The Mother of Invention


It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. Essentially, the expression means that if and when you really need something or need to do something, you will think of a way of doing it. Another meaning is difficult situations inspire ingenious solutions. Some historians ascribe the beginnings of this statement to the writings of the ancient philosopher Plato. But it wasn't until the 16th century before the proverb became more widely known. Regardless of its history, the phrase itself has probably served as much to motivate invention as it has to define the process.

Think about all the common things we typically take for granted in life that, if someone had not invented them, they may never have been and our lives may not be as good as they are. Look around for a minute. If you're reading this in any kind of building structure like a house or school or restaurant or office building, you're smack dab in the middle of invention. Really! Whether it's the glass in the windows, the doors and the materials to make them, the paint on the walls, the carpet on the floors...everything. But that's just the start.

Now think about all the equipment necessary to actually make all of that stuff. Then from there, you can probably track your way back through the iterations of the equipment itself.

Thankfully, history contains the names of many great men and women who, because of some great need, devised, designed and created the things that have made our lives much more enjoyable. Names like Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, James Watt, Nikola Tesla, Louis Braille, George Washington Carver, Samuel Morse, Charles Babbage, Marie Curie, the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison and thousands of others, would keep you busy for days and weeks and months reading their personal papers describing a problem and the corresponding invention that solved it. These were folks like you and me who simply opened their eyes and ears, observed some kind of challenge, and then set off to creating something that would eliminate the challenge.

If you're reading this post on a smartphone or tablet or pc, you can probably thank a less than well known man named Tim Berners-Lee. He is the guy who developed the http:// protocol for the internet and is credited with inventing the World Wide Web (NOT Al Gore), which enabled the internet to display websites viewable on internet browsers.

I saw a documentary recently on something we all use but rarely talk about; the toilet. Believe it or not, its origins can be traced back to the Roman Empire with the viaducts. Unfortunately, it was centuries later before European inventors rediscovered the idea and actually created the predecessors to our modern day toilet. Thank God for it!

So what do all of these great inventors have in common? They were people! People like you and me who lived their lives mostly like everyone else. Except, as mentioned above, they kept their eyes and ears open. They observed. They listened. They watched. They probably asked a lot of questions, both of others and themselves. They asked, "Why not?" They were people who probably endured a lot of criticism, condemnation, ridicule and exclusion. But they were also people who continued until they found the solution.

Every day, I'm convinced there are inventions, ideas, designs, modifications, new ways of doing things that present themselves. There are also just a few folks who are observant enough to see them. Are you one of them?

Begin today asking yourself how things can be improved. Maybe there's an idea you've had in your head for a while and you've never done anything with it. Maybe you've come up with a design that is revolutionary. Until you do something with it, we may never know what it is. We certainly may never know you had the idea. Start today!

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