The Nearly Men

American author and editor Russell Lynes once said, “every journalist has a book inside them, which is the best place for it.” And generally speaking, I think he makes a good point, but only generally. There are exceptions to his rule and whereas I don’t usually review books, I decided to make an exception and review a recently released work called The Nearly Men by author and editor Mike Green.

This is an entertaining and incredibly well-researched book that chronicles how groundbreaking innovation isn’t always attributed to the right people. The book makes it clear not to assume that the established history lessons we learn are unequivocally right. The fact is they’re sometimes either not true, or they only partially reveal the complete story.

All design engineers know that assumption is a rapid route to project failure. So, to ensure success, they must question, compare, test, validate, and generally keep an open mind when designing. Fortunately they also know that good marketing strategies and correct legal procedures are imperatives when it comes to turning their designs into profitable successes.

Sadly, this wasn’t always so in the past, as is clearly explained in The Nearly Men. The book focuses on eight people. I’m not going to list all of them here, but to give you a flavour of the book, let me ask you these questions: Who invented the first telephone? Who pioneered the development of radio?

Your answers will probably be Alexander Graham Bell and Gugliemo Marconi. Now its not that these answers are entirely wrong, but they are no where near entirely correct either. The first telephone was, in fact, invented by Antonio Meucci, a Florentine, Italy native born in 1808. As for the development of radio, it was the technology created by Serbian Nikola Tesla that made Marconi his fortune, while the hapless Tesla died penniless.

The Nearly Men tells the real stories behind some of the greatest works of technology and science that shaped the world we live in. It reveals who really did the work and the way in which life’s twists and turns don’t always leave us with history that’s unassailably accurate.

Benjamin Disraeli once said, “The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.” Forget that idea in this case. When it comes to getting acquainted with some real entrepreneurial misfortunes and injustices, more than enough enlightenment is gained by reading this book.

The Nearly Men, by Mike Green, is published by Tempus Publishing,, ISBN 978-0-7524-4232-7.

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