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Fifty Clever Bastards

Have you ever stopped to wonder who invented the magnetic strip and PIN on your credit card, the ATM, the computer mouse, the conference call facility on your office phone, the telephone – all things that we take for granted as we go about our daily life? Have you assumed that their light-bulb moment opened up the path to untold fame and fortune?

The ability to spot a problem and develop a solution is a truly wonderful and awe-inspiring gift but for many inventors that is the easy bit. In Fifty Clever Bastards Martin Fone shines the spotlight on 50 individuals who in their different ways made a major contribution to the way we live our life today.

The inventor’s lot is not always a happy one. When you are pushing at the barriers of human knowledge and technology, things can go disastrously wrong. If your invention doesn’t kill you – and in these pages you will find some whose demise was caused by their inventions – you may not profit from your endeavours either because somebody rips you off or you haven’t the financial resources to make it commercially available. Sometimes your invention is just so game-changing that out of a spirit of philanthropy you give it gratis for humanity to enjoy.

Each brief, slightly tongue-in-cheek pen picture concentrates as much on what happened after they hit upon their idea as what the idea was itself. After all, that is the more interesting part. Within these pages you will find aviators from the first millennium CE, pioneers of transportation from bicycles and submarines to aeroplane trains, inventors of the zip, light bulb and the match. You will find that many who took the acclamation for an invention, weren’t the ones who came up with the idea in the first place. Life can be cruel sometimes.

Martin Fone has always been fascinated by inventors and Fifty Clever Bastards is his paean to human ingenuity and a celebration of those who came unstuck in some way. As Ian Dury so memorably sang, there ain’t half some clever bastards.