Friday, March 7, 2008

Who knew?!

Like thousands of others, I've sped past a tall, white blob in the circle at Independence Avenue and Ohio Drive, just south of the Lincoln Memorial. It's in the traffic circle that leads from the avenue and Rock Creek Parkway onto Ohio Drive. Finally, I took an opportunity to check it out.

With a taxi honking for me to move, I quickly snapped this picture of a rather morose or deep in thought man sitting on what looks like the steps to a taller statue. I did catch his name -- John Ericsson -- before I had to speed off. I'd never heard the name before but figured he must have been important to merit a memorial in such a prominent spot.

A little research revealed that John Ericsson was born in Sweden at the dawn of the 19th century and, from a young age, demonstrated a gift for invention and engineering. In an effort to make a living by selling some of his ideas, at the tender age of 17 he went to London. Eventually, he wound up in the United States where he stayed for the rest of his life.

Most of his inventions and innovations had to do with powering ships. His most famous design was the iron-clad U.S.S. Monitor submarine of U.S. Civil War fame. In his later years, he proved, once again, that he was ahead of his time. At the time of his death in 1889, he was working on ways to collect and use solar energy and how to take advantage of the power of tides.

That blob of marble has taken on a whole new meaning now. Imagine how our lives might be different had he succeeded in harnessing solar energy and the tides 100 years ago . . .

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