Archive for the ‘Business History’ Category

‘That’s Entertainment’, 1895

Celebrations are underway for the 120th anniversary of  the first movie shown to a paying audience — essentially the first movie theater. The Lumiere Brothers in 1895 exhibited the nascent motion picture in France and founded an industry. It is true that others preceded them in the development of film. For example, a short clip  made in 1888 by Louis Le Prince in England is generally considered the earliest surviving motion picture. But the Lumieres combined existing technologies and the first paying audience to give birth to the flick, as we know it. Legend has it that when an early Lumiere film of an oncoming train was first shown, people jumped out of their seats in terror. Ahh, the magic of cinema. An exhibition in the Grand Palais of Paris is marking the event.

Holiday reading

The holiday season is at hand — time to hit the slopes. But if there’s no snow to be found after the drought, you might settle in with a good book. Currently on the Library’s Popular Books rack is Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis (HG4628.5.L49 2014) which spins out the story of a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out the U.S. stock market is rigged for the benefit of insiders — and what they do about it.  Says Malcolm Gladwell, “I read Michael Lewis for the same reason I watch Tiger Woods. I’ll never play like that. But it’s good to be reminded every now and again what genius looks like.”  Pessimistic these days?  George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (E839.P28 2013) chronicles the story of the U.S. over the last three decades, portraying a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, with its institutions no longer functional and its ordinary citizens left scrambling for survival. Historian David Kennedy writes “Not since John Dos Passos’ celebrated U.S.A. trilogy, which The Unwinding recollects and rivals, has a writer so cunningly plumbed the seething undercurrents of American life.”  Feeling philanthropic?  A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (HV48.K75 2014) is a broad account of people who are making the world a better place and a guide on how to do so for the rest of us, offering success stories from the front lines of social progress. Former President Jimmy Carter notes, “This book is a helpful and inspiring guide for anyone who wonders what difference a single person can make in building a more hopeful world.” And finally, feeling competitive? Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town (HD9773.U74 V38 2014) by Beth Macy documents the story of the Bassett Furniture Company of Bassett, Virginia, and how one man fought back against Chinese competition to save his family’s company, people’s jobs and the town itself. Lee Smith (Guests on Earth) says, “Beth Macy brings globalization to a human scale, giving a real voice and a recognizable face to everyone involved, from factory worker to government official to Chinese importer.”

Panel event, Oct 20

Please join us at Noon, Monday, October 20 in C-102 for a panel event, Computing at the GSB: Laying the Foundations. Organized by the Oral History Program, the panel will feature Jeffrey Moore (moderator), Charles Bonini, James Miller III and William Sharpe discussing how computing entered into research and teaching. The program will last 90 minutes.

Panel event, October 20

On Monday October 20 from Noon to 1:00 the GSB Oral History Program will present a panel discussion on the introduction of computing and its incorporation into the life of the school. Titled “Computing at the GSB: Laying the Foundations”, the event will be held in room C-102 at the Knight Management Center, and is open to everyone. Panelists will include Jeffrey Moore (moderator), Charles Bonini, James Miller III and William Sharpe, who will reflect on how computing became important for teaching and research at the GSB.

Changing course

News  from New York: in a moment of historic irony, the $860 million Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced it will divest itself from fossil fuels. The family that became synonymous with the oil industry is making the decision to join the growing ‘divestment movement’ that now includes 180 institutions (including Stanford) and hundreds of wealthy individuals.  Aware of the complexities involved Stephen Heintz, President of the Fund, noted “We’re moving soberly, but with real commitment.”   Is John D rolling in his grave — or would he approve?

Piketty’s Charge

And the battle rages on … Paul Krugman  responded in Sunday’s New York Times to an accusation by Chris Giles of the  Financial Times, that conclusions presented in Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century are not supported by the data. Krugman asserts that Giles is misunderstanding (misrepresenting?) the nature of the data and the arguments involved. While Krugman takes pains not to accuse Giles of being a mouthpiece of the wealthy,  he does call upon those who criticize what he calls the consensus about growing wealth disparity to ask themselves their motives.  I suspect that this will not be the last volley in this economic Gettysburg — which represents a much larger historical struggle about wealth and justice in America.

300 Years Later a New Prize for Saving Human Life

In 1714 the British government passed the Longitude Act, which offered a prize to anyone who could find a way to accurately determine a ship’s longitude. The longitude problem caused many wrecks, loss of life, and a huge impact on trade and the economy, so the prize was large 20,000 pounds, $3.5 million by today’s standards. John Harrison, a working class clock maker, won the prize for developing the chronometer.

For the 300th year anniversary of the Longitude Prize, the British Government is offering a new Longitude Prize of 10 million pounds with an emphasis on saving or improving human life on a large scale. Six key problems facing the world were identified and the voting British public will chose from the following:

1. Flight – How can we fly without damaging the environment?
2. Food – How can we ensure everyone has nutritious sustainable food?
3. Antibiotics – How can we prevent the rise of resistance to antibiotics?
4. Paralysis – How can we restore movement to those with paralysis?
5. Water – How can we ensure everyone has access to safe and clean water?
6. Dementia – How can we help people with dementia live independently for longer

Which would you choose?


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