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Edwin H. Land (1909 – 1991)


American scientist and inventor.
Edwin H. Land
Ordinarily when we talk about the human as the advanced product of evolution and the mind as being the most advanced product of evolution, there is an implication that we are advanced out of and away from the structure of the exterior world in which we have evolved, as if a separate product had been packaged, wrapped up, and delivered from a production line. The view I am presenting proposes a mechanism more and more interlocked with the totality of the exterior. This mechanism has no separate existence at all, being in a thousand ways united with and continuously interacting with the whole exterior domain. In fact there is no exterior red object with a tremendous mind linked to it by only a ray of light. The red object is a composite product of matter and mechanism evolved in permanent association with a most elaborate interlock. There is no tremor in what we call the "outside world" that is not locked by a thousand chains and gossamers to inner structures that vibrate and move with it and are a part of it.
The reason for the painfulness of all philosophy is that in the past, in its necessary ignorance of the unbelievable domains of partnership that have evolved in the relationship between ourselves and the world around us, it dealt with what indeed have been a tragic separation and isolation. Of what meaning is the world without mind? The question cannot exist.
Land quotes
I believe there are two opposing theories of history, and you have to make your choice. Either you believe that this kind of individual greatness does exist and can be nurtured and developed, that such great individuals can be part of a cooperative community while they continue to be their happy, flourishing, contributing selves or else you believe that there is some mystical, cyclical, overriding, predetermined, cultural law a historic determinism.
The great contribution of science is to say that this second theory is nonsense. The great contribution of science is to demonstrate that a person can regard the world as chaos, but can find in himself a method of perceiving, within that chaos, small arrangements of order, that out of himself, and out of the order that previous scientists have generated, he can make things that are exciting and thrilling to make, that are deeply spiritual contributions to himself and to his friends. The scientist comes to the world and says, "I do not understand the divine source, but I know, in a way that I don't understand, that out of chaos I can make order, out of loneliness I can make friendship, out of ugliness I can make beauty."
I believe that men are born this way that all men are born this way. I know that each of the undergraduates with whom I talked shares this belief. Each of these men felt secretly it was his very special secret and his deepest secret that he could be great.
But not many undergraduates come through our present educational system retaining this hope. Our young people, for the most part unless they are geniuses after a very short time in college give up any hope of being individually great. They plan, instead, to be good. They plan to be effective, They plan to do their job. They plan to take their healthy place in the community. We might say that today it takes a genius to come out great, and a great man, a merely great man, cannot survive. It has become our habit, therefore, to think that the age of greatness has passed, that the age of the great man is gone, that this is the day of group research, that this is the day of community progress. Yet the very essence of democracy is the absolute faith that while people must cooperate, the first function of democracy, its peculiar gift, is to develop each individual into everything that he might be. But I submit to you that when in each man the dream of personal greatness dies, democracy loses the real source of its future strength.
Land
I believe quite simply that the small company of the future will be as much a research organization as it is a manufacturing company, and that this new company is the frontier for the next generation.




Land Edwin H. quotes
You always start with a fantasy. Part of the fantasy technique is to visualize something as perfect. Then with the experiments you work back from the fantasy to reality, hacking away at the components.
Land Edwin H.
Now, partly that was work, and partly that was brains, but very largely it was having the guts, the guts to be immodest in the right way.
Edwin H. Land quotes
There's a tremendous popular fallacy which holds that significant research can be carried out by trying things. Actually it is easy to show that in general no significant problem can be solved empirically, except for accidents so rare as to be statistically unimportant. One of my jests is to say that we work empirically we use bull's eye empiricism. We try everything, but we try the right thing first!
Edwin H. Land
I would urge that just as democracy initially meant the right of man to defend himself, to have a sword, and then meant the right to write, and then meant the right to read so, now, democracy means the right to have the scientific experience.
Land Edwin H. quotes
The world is a scene changing so rapidly that it takes every bit of intuitive ability you have, every brain cell each one of you has, to make the sensible decision about what to do next. You cannot rely upon what you have been taught. All you have learned from history is old ways of making mistakes. There is nothing that history can tell you about what we must do tomorrow. Only what we must not do.
Land
There's a rule they don't teach you at the Harvard Business School. It is, if anything is worth doing, it's worth doing to excess.
Land Edwin H.
Most large industrial concerns, are limited by policy to special directions of expansion within the well-established field of the company. On the other hand, most small companies do not have the resources or the facilities to support "scientific prospecting." Thus the young man leaving the university with a proposal for a new kind of activity is frequently not able to find a matrix for the development of his ideas in any established industrial organization.
Edwin H. Land
In a few wretched buildings, we created a whole new industry with international significance.




Edwin H. Land quotes
Besides energy, the dominant impressions Land created were artistic sensibility, a sense of drama, delight in experiment, relentless optimism. Less evident was a remarkable ability to keep both work and people in compartments. Less than six feet tall, Land had intense eyes and a shock of black hair that riveted attention on him. Despite a soft voice and frequent use of half-sentences, Land was able to convert interior monologues into dramatic public presentations. The watchword was: "If anything is worth doing, it's worth doing to excess."
Edwin H. Land
Edwin Land worked passionately to realize his vision for the betterment of society. ... His vision of science for the public was a great one, and highly original. ... Although Edwin Land must have realized that much about him was unique, he tried to identify those elements of his own being and experience that could be replicated to the benefit of his nation and the world. ... As Ken Olsen observed in his talk this morning about Land and Polaroid, knowing where you want to go is a big advantage.
Land quotes
I believe that each young person is different from any other who has ever lived, as different as his fingerprints: that he could bring to the world a wonderful and special way of solving unsolved problems, that in his special way, he can be great. Now don't misunderstand me. I recognize that this merely great person, as distinguished from the genius, will not be able to bridge from field to field. He will not have the ideas that shorten the solution of problems by hundreds of years. He will not suddenly say that mass is energy, that is genius. But within his own field he will make things grow and flourish; he will grow happy helping other people in his field, and to that field he will add things that would not have been added, had he not come along.
Land Edwin H.
We live in a world changing so rapidly that what we mean frequently by common sense is doing the thing that would have been right last year.
Land Edwin H. quotes
I believe it is pretty well established now that neither the intuition of the sales manager nor even the first reaction of the public is a reliable measure of the value of a product to the consumer. Very often the best way to find out whether something is worth making is to make it, distribute it, and then to see, after the product has been around a few years, whether it was worth the trouble.
Edwin H. Land
Who can object to a monopoly when there are several thousands of them? Who can object to a monopoly when every few years the company enjoying the monopoly revises, alters, perhaps even discards its product, in order to supply a superior one to the public? Who can object to a monopoly when any new company, if it is built around a scientific nucleus, can create a new monopoly of its own by creating a wholly new field?
Edwin H. Land quotes
Din never had an ordinary reaction to anything!
Edwin H. Land
Our society is changing so rapidly that none of us can know what it is or where it is going. All of us who are mature feel that there are historic principles of behavior and morality, of things that we all believe in that are being lost, not because young people couldn't believe in them, but because there is no language for translating them into contemporary terms.
The search for that language, the search for the ways to tell young people what we know as we grow older the permanent and wonderful things about life will be one of the great functions of this system. We are losing this generation. We all know that. We need a way to get them back.
Land Edwin H.
If you sense a deep human need, then you go back to all the basic science. If there is some missing, then you try to do more basic science and applied science until you get it. So you make the system to fulfill that need, rather than starting the other way around, where you have something and wonder what to do with it.


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