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.

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