Greatest Innovator? 16- to 25-Year-Olds Choose Edison over Steve Jobs

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The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index is a self-proclaimed “annual survey that gauges Americans’ perceptions about invention and innovation.” The latest survey asked 1,000 respondents between the ages of 16 and 25 various questions about invention, innovation and modern technology, including this doozy: “Who’s the greatest innovator of all time?”

Let’s do this Family Feud-style. One thousand people surveyed; top seven answers on the board. Who’s the greatest innovator of all time? Suuuurvey SAYS!

  • Thomas Edison – 52%
  • Steve Jobs – 24%
  • Alexander Graham Bell – 10%
  • Marie Curie – 5%
  • Mark Zuckerberg – 3%
  • Amelia Earhart – 3%
  • Temple Grandin – 2%

Are you surprised that 16- to 25-year-olds chose Edison over Jobs? So were the people behind the Lemelson-MIT survey, it seems:

Each century has been marked with innovations that improved the lives of many. Despite being part of the “Apple generation,” more than twice as many young Americans give the honor of greatest innovator of all time to Thomas Edison before Steve Jobs.

For those of you keeping score, an almost exhaustive list of Edison’s many inventions and innovations can be found on the website — a site that, ironically, hasn’t benefitted from innovation since it was last updated in 1996. Zing!

Other results from the Lemelson-MIT study: Education tops the list of industries “in need of a new, inventive solution”; the MP3 player will be the next “popular invention from the 21st century” to become obsolete within 15 years (the fact that it was actually invented in the 20th century notwithstanding); and the thing most likely to stop respondents “from pursuing a career or furthering [their] education in the fields of science, technology engineering or math” is that they “don’t know much about these fields.”

That answer was followed closely by: “I think these fields are too challenging to pursue,” prompting  Lemelson-MIT to conclude the following:

The 2012 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, announced today, indicates that young Americans are acutely aware of the importance of invention and innovation in their personal lives, and within the context of the nation’s economy. Yet most feel there are factors that would prevent them from furthering education in or entering inventive fields, posing a threat to the pool of future U.S. innovators and the country’s economic prosperity.

You can read more about the study here.