On Wednesday, Oct. 10,
Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, will share the story of Bell Labs, highlighting its unparalleled role as an incubator of innovation and birthplace of the century's most influential technologies.
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 Ph.Ds. Thirteen would go on to win a Nobel Prize. The lab 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.
Gertner reveals in the book 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. In Gertner's portrait, we come to understand why both researchers and business leaders look to Bell Labs as a model and long to incorporate its magic into their own work.
General admission tickets are $20 and are available on e-Tix.
UB Student tickets are free to currently enrolled students.
About Jon Gertner:
Jon 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. A graduate of Cornell University, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and their two children.