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What is the age of enlightenment for giants of steel?

Keywords: Tags  AMM Steel Hall of Fame, John Ambrosia


What is the best age for inspired thinking—for the breakthroughs, discoveries, inventions or insights that can change an industry, change a culture, change the world? Is it the bloom of youth or the wisdom of old age? Or somewhere in between?

I started thinking about this when reading the life stories of the four steel giants being inducted this year into the AMM Steel Hall of Fame. 

According to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study, which looked at the age of Nobel Prize-winning scientists and inventors when they made the breakthrough that also helped make their name, most scientists don’t achieve their first big breakthrough until their late thirties.

I performed a similar task with the now 20 members of the AMM Steel Hall of Fame. This list gives the age at which they made their biggest breakthrough and the accomplishment that got them here:

Age

John H. McConnell

32

Cecilia Danieli

37

William Hogan

37

Andrew Carnegie

38

Henry Bessemer

40

Willy Korf

40

Charles Schwab

41

Ken Iverson

43

Park Tae-joon

43

Gerald Heffernan

45

Irving Rossi

45

John B. Tytus

46

Tom Graham

47

Tadeusz Sendzimir

47

Keith Busse

50

Luigi Danieli

50

Agostino Rocca

50

Paul W. Dillon

53

Elbert Gary

54

Yoshihiro Inayama

54

None of the Hall of Fame members was under 30; four members were in their thirties; 10 were in their forties; and six were 50 or older. 

I wondered how this stacked up against some of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind, so here is a similar list for scientific discoveries (I chose these randomly, trying to hit major breakthroughs as well as a cross-section of disciplines):

Age

Discovery

Francis Crick/James Watson

37/25

Biology

Albert Einstein

26

Relativity

Werner Heisenberg

26

Physics

Arno Penzias/ Robert Wilson

31/28

Astrophysics

Edwin Hubble

35

Astronomy

Georg Bednorz/K. Alex MŸller

36/59

Superconductivity

Charles Lyell

39

Geology

Louis Pasteur

39

Biology

Francis Collins

40

Genome mapping

Michael Faraday

40

Physics

Sigmund Freud

40

Psychoanalysis

Jonas Salk

41

Medicine

James Maxwell

42

Physics

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

43

Biology

Benjamin Franklin

45

Physics

Isaac Newton

45

Physics, math

Alexander Fleming

47

Medicine

Charles Darwin

49

Evolution

Nicolaus Copernicus

55

Astronomy

Galileo Galilei

74

Physics



Next up are inventions or breakthroughs in technological or industrial fields:

Age

Discovery

Charles Hall/ Paul HŽroult

23/25

Modern aluminum

Philo Farnsworth

25

Television

Guglielmo Marconi

27

Radio

George Stephenson

27

Locomotive

Alan Turing

28

Modern computer

Alexander Graham Bell

29

Telephone

Eli Whitney

30

Cotton gin

Marie Curie

31

Physics

Thomas Edison

32

Electric light

Wright brothers

32/36

Airplane

Carl von Linde

34

Refrigerator

James Watt

34

Steam engine

Jack Kilby

35

Microchip

John Bardeen/Walter Brattain

39/45

Transistor

Wernher von Braun

42

Rocket

John Froelich

43

Gas tractor

Johannes Gutenberg

45

Printing press

Robert Fulton

47

Steamship

Henry Ford

50

Assembly line

John Harrison

66

Chronometer


Just for fun, I also chose what are acknowledged to be some of the greatest works from the humanities:

Age

Masterwork

The Beatles 23/24/26/26

Sgt. Pepper

Pablo Picasso

26

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

F. Scott Fitzgerald

29

The Great Gatsby

Mozart

31

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Miles Davis

33

Kind of Blue

Marcel Duchamp

35

The Large Glass

Shakespeare

38

Hamlet

Akira Kurosawa

40

Roshomon

Sun Tzu

40

The Art of War

David Simon

42

The Wire

Charles Dickens

47

Tale of Two Cities

Auguste Rodin

49

The Thinker

Richard Wagner

49

The Ring Cycle

Dante Alighieri

50

The Divine Comedy

Leonardo

54

Mona Lisa

Immanuel Kant

57

Critique of Pure Reason

Alfred Hitchcock

59

Vertigo

Milton

59

Paradise Lost

Michelangelo

66

The Last Judgment

Beethoven

74

9th symphony


So how do Steel Hall of Fame members stack up against some of the greatest minds?

Average age

Median age

Hall of Fame

44.6

45.0

Arts

42.5

40.0

Science

40.8

40.0

Inventions

35.8

34.0

I think this implies that achievement in an industry such as steel is more like scientific discovery or artistic creation—in that one collects experience, experiments, knowledge and more over a career and brings it to bear at some point. 


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