Thank You, Geniuses, Whoever You Were



It has been said more than once, and with considerable credibility, that Isaac Newton, who first explained gravity, may very well have been the greatest scientific genius of all times. That's quite a statement. Makes you wonder what Newton himself thought of the things he did. His comment, one of them anyway, was that he was "standing on the shoulders of giants."

That's an interesting comment, both in that it is so modest and in that it suggests that Newton understood something that many of us tend to forget today. Namely, that we are what we are, and we have what we have, because of the creativity of millions upon millions of unsung inventors who lived before us.

Take an ordinary task like screwing a loose door back in place. Simple, you say. Easy -- a matter of a few minutes. But take a close look at what's involved. First of all, there's the hinge. Then there are screws. And, of course, there's the screwdriver.

Now, a screw, or a hinge, or a screwdriver doesn't exactly sound like something earthshaking, but that's the exact point. They aren't, but only because they've already been invented.

But when? And how? And by whom?

If you had lived eight or nine thousand years ago when close-fitting doors first came upon the scene, would you have been able to think of something as handy, and reliable, and easy to use as a simple brass hinge? No? Well, the folks back then weren't able to think of it at first either. The first smooth-working hinges we have a record of were large clumsy things; logs that swung in holes that had to be chiseled into solid stone door sills. That's a far cry from a simple brass hinge.

What about the screw? Or the bolt, which probably preceded it? They are both fairly modern inventions, although there seems to be no record of who invented them, or when. It's probable that the bolt was invented when someone was trying to get a rivet, which was a very early invention, into or out of a sheet of metal. Most likely, in twisting a rivet to get it in, the inventor of the bolt found that grooves were cut into it, and that turning a rivet with grooves in it was an easier way to get it in and out. All it took at that point was the realization that a rivet with grooves deliberately filed into it in a spiral could be a new type of fastener.

"All it took." Ho! Ho! Ho!

It's that great mind leap, and several billion more just like it, that separate us from our ancestors. God gave us a brain and our ancestors just went right out and used it. Now we enjoy the benefits of the inventions of millions upon millions of unsung inventors who lived before us.

Next time you're in a hardware store, take a look around. There's a lot to be appreciated on those shelves.

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