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A summertime journey in search of inspiration


September 20, 2012
By Paul Hogendoorn


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The summer holidays are over and things are kicking back into gear. Hopefully you had some time to take a bit of a break and recharge your batteries. Vacation and recreation are very important ingredients to your success – they are the times you reflect on your past efforts and engage your imagination for future success; they are the times you spend reviewing and, hopefully, renewing your motivation for doing what you are doing. A vacation is often a time best spent as a quest for inspiration.

This past summer, I rode my motorcycle out to Canada’s east coast, exploring three of the Atlantic provinces. I picked up my wife up Moncton, and from there we toured the beautiful coastline, lapping up the scenery and absorbing the honest, gentle and resolved attitude that permeates its people. The slow pace, the ever-changing scenery, the friendly people and especially the history, all seemed to conspire to inspire me. And it did.

On one foggy day, we went inland a bit and visited the Alexander Graham Bell museum. I had always been familiar with his major inventions and ground-breaking work (the phone, hydrofoils and aeronautics), but wasn’t at all familiar with his personal story, his motivation, or his inclusion of others in his work and his desire to help them, and others, succeed.

In 1907, Bell set up the Aerial Experimentation Association, in his words, as a “co-operative scientific association, not for gain but for the love of the art and doing what we can to help one another.” After observing the passion with which her husband had engaged in conversation with a couple of young engineering graduates, Mabel suggested the formation an association for that purpose, and then she proceeded to fund it from her own personal wealth.

The museum is filled with displays and quotes, revealing more than just Bell’s accomplishments, but his motivations as well. On the way out, I encountered this quote: “The Inventor… looks upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees, he wants to benefit the world; he is haunted by an idea. The spirit of invention possesses him, seeking materialization.”

At his estate home in Cape Breton, Bell hosted Helen Keller, invited Marconi and corresponded with inventors, presidents, politicians and explorers alike, and in 1888, he was one of the founders of the National Geographic Society. This man was not motivated by “what was,” but by “what could be.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.