life. Menlo Park was a laboratory, but it was not the same kind of laboratory as Bell Labs. Though I do not consider Menlo Park an industrial research laboratory, it does have a few similarities. Menlo Park was equipped with the finest of technologies, like Bell Labs. They both had access to current scientific journals and literature. The final similarity is the anonymity of the “muckers.” Edison marketed his inventions as his alone, not as ‘Edison & Mucker’s Creations.’ Similarly, Bell Labs was the owner of the inventions formulated and created within its labs. The actual inventor would not have the patent under his name. The major differences would be the working environment. At Bell Labs it was a regular job, clock in, work on the project, clock out, and go home. Bell Labs employees were also working on “ever-larger teams on ever- smaller parts of the overall system” (Clark, “Industrial Research Laboratories”, 10:31). For Edison it was life. He lived and breathed his inventions. The next difference, as said by Dr. Clark in the lecture on “Industrial Research Laboratories,” the unimportance of public image for industrial research laboratory employees (Clark, “Industrial Research Laboratories”, 11:01). Employees were paid whether the invention got publicity or not. In contrast, Edison needed the publicity to continually entice investors and keep the public interested in his inventions.
Bell Labs was a huge enterprise of “physicist, chemist, mathematicians” and “engineers” (Bell Telephone Laboratories, 26). My impression of Bell Labs is that people are assigned to teams, and those teams were given projects and a laboratory to carry out the work set before them. Menlo Park was a single team pursing invention thought up by one man. Bell Labs was like having a thousand Menlo Parks minus Edison. As Professor Clark said in the Unit 3 lecture on “Industrial Research Laboratories”, engineers became cogs in a machine (Clark, “Industrial Research Laboratories, 10:38). Though freedom of what to invent would be more limited, the ability to focus solely on inventing would be freedom enough. Part 2 (Choose ONE) Option A: Could an independent inventor (someone with only 2-3 employees) make substantial inventions in the specific field of engineering in which you work? Why or why not. Explain how important you consider advanced training in basic scientific principles to be in the specific field of engineering in which you work. Option B: Would you rather be one of Edison's "muckers" in his machine shop, or an engineer in Bell Labs? At which place would you have more satisfying work? At which place do you think your efforts would lead to greater social benefit? Explain why. I originally thought I wanted to be a “mucker,” but after reading about Bell Labs I am convinced otherwise. Bell Labs comparatively would have more resources for me to use and more people for me to collaborate with. Though I would be cog in the machine, I would be a happy cog doing what I wanted to be doing. It would be a relief to not have to search for investors or continually worry if the funds were running low.
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- Summer '19
- Alexander Graham Bell