Inventing the future at ‘the idea factory’

Mervin Kelly lead Bell Lab's research for a time.
Mervin Kelly lead Bell Lab’s research for a time.

In the 1950s, AT&T Bell Labs was a hotbed of innovation, a place where engineers and theorists came together to invent the transistor and make major contributions to the field of lasers and cell phones. One reason: the leadership of Bell Labs’ research director Mervin Kelly, a 1914 physics graduate. 

Kelly “hired the best researchers he could find for the good of the system” – and then got out of their way, wrote Jon Gertner in his 2012 book, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. “In technology, the odds of making something truly new and popular have always tilted toward failure. That was why Kelly let many members of his research department roam free, sometimes without concrete goals, for years on end.”

Share This Story

Spark a Memory?

Share your story! Fill out the form below to share your fondest memory or anecdote of S&T. If you'd prefer not typing, you can also share by phone at 833-646-3715 (833-Miner150).

Surveying the future of mining

Surveying the future of mining

Karl F. Hasselmann, who graduated in 1925 with a degree in mining engineering, was oil prospecting in Europe when he…

Gwen (Ingram) and Chase Davis

Gwen (Ingram) and Chase Davis

Gwen (Ingram) and Chase Davis, who both earned their bachelor’s degree in ceramic engineering from S&T, met after participating in…

Hannah Ramsey-Standage and Chayne Standage

Hannah Ramsey-Standage and Chayne Standage

Hannah Ramsey-Standage and Chayne Standage met in 2014 after being cast in a Miner League Theatre Player production of “Grease”…

EV pioneer

EV pioneer

As the auto industry begins to fully embrace the notion of electric vehicles, it has EV pioneers like Jon Bereisa…

Arden Hawley and Alex Richter

Arden Hawley and Alex Richter

Arden Hawley met Alex Richter in August 2015 after her roommate joined KMNR, where he was a DJ. “She introduced…

Supporting female faculty at S&T

Supporting female faculty at S&T

When she established the Woman of the Year award at Missouri S&T, Cindy Tang, a 1985 economics graduate, wanted to…