Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Becky: Hi everyone, and welcome back to EnglishClass101.com. This is Culture Class, Season 3, Lesson 10 - The Top 5 Most Influential Thinkers in Energy and Manufacturing. I’m Becky.
Eric: And I’m Eric. It’s great to be here with you. We've got a big lesson for you, so we'll get right to it!
Becky: That's right! Number 5 of our Top 5 Most Influential Thinkers in Energy and Manufacturing is Thomas Edison.
Eric: Thomas Edison was the inventor of the electric light, or the light bulb. He also invented the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and about a thousand other things.
Becky: That’s true. Some people consider Thomas Edison to be the most productive inventor ever, with over a thousand patented inventions.
Eric: Electric light allowed businesses to stay open longer and people were able to light their houses with something safer than candles or oil-based lamps. This allowed people to be more productive. Unfortunately, some businesses took advantage of this increase in productivity and labor abuses were common.
Becky: Exactly. Also we should note, what we call a lightbulb and what Edison first created are different. However, he continued to refine his invention and built something that is almost identical to what’s used in most houses today.
Eric: He also invented the telegraph, which allowed people to communicate over long distances almost immediately.
Becky: Right. No more waiting for the Pony Express.
Eric: Which brings us to our number 4, who was a master of manufacturing and who got his start as a telegrapher.
Becky: That’s right. Number 4 of our Top 5 Most Influential Thinkers in Energy and Manufacturing is Andrew Carnegie.
Eric: Carnegie was from a poor family and immigrated to the United States from Scotland. He started work as a telegrapher, and quickly built his investments in various enterprises.
Becky: However, his real money and success came from the Carnegie Steel Company, which quickly became the largest and most profitable steel company in the world.
Eric: Carnegie then sold his steel company to JP Morgan and became the second richest person in history, second only to John D. Rockefeller.
Becky: Carnegie then did what very few fantastically rich people do – he used his wealth for the public good.
Eric: That’s right. He funded local libraries, education, and scientific research. He believed that a democratic civilization can only survive if the people are thoroughly educated.
Becky: He also believed that to die wealthy was disgraceful and influenced many wealthy people to do the same, most notably John D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates.
Eric: That’s right. But even though he was giving away a lot of money, his workers received only $10 a week. In 1890, the poverty line was set at $500 a year. That means that steel workers were only making $20 more than what was thought to be the minimum amount needed to survive. They worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week and got only one holiday off - the Fourth of July.
Becky: Interesting. You really can’t say that he was just a great philanthropist or just a cutthroat CEO, because in reality he was both.
Eric: But speaking of Rockefeller, I know we spoke a bit about him in our last lesson, but here he is again, at number 3 in our Top 5.
Becky: Rockefeller may have been the richest man in history with a total net worth averaging at just under $300 billion in today’s dollars. However, he has another legacy. The way he ran his company, Standard Oil, was so harmful to so many Americans that Congress passed several laws and provisions to prohibit any company from doing that again.
Eric: Exactly. Rockefeller became rich by monopolizing the oil industry in the early 1900s.
Becky: Monopolies are now illegal in the USA and most of the world.
Eric: On a happier note, number 2 of our Top 5 is Alexander Graham Bell.
Becky: Most famously, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, which was a major improvement over Thomas Edison’s telegraph.
Eric: The telephone grew out of his research into hearing and speech since both his wife and mother were deaf.
Becky: Bell also has patents on something called a photophone which could transmit sound on a beam of light.
Eric: At first glance that might not seem useful, but the principles that Bell outlined and the general apparatus patented in 1880 were the basis for today’s fiber-optic cable. The internet as we know it couldn’t exist without the photophone.
Becky: In my research for this lesson, I read in several places that Bell believed that his most important invention was the photophone, not the telephone. Also, near the end of his life he developed some theories about how to use solar panels, which is something we’re still trying to figure out.
Eric: Pretty amazing guy.
Becky: So, who’s our number 1?
Eric: Number 1 in our Top 5 Most Influential Thinkers in Energy and Manufacturing is Henry Ford.
Becky: Hey, didn’t we talk about him in the last lesson, too?
Eric: We did but he’s on this list for very different reasons.
Becky: Okay. What are those reasons?
Eric: Well, first, he created the first moving assembly line, which was such a radical improvement to the previous systems. Not only did it make him fantastically rich, but no one has come up with a better idea since.
Becky: That’s right. Assembly lines are used in almost every factory in the world today.
Eric: Second, he paid nearly twice as much as his competitors so that his employees could afford to buy Ford cars.
Becky: Well actually, that’s not totally true. Ford found that many of his employees would quit, because while the wage was ok, it wasn’t great. Kind of like fast-food workers today. This meant the company had to find and train new workers all the time, which is pretty expensive. Production slows down because a lot of people are inexperienced. By paying his workers a higher wage, he found that they were more likely to stay and production wouldn’t be interrupted.
Eric: Henry Ford showed the world that paying people well would make them likely to stay with the company. But did your research find out if they were able to buy Ford cars?
Becky: No, but I did find out a little about their lifestyle. Getting the higher wage wasn’t easy. Some people say that it was half wage, half bonus. In order to get the full $5 a day, a committee would visit your home to make sure that you were doing things “the American Way.” This meant no gambling, no drinking, and immigrants had to go to classes to be “americanized.” Married women or men who had wives that worked were not eligible.
Eric: Wow, I never knew that before.
Becky: But it’s not all bad. Ford Motor company was also the first major company to implement a program of 8 hours per day, 5 days per week.
Eric: Again, until this time, there was no standard for hours on a working day or a working week. Many people were forced to work over 14 hours a day, seven days a week, because that’s what the company required.
Becky: After Ford set a 40-hour work week, many companies followed his example, and today it’s considered the standard worldwide.
Eric: And those are just some of the most influential things he did. He did many other things that were also important. Okay, that’s all for this lesson.
Becky: Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time!
Eric: Bye!