The lives, loves and deaths of splendidly unreasonable inventors

By Jeremy Coller

Published by: Infinite Ideas Limited

ISBN: 978–1–905940–82–0


From an analysis of 30 inventors who changed the world, Coller – a former investment analyst and, later, investment manager – argues that personality type dictates the potential for success in bringing inventions to fruition. He maintains that few people have the full package of skills required to make a success of an idea. Moreover, failure results when an individual, who excels in one area of competence, attempts to become responsible for all aspects of developing and marketing the invention.


Coller focuses on the people, rather than their inventions, and examines the way in which they succeeded or failed to bring their visions to fruition. He acknowledges that each inventor whom he scrutinises is as different from every other one as every human being is from her/ his neighbour. Yet, he maintains, for all their differences, they each had an ability to ‘see round the corner’, along with the single-mindedness and motivation to do something about it. In searching for further common ground, Coller reveals that many of these inventors lived unconventional lives and tended to be ‘non-conformists’ – which, perhaps, gave them the licence to be original in their thoughts and subsequent inventions.


On one level, the book is a collection of eminently readable, entertaining stories. On another level, these stories are an unconventional look at the inventive process that created such life-changing products as the telephone, the sewing machine, dynamite, the cinema, the safety razor and vulcanized rubber for tyres.


Only historical figures are included in this analysis, which enables Coller to examine their lives in their entirety – from early ideas and experiments through success to, often, eventual failure. Each of the stories, all of which are personal, colourful and packed with quirky nuggets of information, illustrates a particular aspect of the inventive personality.


There are lessons from these stories for the would-be famous inventor but there are valuable insights, too, for students of human nature as well as those who are fascinated by the human side of ‘why history turned out as it did’. The book might also offer a perspective or two for the reader who is struggling to decide what s/he wants out of life – and the price s/he is prepared to pay to achieve it.


It may be a little early in the year to say it but this has all the hallmarks of an ‘acceptable Christmas present’ book.


(Further details: Kindle Edition File Size: 5013 KB; Length: 244 pages; ASIN: B007PSFFLO; Published: August 2012; Price: £8.05)