October 3, 2012
Contact: University Relations
On Wednesday, Oct. 10, Jon Gertner will share with the Merrick School of Business Speaker Series audience the story of Bell Labs, highlighting its unparalleled role as an incubator of innovation and birthplace of the century's most influential technologies. Gertner's appearance will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the University of Baltimore Student Center, 21 W. Mt. Royal Ave. (See below for ticket information.)
Bell Laboratories, the most innovative and productive institution of the 20th century, thrived from the 1920s to the 1980s. Long before America's brightest scientific minds began migrating west to Silicon Valley, they flocked to this sylvan campus in the New Jersey suburbs built and funded by AT&T. At its peak, Bell Labs employed nearly 15,000, 1,200 of whom had doctoral degrees. Thirteen would go on to win a Nobel Prize. The firm was a citadel of science and scholarship as well as a hotbed of creative thinking. It was, in effect, a factory of ideas whose workings have remained largely hidden until now.
In his book The Idea Factory, Gertner explores the forces that set off this explosion of creativity. Bell Labs combined the best aspects of the academic and corporate worlds, hiring the brightest and usually the youngest minds, creating a culture and even an architecture that forced employees in different fields to work together, in virtually complete intellectual freedom, with little pressure to create moneymaking innovations.
"Mr. Gertner's portraits of Kelly and the cadre of talented scientists who worked at Bell Labs are animated by a journalistic ability to make their discoveries and inventions utterly comprehensible—indeed, thrilling—to the lay reader," said Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times. "And they showcase, too, his novelistic sense of character and intuitive understanding of the odd ways in which clashing or compatible personalities can combine to foster intensely creative collaborations."
"One of the best innovation-focused books I've read: It's a wide-ranging, detailed, and deeply fascinating look at the New Jersey lab which has been churning out useful discoveries since the early 1900s," said The Boston Globe.
The Seattle Times declared The Idea Factory "[r]emarkably well researched, lucidly written."
Gertner has been a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine since 2004, where he writes about business, technology, and society. He has also served as a senior editor for Money and The American Lawyer.
Tickets are $20 for the general public and free to all currently enrolled UB students. Tickets and registration links are available here.
Learn more about the Speaker Series.
The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the School of Law, the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Public Affairs and the Merrick School of Business.