When Hard Work Didn’t Pay Off (In Their Lifetime)

You might be surprised how many great inventors never received credit and monetary compensation for their genius and hard work.

In fact, nearly all of them. It’s been estimated that 90 percent of inventors die poor due to theft of their intellectual property and/or unfair business deals. The following are some of the most glaring examples.


Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

Probably the most infamous culprit of stealing and not giving credit is Thomas Edison. Stories persist he was the mastermind inventor of 1,093 US patents when it was the genius scientists whom he employed that made the discoveries.

One of the genius scientists on Edison’s payroll was Serbian American inventor Nikola Tesla.

Said Tesla about Edison:

If he had a needle to find in a haystack he would not stop to reason where it was most likely to be, but would proceed at once, with the feverish diligence of a bee, to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. … I was almost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.

Despite Edison’s inefficiencies, he still managed to claim credit for alternating electrical current and the Fluoroscope, both which were Tesla’s inventions.


Antonio Meucci

Antonio Meucci

Another example of an inventor not getting paid was Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci. Meucci was the innovator of the “teletrofono”…  the telephone.

In the hope of raising investment capital, Meucci sent technical documents detailing the telephone to Alexander Graham Bell.

Big mistake, it turns out. Bell stole the idea outright and took out a patent for the telephone instead. Meucci sued Bell but never profited from his invention. He died penniless.


Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear was victim of a similar scam. After experimenting unsuccessfully with gum elastic for nearly a decade, the impoverished inventor unlocked the formula to vulcanized rubber.

Having no money to patent his discovery and with a family that was nearly starving, Goodyear tried to raise investment capital by sending samples of vulcanized rubber to Thomas Hancock, the leading rubber manufacturer in Britain.

Hancock examined the samples and was amazed with their properties of resistance to hot and cold. He realised then and there that whoever had the rights to this super-material might control the rubber industry.

Hancock couldn’t chance it. Instead of forging a deal with Goodyear (who was still overseas in America), he reverse-engineered the samples and took out the British patent for himself.

What followed was years of legal battles for proper rights. Goodyear ultimately failed to financially profit from his toil and died poor.

Unfortunately, in all three instances, these ingenius technologies never yielded the fruits their creators so richly deserved. But perhaps what they are receiving now is better: immortality and due recognition as great inventors of the modern age.

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