The American Philosopher-Kings and Technical Innovation in Chemical Engineering Progress

September 1, 2012 - Philadelphia, PA

In his classical essay on polity, The Republic, Plato posits a breed of philosopher-kings who—ruling with wisdom, sagacity, and foresight—bring the blessings of perfect government to the citizenry. Although modern governments have not achieved this perfection, for a few brief decades philosopher-kings may have surfaced in the rather narrow field of technical research in telecommunications, to the great benefit of the U.S. and the rest of the world.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation’s (CHF; www.chemheritage.org) History Live series recently presented a Q&A interview of Jon Gertner by David Brock, CHF Senior Research Fellow. An accomplished journalist, Gertner wrote for The New York Times Magazine (2004–2011) on science, business, economics, and society. He is currently an editor at Fast Track magazine, where he writes and edits features on innovation and technology.

Gertner’s recent book, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation has met with near-universal acclaim in the national press. It is a must-read for those concerned with innovation and the conditions under which it can flourish.

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