Published on February 12th, 2016 | by Chris O'Connor
Genius The Greatest Inventors of All Time and their Rivals DVD review
Summary: The story of how many of todays conveniences came to be and in some cases how they nearly didn't.
The term genius can have two principle meanings
1. exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.
2. an exceptionally intelligent person or one with exceptional skill in a particular area of activity.
This documentary arguably shows both. Covering the development of handguns, electricity, the Newspaper, Television, The Atomic Bomb, The Space Race and The Personal Computer it is equal parts fascinating and frustrating. It is fascinating to see the paths the inventors took… the things that inspired them and helped open up new ways of thinking. It is frustrating to see how money could not only support the growth of a new technology (or way of doing things) but also how it could completely grind that innovation to a halt.
The series covers many if not most of the key points for each rivalry and does a good job of touching on the important moments in each conflict.
The evolution of the firearm from a single shot weapon, to one comprising 5 or more rounds per loading and the impact that had on warfare is in itself both fascinating and perhaps sad in the sense of what it has enabled.
The story of the conflict between Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison over electricity is a great example of how stubbornness can stifle progress. Believing himself to have the best form of transmitting electricity Edison shut Tesla out of the process of improving the technique within his own company and in so doing forced Tesla to go out on his own.
This refusal to see another’s point of view is also very evident in the story of the first manned flight. Whilst Orville and Wilbur Wright first took to the skies, their invention could have been improved greatly by Glen Curtiss’ motor’s… something he offered them but they refused presumably to retain a tight hold on the rights to the build flying machines.
Whilst these examples are of great minds clashing… the story of both the evolution of the News Paper and the invention of television are both mired by single minded people with “infinite sources of money” whose primary goal seemed simply to be to make more money. For Newspaper’s Pulitzer showed a new way of writing that put truth and the disenfranchised first… Hearst moved in and took that idea but then sensationalized it and under priced Pulitzer just so he could have the biggest selling paper. For television Philo Farnsworth invented the technology… but RCA wouldn’t permit the television (viewed quite reasonably as the thing to replace radios) to exist without making sure they had a hefty share of the profits to be made.
But amid these sad stiflings of technological breakthroughs there are also the stories of altruism standing above selfishness. Nicola Tesla tearing up his contract and forgoing untold wealth in order to enable his form of power distribution to succeed, knowing it to be for the betterment of humankind. The Spacerace with Werner Von Braun accepting that his design for a Lunar landing was inferior to the design by Thomas J Kelly and conceded that was the direction America should take to achieve a manned landing on the moon.
Then of course there is the story of the personal computer and it’s rise to prominence… a story arguably with no “hero” as both main protagonists proceeded opportunistically and had no qualms about “stealing” ideas from others to further their own cause.
I would certainly recommend this series for it’s beautiful re-enactments and telling of the events that made history. Anyone who enjoys a given episode I would simply suggest seek further reading as many of the stories have even more depth to them (Edison also electrocuted an elephant to try and prove AC was not safe) A great primer for some of histories greatest advances and an entertaining way to present these stories to anyone who isn’t technically minded.