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).

Andrea (Clements) and Zachary Weber

Andrea (Clements) and Zachary Weber

Andrea (Clements) Weber, a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, met her husband, Zachary, when one of her sorority sisters…

Mo Dehghani: what lies ahead

Mo Dehghani: what lies ahead

Mohammad “Mo” Dehghani, who has been chancellor at S&T since 2019, discusses what he believes...

The ‘steam locomotive’ of printers

The ‘steam locomotive’ of printers

When Philip Chen joined Xerox Corp. in 1967, only big companies could afford printers and scanners. Now retired and with…

Wharton makes KC Chiefs’ roster

Wharton makes KC Chiefs’ roster

Former Missouri S&T defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton, who earned All-America honors while a Miner, made the 2020 opening day roster…

Sandy (Junge) and Brian Klein

Sandy (Junge) and Brian Klein

Sandy (Junge) and Brian Klein met in 1990 during lunch in the TJ Hall cafeteria. “Sandy needed a typewriter to…

Martin Jischke on increasing diversity

Martin Jischke on increasing diversity

Martin C. Jischke, who served as chancellor at UMR between 1986 and 1991, describes the importance...