Eight years after the creation of General Electric in 1892, Chief Engineer Charles Steinmetz began lobbying for the creation of a research laboratory. One of GE’s founders, Elihu Thomson, supported the idea, stating: “It does seem to me…that a Company as large as the General Electric Company, should not fail to continue investing and developing in new fields: there should, in fact, be a research laboratory for commercial applications of new principles, and even for the discovery of those principles.”
And so it was that GE’s first Global Research Laboratory was founded in the barn behind Steinmetz’s house in Schenectady, NY, with MIT Chemistry professor Wilis Whitney hired as its first director.
While its beginnings were humble, it didn’t take long for scientists and inventors from around the world to flock to the Research Lab to see what GE was working on. And each famous mind that visited would stop at Willis Whitney’s desk to sign the VIP guest book. The book sat at Whitney’s desk from 1914 to 1935, and the signatures are a veritable Who’s Who of inventors, physicists, chemists, physiologists, and businessmen — including 9 Nobel Laureates.
Check out some of the signatures of the luminaries that dropped by:
(USA) was one of the most prolific inventors in history, and the founder of the original companies that merged with competitors and were formally incorporated as General Electric in 1892. “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” as one newspaper dubbed him, developed inventions that had widespread impact around the world. They included: electrical power, the phonograph, the motion picture, the electric light bulb, a stock ticker, a battery for an electric car, and the list goes on. Edison holds 1,093 patents in his name in the US alone. Edison’s legacy survives today at GE, in the lighting, transportation, industrial products, power transmission, and medical equipment offerings he first pioneered.
(Japan) began his career working for Thomas Edison at an Edison facility in Manhattan before moving on to the Edison Machine Works in Schenectady, NY. Iwadare then returned to Japan to help build the electrical industry in his home country, and went on to become the founder of Nippon Electric Co. – now known as NEC Corporation.
(Denmark) won his Nobel Prize in 1922 in Physics. His work focused on understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics and led to Bohr becoming one of the physicists on the Manhattan Project.
(Italian) invented a radio telegraph machine and developed Marconi’s law. He won a shared Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909 for development of wireless technologies.
(Russia),who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1904, is best known for his discovery of conditioned reflexes, which was a result of his famous experiments with dogs. However, Pavlov’s other studies were also vital in the fields of medicine and physiology.