The Top 5 All-Time Heroes of Technology

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The Top 5 All-Time Heroes of Technology

Here are the five people without whom technology as we know it would have been most held back.

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Thomas Edison, With no Tesla.
The internet loves him for a reason.
I don't have any incandescent light bulbs anymore, besides Edison just stole the patent for that.
But if you want to go with obsolete things, Tesla gave us radio in it's current form.

Bullshit about Edison giving us electricity.
The plug in my wall doesn't give us Edison's DC power, it give's Tesla's AC power.

Drone strikes on the news? Tesla pioneered the idea, tried to sell the US navy a drone torpedo.

Also SI has a Tesla Unit, not an Edison Unit.

Finally, Steve jobs? Really?
Look up Xerox Labs

image

Is it bring your daughter to work and let her write your articles day at the Escapist or something? Thomas Edison didn't invent the light-bulb, he just created the first commercially viable model, there were already dozens of other working versions around. I thought this was common knowledge stuff by now. And I'm not sure Steve Jobs ever invented a single piece of original technology.

I guess I'll give you Faraday. I think of him more as a scientist than a "hero of technology" but I guess his major discovery is undeniably fundamental to our use of electronics.

I don't know enough about the other 2 to question your evaluation, but considering your other choices, you're probably fortunate for that.

Steve freakin' Jobs over the likes of Ada Lovelace or the ENIAC programmers club? Man, screw that.

Do'h, I was already beaten to the punch but I still have to say some things. The internet loves Tesla because (mostly for his wacky electricity experiments and the mystery surrounding his later life and possible inventions but also ) he was a brilliant underdog that got taken advantage of by two businessmen who only saw him as a tool to make more money. A fitting example of want can happen with today's corporate environment is one is not careful about signing which contracts or taking precautions against idea theft before showing the world their designs. That Philo T. Farnworth (yep, Futurama pays tribute with an idiot and a mad scientist) character? He had to fight litigation from RCA for years because they had money and didn't like the idea of radio not being #1.

Yes, Edison did not invent the light bulb. He was just the first to find the best filament for the purpose, after buying the original bulb patent from the widow of the guy who tried selling it to Edison years earlier (and George Washington Carver came up with a better tungsten filament a few years later anyway). Other inventors were close to getting it right, too. Edison was more of a Steve Jobs over the turn of the late 19th/ early 20th centuries. He did do his own experiments at first, but he started enlisting assistants, like Telsa until screwing the poor guy over and showing him "American Humor"[1](read: lying about paying to fix Edison's shoddy generator designs). He was the Apple 100 years before Apple starting buying up all the companies with ideas that intrigued them.

Like I just said, Apple buys companies for their ideas. Jobs may have been a visionary, but he didn't have the knowledge to fulfill them and wouldn't let another team beat his to the creation of new tech; he'd conquer and assimilate them (and help accelerate that corporate trend to what it is today around the globe). Even back during Apple's early days, he took ideas. *cough*Edison*cough* TheSYLOH above said look up Xerox Labs. Allow me to give do a quick explanation: Both Jobs and Gates plus some friends were invited to see some projects Xerox was working on. One, deemed a toy by the Xerox higher ups, caught both future CEOs' eyes. It was an OS with a graphical user interface. Mac OS and later Windows would beat Xerox before they realized their mistakes at both not commercializing their software and showing it off to outsiders.

[1] One of my deepest regrets about school is a fourth grade report I did on Edison. The elementary-level books our library had completely neglected to mention all the people he swindled to get the recognition history gave him. I believed he did everything himself or with well compensated help for years. It also reminds me to this day that schools aren't readying kids for the real world, where scumbags can even be dressed in the finest business attire.

Dear Escapist Magazine - please vet your guest blogs a bit better in the future.

I will avoid the obvious Tesla/Edison issue. OK, no I won't. Tesla powered the electric lights that Edison is famous for, as well as the CFL light bulbs that are replacing Edison's bulbs today.

What I really wanted to raise issue with was the exclusion of any female heroes of technology. Now, it is true that technology has been historically dominated by males. But, I would submit that any of the following female pioneers made bigger impacts on the world than enabling Blu-Ray...

* Ada Lovelace
* Emmy Noether
* Grace Hopper
* Hedy Lamarr
* Katherine Johnson
* Radia Perlman
* Chieko Asakawa

Putting Edison on there is not going to go over well...

*Reads comments*

Yup.

Couldn't help to notice that the article has two titles: "The Top 5 All-Time Heroes of Technology" and "Five Most Influential Heroes of Technology".

If you want to make the case that Edison and Jobs are there for being more influential, sure. I don't agree but its debatable. But if you just go for the "5 all-time heroes of technology" part, they have no business there, instead of people like Turing, Tesla, Da Vinci or even Gates.

Edison was a pioneer in patent trolling, not in technology.

Having him in this article is nothing more than trolling and flamebait, especially with Tesla being mentioned in the paragraph about him.

Shame on you, Escapist, shame.

I'm sorry, but this list is horrible. Aside from the obvious problems everyone else has stated and restated, it ignored over 2000 years of technological development. All of the most important technological inventions are missing, and in their place we have blu-ray and the iphone. Really shows how lost in the novelty of new devices we are when we forget how the steel plow shaped the political landscape of the middle ages or how the automobile determined the form and function of towns and cities worldwide today.

And already every reply is about Tesla vs. Edison. As an electrical engineer, I can't stand all the hate that Edison gets. Regardless of what you believe, both Tesla and Edison played a huge role in pioneering electricity and power. Both of them. Just because Tesla gets more or less ignored in grade school classes doesn't invalidate Edison's contributions. Hell, one of the authors has a PhD and holds 28 patents on electronic and imaging technologies. I think that he would know something about the subject.

Edit: And as for people arguing the inclusion of Shuji Nakamura, he, along with Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, just won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the Blue LED. I will say though that the authors probably should have highlighted the lighting and energy significance of the blue LED over its use in Blu-Rays.

TheSYLOH:
The plug in my wall doesn't give us Edison's DC power, it give's Tesla's AC power.

That's because AC was better for transmission, but with new HVDC technology, DC is generally better for transmission (though it's currently really damn expensive). Most electronics can only operate on DC, so they need to have AC/DC converters inside them.

hermes200:
Couldn't help to notice that the article has two titles: "The Top 5 All-Time Heroes of Technology" and "Five Most Influential Heroes of Technology".

Yeah, I've noticed that most, if not all, Escapist articles have two titles: one listed in the article and one listed in the URL.

Naqel:
Edison was a pioneer in patent trolling, not in technology.

Having him in this article is nothing more than trolling and flamebait, especially with Tesla being mentioned in the paragraph about him.

Shame on you, Escapist, shame.

We both know people would be even angrier if Tesla wasn't mentioned at all.

Thomas Edison was nothing but a thief. Fuck, this guy had people come to France and buy under the table a copy of Georges Meliès' A trip to the Moon, one of the most groundbreaking movies ever, that invented dozens of SFX concepts and ideas that would be copied for decades, to distribute it in the US without Meliès getting even a cent out of it.

While Meliès hoped to distribute it a few weeks later in the US to make some desperately needed money.

So, no, Edison is nothing but a very savvy businessman. Not a scientist.

And, yes, what the other guys said: this list is incredibly biaised.

Rufus Shinra:
And, yes, what the other guys said: this list is incredibly biaised.

And everyone's complete dismissal of Edison isn't biased? I'm pretty sure people that hold PhDs in and work in the field that Edison helped pioneer probably know a bit more about him and his contributions than the average person.

And Man:

Rufus Shinra:
And, yes, what the other guys said: this list is incredibly biaised.

And everyone's complete dismissal of Edison isn't biased? I'm pretty sure people that hold PhDs in the field that Edison worked in probably know a bit more about him and his contributions than the average person.

I'm a grad student in nanomaterials in my last year of PhD, hold a Masters of Science in nanophysics and a Masters of Engineering in advanced materials.

Thomas Edison is a dick.

Edison didn't event the light bulb. He invented the first commercially viable lightbulb. There were 22 inventors of the lightbulb before Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan. Tesla also invented Fluorescent bulbs 40 years before the worlds fair introduced them. So I'm guessing we'd have been damn fine without Edison.

He did not pioneer the power grid. He advocated direct current which would have required another power plant for every 10 square miles. Tesla's Alternating current was what made the power grid what we have today. In fact, Edison actually actively tried to sabotage the infinitely more efficient method that Tesla finally passed through because of the obvious benefits of AC. If edison had had his way, some of us would still have darkened houses regardless of how many of his bulbs they owned because the cost of producing that many power plants would have been entirely ridiculous unless you were rich and could hire your own team of electrical engineers.

The Microphone was invented by Emile Berliner who based the design off of Alexander Graham Bell's work. I'm actually not even sure where you got Thomas Edison at all with pioneering the microphone. Facts?

As for recording (don't know why you threw music in there specifically since it was merely the most obvious conclusion of recording sound rather than specifically by design of the hardware), Thomas once again did not invent it. The Phonautograph which records the sound had already been invented by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville (mouthfull of a name) and the method to play it back was invented by Charles Cros who oddly enough used his background in photography to figure the problem out with photoengraving. Edison just did what they had already done the same year they released that information and he could do it faster on a commercial scale because of his industrial research lab. Then Emile Berliner (the same individual who I listed with the Microphone) swooped in and perfected it with the Record Disk format that we used until cassettes became a more portable thing. So, by your own misuse of calling the people who merely created the final commercially viable version Emile Berliner is now the responsible one.

Edison didn't really invent things. What he was good at was combining invention with mass production and collaboration. Though, he did invent the electric chair in an attempt to derail Tesla's Alternating Current power grid gaining steam.

Pioneering implies being the first one there. The person blazing the trail. Not the guy that paves the already existing trail.

Tesla invented flourescent (and neon) bulbs, X-rays, transmittable power (the famous picture of him holding a lightbulb that is lit without wires was powered by his tesla coil), radio, remote controls which he demonstrated with a toy boat, the rotating magnetic field to be used in things like the induction motor which he also invented that is used in practically every motor in existence today. This is the motor that makes things like appliances, power tools, disk drives, and so many other things that would otherwise have required a significant mechanical overhaul to work on direct current. His ideas and patents were used to develop things like radar. He held hundreds of patents on all sorts of things, including a biplane that could take off vertically whose mechanism has since led to more viable products.

Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison are very alike. They might not had invented their products, but they knew how they worked and how to make them accessible to the general public. Without them, several technological inventions probably wouldn't had left the laboratories and made it into the middle-class homes.

That both Edison and Jobs are on the list shows you didn't actually do any research on the topic at all.

If Edison had died as a child Joseph Swan would have still invented the incandescent light bulb since he did it first and independently anyway way.

You want some one important in computers? try Jack Kilby or Robert Noyce, the guys that came up with the first integrated circuits, Also know as the Micro chip. Or Dennis Richie, who created C and co wrote Unix, with out which fuckin OSX doesn't exist. How about anyone that did foundational work in computers instead of a jumped up PR guy.

Hell, it would be interesting to have someone like Oppenheimmer. After all, he kinda led the project that created the most important invention of the 20th century bar none.

Jobs shouldn't qualify as a "Hero" of technology, but he could be the bard. Apple's flagship products all took ideas from other technology manufacturers. Apple's App Store opened 4 years after earlier venues were available. Heck, Microsoft had such a marketplace in 2004, 3 years ahead of the App Store. Jobs was a master of marketing, not technology. Edison did have a working knowledge of designing new products as well as manufacturing and selling them.

Rufus Shinra:

And Man:

Rufus Shinra:
And, yes, what the other guys said: this list is incredibly biaised.

And everyone's complete dismissal of Edison isn't biased? I'm pretty sure people that hold PhDs in the field that Edison worked in probably know a bit more about him and his contributions than the average person.

I'm a grad student in nanomaterials in my last year of PhD, hold a Masters of Science in nanophysics and a Masters of Engineering in advanced materials.

Thomas Edison is a dick.

Which doesn't invalidate his contributions.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

I'm glad this is generating discussion, and I'm glad that you are voicing your own opinions on who you believe does and does not deserve to be on this list.

As mentioned in the article, this was a guest post, and while I (the person who accepted and edited the article) may not personally agree with all of the choices, I do respect them, and I respect the authors' credentials. For anyone who didn't read them, here they are:

Derek Cheung, Ph.D. holds 28 patents related to electronic and imaging technologies, mainly for defense and space systems. The former president and CEO of Rockwell Scientific Company, Dr. Cheung spent more than 30 years directing major research and development efforts in a wide variety of cutting-edge technologies, including information sciences, semiconductor technologies, electro-optics devices, and infrared sensors. Currently Dr. Cheung is a key business and technology consultant for several high tech start-up companies in California, as well as the Advanced Science and Technology Research Institute in Hong Kong

This list was not compiled by a gamer with an interest in technology - it was compiled by someone who is about as knee-deep in technological development as you can get. Again, you may disagree with his opinion, but understand that you are disagreeing with an expert in the field, not some yahoo.

That said, if some consensus can be found in these forums, I'd be happy to write up an article on "The Escapist's Top 5 All-Time Heroes of Technology" as a counterpoint to this piece. And I'll happily make Tesla #1 on that list.

Hi, I'm here to fix your list!

-James Clerk Maxwell
-Alan Turning
-Schrodinger / Heisenberg
-John von Neumann
-William Shockley

Isn't that so much better??

Actually, Edison didn't even make the light-bulb. Well, he did but he didn't actually come up with the idea for it. You see, he was a wealthy greedy pig that had the money to take other peoples ideas. A perfect representation of a capitalist. Other people were working on the light-bulb, and one individual that comes to mind is Henry Woodward and the group of people that worked with him. They made the patent. What they didn't have however, was money. So, yeah, they gave him the plan for money and he naturally took all the credit. He's nothing but a fat parasite, and given that he wasn't set on fire like he should have been it's our duty to make sure that he's completely unmasked for the fraud he truly was. You know that rich jerk from Cloud Atlas that was blackmailing the musician? That's Edison.

Rhykker:
Snip

Thank you! Honestly, people in this topic are acting like the author just threw this list together through a Google search because he doesn't think that Edison is the Devil incarnate (Praise be to Tesla, our Lord and Savior!)

Inflammatory clickbait list? Yup...
How about some women, like Rosalind Franklin?

And just electric stuff only huh?
Guess you don't mind dying from Polio etc. as long as you get to play games on your iPad whilst doing it, huh, authors?
Yes, I'm saying medical technology and natural sciences are WAY more important than lights and tv's.

Those are what are known as *conveniences* for some reason...
Going forward biotechnology is going to become the most important field for humanity.
Because it actually keeps people ALIVE.

In short, wow, this article really sucked!

Rhykker:
This list was not compiled by a gamer with an interest in technology - it was compiled by someone who is about as knee-deep in technological development as you can get. Again, you may disagree with his opinion, but understand that you are disagreeing with an expert in the field, not some yahoo.

Oh, right! People reading the Escapist are just random yahoo's who like gaming!
Surely none here are equally or more versed in such topics as the person you now have to defend.
Got it.

Feel free to make a new, much longer list.
Or even better; individual top 5's for each field... make it a series, get some mileage out of it.

Edison was a man who built a hero cult around himself, and until quite recently he was idolized in pop culture as the ultimate Hero of Science and Technology. When it then turns out that the man actually was a gigantic asshole, who stole so much of the inventions he claimed from other people, it's no wonder there is a huge backlash.

In the tale of Edison the Hero, Tesla was the antagonist - the Joker to his Batman.

When we lean that our Childhood Hero - Edison the Magnificent - was actually something of a thief, and a nasty piece of work by many accounts, is it then so strange that the former antagonist Tesla is now seen in a new light?

While eccentric, and wrong in may ways, his achievements were quite real and wholly his own. So if you are looking for an Idol, you could do a lot worse.

Edison was a man who built a hero cult around himself, and until quite recently he was idolized in pop culture as the ultimate Hero of Science and Technology. When it then turns out that the man actually was a gigantic asshole, who stole so much of the inventions he claimed from other people, it's no wonder there is a huge backlash.

In the tale of Edison the Hero, Tesla was the antagonist - the Joker to his Batman.

When we lean that our Childhood Hero - Edison the Magnificent - was actually something of a thief, and a nasty piece of work by many accounts, is it then so strange that the former antagonist Tesla is now seen in a new light?

While eccentric, and wrong in may ways, his achievements were quite real and wholly his own. So if you are looking for an Idol, you could do a lot worse.

Edison was a man who built a hero cult around himself, and until quite recently he was idolized in pop culture as the ultimate Hero of Science and Technology. When it then turns out that the man actually was a gigantic asshole, who stole so much of the inventions he claimed from other people, it's no wonder there is a huge backlash.

In the tale of Edison the Hero, Tesla was the antagonist - the Joker to his Batman.

When we lean that our Childhood Hero - Edison the Magnificent - was actually something of a thief, and a nasty piece of work by many accounts, is it then so strange that the former antagonist Tesla is now seen in a new light?

While eccentric, and wrong in may ways, his achievements were quite real and wholly his own. So if you are looking for an Idol, you could do a lot worse.

Are you kidding me?

Charles Parsons - Steam turbine
Richard Trevithick - Steam locomotive
Frank Whittle - Jet engine
Tommy Flowers - The first electronic digital computer

First people that came to mind when I read this.

Derek Cheung and Eric Brach:
The Top 5 All-Time Heroes of Technology

Here are the five people without whom technology as we know it would have been most held back.

Read Full Article

Yes, we would REALLY be held back by not having BLU-ray. I don't agree with the last two (numbers 4 and 5). If you find my remark offensive, then I apologise. I just can't contain my utter surprise and sheer disbelief.

[Added]

Edited because post was possibly too rude, removed profanity.

Kenjitsuka:

Rhykker:
This list was not compiled by a gamer with an interest in technology - it was compiled by someone who is about as knee-deep in technological development as you can get. Again, you may disagree with his opinion, but understand that you are disagreeing with an expert in the field, not some yahoo.

Oh, right! People reading the Escapist are just random yahoo's who like gaming!
Surely none here are equally or more versed in such topics as the person you now have to defend.
Got it.

Feel free to make a new, much longer list.
Or even better; individual top 5's for each field... make it a series, get some mileage out of it.

There was no implication that the readership consists of yahoos - but the questioning of the author's credentials felt like he was being treated like a yahoo who didn't know what he was talking about. I was simply highlighting the fact that this wasn't written by a gaming journalist - this was written by an expert in the field.

From my first days with The Escapist, I have lauded our readership for being erudite, a sentiment I've shared on multiple occasions with other members of The Escapist staff, as well as outside sources. I proudly tell people that our readers include scientists, physicists, engineers, people who hold Masters and PhDs, as well as simply intelligent and well-read people with an interest for science & technology.

I appreciate the fact that you all feel so strongly about this, because it specifically highlights your interest in and passion for the matter, and further reinforces my beliefs about our readership. That said, I would appreciate a little more open-mindedness for the opinions of someone who has credentials. You may disagree (as I do!), but you may disagree with civility. Constructive feedback is telling us who should be on that list, rather than calling into question the author.

yeah i too would like to ask; dang WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?

i mean, Ok, until a certain time women werent allowed to get patents registered under their names-because that was property and women werent allowed to own property, but in the last i think 114 years time women actually did stuff and are known for it. (before that they surely did too)

so for yeh:
a few women more, some tech-stuff, some other inventions

Ana (fucking) Lovelace
Grace Murray Hopper
Adele Goldstine, and Kay McNulty, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Ruth Lichterman, Betty Jennings, and Fran Bilas (Programming was a job that wasnt very important because at its beginning it seemed a bit like secretary-work. it became more complex and more prestiguos, men sprincled in, like its everywhere (look at iran or other part of the arabic world..In iran about 60% of students of physics are women-because science isnt as prestigious as art/literature and religious stuff(which is dominated by men)

Roberta Williams(kings quest.. should i say more?)

Or Radia Perlman (STP..TRILL etc)
Hedy Lamarr
Erna Schneider

well, one woman invented the hot-water-heater, for all the instant-food one basement-dwelling-person eats when immersed in skyrim (yeah i am guilty of that too..)dont know her name..
and the refrigerator was developed by a woman too.

and now unto something different...

Stephanie Kwolek
jobs is fine and dandy, but that woman saved a lot of lives-she invented kevlar^^

Since this is an all time list, the number 1 should be "unknown cavemen: discovered fire". :)

Also, maybe save a spot for Archimedes or Da Vinci.

Tesla > Edison all the time
Jobs, but maybe in his early pioneering years. Not the copycat of latter years. (he did improve on his thefts, but they were thefts none the less)
Alan Turing has my vote over a few of these.

Make a list and people will tear it apart :-) just like my shopping list, everyone wants something different

Steve Jobs was a massive dirtbag. He was a greedy, deceitful opportunist who worked people to death and took all the credit. You know all those things people blame Edison for? Jobs was *exactly* like Edison.

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