The Father Of The Laser Got Burned Because He Didn't Understand Patents
Scientists are still people, and they can make some pretty boneheaded moves just like the rest of us goons. And there's no greater example of this than the story of Gordon Gould, the most gullible genius to have ever lived.
Union College Files He tried to pay for his Yale tuition with magic beans.
Gould started his scientific career contributing to the Manhattan Project. That should have skyrocketed his science cred, if not for his decision to marry a communist. In 1940s America. While working on projects that required government security clearance. Gould was quickly fired and blackballed.
But politics and skulduggery couldn't keep this raw genius down for long. In 1957, during a booze- and cigarette-fueled weekend, Gould wrote a nine-page thesis inventing not just a way to create light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, but also inventing its more iconic name: the laser. Realizing this was his ticket back into the fold of respectability, he immediately went to have his work notarized, which was smart. The place he decided to do it at was the neighborhood candy store, which was the opposite of smart.
After consulting his jellybean jurists, Gould was convinced by a lawyer that he needed to have a working prototype before he could get the patent for his invention. Which is patently untrue (sorry), but sure was a windfall for the private company he joined so he could have access to the materials to build said prototype. They immediately filed for a government grant to develop the laser, and the government then classified Gould's notes and booted him off the project because of, again, the communist thing.
With Gould no longer in control of his own invention, his colleague Charles H. Townes not only took over the project and claimed its patent, but also published the work without crediting Gould at all. Gould tried to stop Townes from taking credit by finally filing patents of his own, but the heartbroken scientist had to sit and watch as Townes received the Nobel Prize for Science in 1964. After 30 years of fighting, Gould did manage to at least gain the royalties, netting him a cool $30 million. Gould died rich and relatively happy in 2005, but the odds that his name will wind up in any school textbooks remain laser-thin.
Marcel Duchamp's Infamous Toilet Fountain Was Made By A Baroness In Philadelphia
Marcel Duchamp, famed Dadaist and inventor of that annoying hipster trend of putting mustaches on everything, is perhaps best-known for his upturned urinal sculpture Fountain. But not just anyone can put a toilet on its back and call it a work of art. And that apparently includes the guy who's credited with it.
Kim TraynorWikimedia Commons It doesn’t even have a bullseye. Where’s the art in that?