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The Genius is Within: Real Innovation Begins by Listening to the Right Voices

I recently came across a 1984 article written about Mervin J. Kelly, the legendary American physicist whose career with Bell Labs spanned 23 years and multiple positions, from Director of Research to Chairman of the Board and everything in between. Described as a motivator who asked the right questions and found the best people to answer them, he is hailed as the driving force that steered the famed research enterprise into solid-state physics, a novel field of study that resulted in the 1948 invention of the transistor and the semiconductor chip.

The building block for all digital communications, from home computers to space shuttles, its inventors, Bell Lab physicists William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, won the Nobel Prize in 1956. Upon Kelly’s retirement in 1959, he, too, won a top prize, the John Fritz Medal, the highest honor reserved for engineering greats such as Alexander Graham Bell, Alfred Nobel, Charles Kettering, George Westinghouse and Orville Wright.

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