have stolen many things and I know `how to steal` well.”

It is a confession from the great inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1931), no other than the man who said `A genius is made of 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent hardworking.`

In fact, Edison was be able to become the great inventor of the history mostly thanks to his business skills in late 19th Century when capital and technology began to converge.

His competition and money-oriented nature was marked by relentless and unreasonable clamp down on his rivals. A case in point is the `electric current war` waged between Edison and Croatian scientist Nichola Tesla (1856-1943).

The battle began in 1888 with a debate on which to use for power supply, direct currents or alternating currents. Edison did his best to win, waging a mudslinging campaign, using the media and holding sensational events such as the first electric execution of death penalty. During the course, the two sides continued to conduct research on electric currents, however.

Despite the ugly nature of the competition, the author of the book argues that their intense `electric current battle` fueled research competition, which led to remarkable advance of science. And the author continues to make his case by introducing other stories.

Newton and his German rival Gottfried Leibniz were in a tit-for-tat over who first invented the theory of calculus. Americans and Germans were in a fierce battle over development of the world`s first atomic bomb during the World War II. Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, and Larry Ellison, his counterpart in Oracle, locked horns with each other over software development.

The author elaborates on 8 stories of competition chronically. The lure of this book is to find human sides of these legendary figures. Newton had to go through unhappy childhood and developed paranoia symptoms when he grew up. Bill Gates ate 8 cheeseburgers one night in late 1995 when the stock of Microsoft crashed. The original title is Acid Tongues and Tranquil Dreamers.