Christian Schussele’s 1892 painting Men of Progress portrays 19 of the era’s greatest living inventors, the heroes of America’s recent technological ascendancy.
Today I am renewing my subscription to Invention and Technology Magazine. For several years, my family has been receiving this quarterly publication dedicated to highlighting the amazing achievements of the human mind. I don't spend enough time reveling in man's great accomplishments so I am grateful for this periodic reminder when it arrives in the mail.
The painting above is presented in the Spring 2009 issue, accompanied by an article describing tensions which developed between 19th century inventors and scientists. That same issue covers a fascinating array of topics including the history of the deceptively simple-appearing safety pin, the high-tech tools of cinematography--steadicams and skycams, and both constructive ingenuity (paper boats) as well as destructive (bazookas and RPGs.)
This weekend, I plan to take a break from my focus on the discouraging developments in politics, and find a sunny spot on my deck to sit, relax and read about the wonders of human reason.
From left to right, the inventors in the painting are:
1. William Morton, 1819-1868. Co-discoverer of anesthesia.
2. James Bogardus, 1800-1874. Inventor whose varied output ranged from engraving machines to the cast-iron building.
3. Samuel Colt, 1814-1862. Gun inventor and manufacturer.
4. Cyrus McCormick, 1809-1884. Inventor and manufacturer of the reaping machine and other agricultural equipment.
5. Joseph Saxton, 1799-1873. Inventor whose devices included tide gauges, hydrometers, and minting machinery.
6. Charles Goodyear, 1800-1860. Inventor whose vulcanization process made rubber useful.
7. Peter Cooper, 1791-1883. Built the first American steam locomotive; innovated in iron and glue manufacture; founded Cooper Union.
8. Jordan Mott, 1799-1866. Inventor and manufacturer in iron and related technologies.
9. Joseph Henry, 1797-1878. Physicist, electric-motor inventor, and first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
10. Eliphalet Nott, 1773-1866. Stove inventor and president of Union College for sixty-two years.
11. John Ericsson, 1803-1889. Developed marine steam engines and the screw propeller and designed the revolutionary warship Monitor.
12. Frederick Sickels, 1819-1895. Inventor of cutoff valve crucial to later stationary steam engines.
13. Samuel Morse, 1791-1872. Inventor of the electric telegraph.
14. Henry Burden, 1791-1871. Inventor of horseshoe-making machine and agricultural machinery.
15. Richard Hoe, 1812-1886. Inventor of the rotary printing press.
16. Erastus Bigelow, 1814-1879. Inventor of power carpet looms.
17. Isaiah Jennings, 1792-1862. Inventor of friction matches.
18. Thomas Blanchard, 1788-1864. Inventor of numerous lathes and steam vehicles.
19. Elias Howe, 1819-1867. Inventor of the sewing machine.