Everything That Can Be Invented Has Been Invented

In 1889, Charles H. Duell was the Commissioner of US patent office. He is widely quoted as having stated that the patent office would soon shrink in size, and eventually close, because…

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

Charles H. Duell*, 1899

The “Eureka” effect is based upon an ancient myth regarding the Greek mathematician Archimedes, who upon discovering how to measure the volume of an irregular object, supposedly leaped out of a public bath, and ran home naked shouting “eureka,” (I found it).

Most of us would agree that there is still much to be invented and discovered. We tend to think these new “inventions” will be more extraordinary, advanced and innovative than those which preceded them. This is not entirely true. Many prior advances were revolutionary and extraordinary. An invention need not be revolutionary, or even unique, to be significant. Finally, many “new” inventions are derivative of their predecessors.

From door locks to light bulbs, shovels to toilets, and the classic mouse-trap, innovation comes in many forms and from many directions, often right under our noses. Sliced bread? Bottled water?

Nothing is so basic, or so great, that it cannot be made better. Continue reading “Everything That Can Be Invented Has Been Invented”