According to a TIME “Invention Poll” that asked 10,000 people from 17 countries¹,


A person who said,


“To invent you need

   a good imagination

      and a pile of junk.”


was voted


of all time.


For “Who” and MORE use the DOOR



Thomas Alva Edison  (1847-1931) ²

was mentioned 1st 27% of the time.

Runners up were

9%   Albert Einstein

5%   Alexander Graham Bell

4%   Leonardo da Vinci

3%   Steve Jobs

The remaining 52% went to others who got less than 3%

Although definitions of “inventing” vary greatly, Jeffrey Kluger of Time (Nov. 25, 2013¹) puts it this way:

“It’s easy enough to recognize a prolific inventor when we see one; if nothing else, just count the patents (Edison had 1093). But it’s far harder to define what the act of invention is–how it springs into being, how it visits some of us and not others, how an idea that seems so obvious after the invention has been conceived and built was so opaque, so elusive before. Inventiveness can hit when we’re thinking about inventing, or it can come in sideways, flashing brilliantly on the periphery when we’re focused on something else…”

Then there is the “result of mere doggedness, even cussedness grinding away at a problem until it finally yields.” Kluger tells of Jonas Salk who created the first successful polio vaccine “step-by-step, experiment by experiment, year by year until he filled 573 file boxes [of paper]–spanning 316 linear feet.” More sweat, it seems, than inspiration.

More on human inventiveness–a difficult behavior to explain–in a future post.


¹ This information is the result of a Time Invention Poll, in cooperation with Qualcomm, which was a survey of 10,197 people in 7 “mature” markets (South Korea, the U.S., Germany, Sweden, Australia, the U.K. and Singapore and 10 “emerging” markets (South Africa, Kenya, Russia, The United Arab Emirates, China, Brazil, Turkey, India, Mexico, and Indonesia). Unfortunately for this rich summary of extensive information for a popular magazine, some desired details of how the data were collected do not appear. The overview nonetheless is informative. This was the feature article in the Nov. 25 issue of Time.

² Edison’s inventions include the lightbulb, the movie camera, the cylinder phonograph, the disc phonograph, advanced fluoroscopy, a commercial stock ticker, and a vote tabulator.