The Corner

Wits and Benefaction

Toward the end of today’s Impromptus, I sing a little hymn to George C. Devol, who died two weeks ago at a cool 99. He was the “father of robotics,” and the inventor of the robotic arm. With his scientific wits, he gave mankind a huge boost. I note that it is not only the “non-profit” types who help us. The “profit” types are invaluable and indispensable.

A reader writes,

Hi, Jay —

Your item about Devol reminded me of another unsung hero-inventor: George Ballas, the inventor of the weed-whacker. (I know you’re an urban type, so I should explain that a weed-whacker is a tool used to trim the edges of one’s lawn!) [Hey now, I was exposed to plenty of yard work back in Michigan — enough to last any number of lifetimes.]

Anyway, here’s a little article on Ballas, and how important people like him are to progress.

Yes. Ballas died earlier this summer, at 85. (His obit in the New York Times is here.) I’m hoping that such an idea — an idea like the weed-whacker — comes to me someday. I’ll letcha know.

Most Popular


Trump’s Midterm Pitch

While Trump is not personally facing reelection until 2020, he is asking supporters to imagine that his head is on the chopping block Read More

The Witches of Bushwick

In Brooklyn, there is an occult bookshop called Catland Books. “Catland” is, one imagines, an apt description of the homes of the women who congregate there. The operators of the establishment have announced that they are planning to hold a special hex session this weekend to make Supreme Court justice ... Read More