Introducing this year’s winners
THE DA Z ZLING NEW IDEAS CHANGING OUR WORLD
GENIUS without education is like silver in the mine,”
Benjamin Franklin proclaimed. In 1750, the same year America’s founding innovator printed this bit of wisdom in Poor Richard’s Almanack, he shocked himself senseless while trying to electrocute his Christmas turkey in the errant belief that it would tenderize the bird. But he continued his education, publishing his famous kite experiment less than two years later.
Persistence. That bedrock national virtue is well known to all the recipients of the 2018 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Awards. Janelle Monáe spent years, between film-acting roles and other musical projects, developing Dirty Computer, a dazzling “emotion picture” that dares to imagine a startlingly bleak future of robotic gains and human losses.
Who epitomizes the innovator’s need for drive better than the engineers at Waymo, ten million miles into their quest to perfect an autonomous (driverless) car? Or Scott Bolton, whose Juno probe traveled nearly two billion miles before settling into its current orbit around Jupiter?
No field of endeavor would seem less susceptible to invention than history, by definition. But watch the actor and comedian John Leguizamo shatter that expectation in a hilarious stage performance—which is, like all the bold American inventions presented here, electrifying.
Janelle Monáe at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on her summerDirty Computer tour.