Malcolm Gladwell is an author and cultural commentator of increasing influence, witness the success of his books "The Tipping Point," "Blink," and his latest, "Outliers." Blogger John Kelvie of takes Gladwell to task for some of his pithier observations
, most notably his conclusion a a 2002 book review for the New Yorker that Philo Farnsworth should have gone to work for David Sarnoff:
Kelvie quotes Gladwell's article at some length, but arrives at his own more enlightened conclusion:
the only way to invent) is demonstrably untrue: after all, it’s
Farnsworth that invented the Cathode Ray Tube, not RCA. Could RCA have
invented it? I guess (Gladwell says they were never “more than a step
behind” though apparently a step means approximately two years), but I
think the fact that Farnsworth did it on his own is pretty compelling
evidence of the efficacy of individual inventors.
I think part of the problem that I had with Aaron Sorkin's play The Farnsworth Invention stems from it's tendency to arrive at pretty much the same conclusion as Gladwell. I guess there is something that happens once your prosperity becomes dependent on the largesse of a corporation: you start to think that's the only path to success.