The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation has published a new book, "The Spirit of Invention: The Story of the Thinkers, Creators, and Dreamers Who Formed Our Nation." Written by award-winning author and historian Julie M. Fenster in collaboration with the Lemelson Center, the book examines innovation as a driving characteristic of Americans from all eras and all backgrounds.
"The Spirit of Invention" reflects the Lemelson Center’s unique perspective on invention as a dynamic activity with a rich history. Instead of recounting the familiar chronicles of famous inventors, Fenster celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of the unheralded and, at times, unknown inventors. These stories reveal that the spirit of invention lies not in the search for fame and fortune, but in the impulse to create something new.
"The inventive spirit permeates American history and has made America what it is today," said Arthur Molella, director of the Lemelson Center. "We focus on those people who have done extraordinary things, embodying the inventive ingenuity the Lemelson Center is dedicated to."
"The Spirit of Invention" explores invention as a multidisciplinary activity with many sources of inspiration. For example, the story of Robert Switzer, who invented Day-Glo paints while recovering from a coma, connects invention with color. Similarly, Fenster fuses invention and music in her recounting of the centuries-old African roots of the banjo. The narrative is supported, in part, by archival material from the Smithsonian’s collections and features more than 100 illustrations.
Fenster is an award-winning author and historian, specializing in the American story. In 2006, her book "Parish Priest," written with co-author Douglas Brinkley, was a New York Times bestseller for seven weeks. She is the author of seven other books.
The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center is dedicated to exploring invention in history and encouraging inventive creativity in young people. The center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy established by one of the country’s most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. The Lemelson Center is located in the National Museum of American History. For more information, visit invention.smithsonian.org.
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