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Sidestep and Twist by James Gardner

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THE UN-WEALTHY GENIUS

To prove the point, let’s turn to our first example: a man who changed the world by single-handedly creating the basis for modern electronics. Neither stupid nor lacking vision, this was a man who should have become one of the most wealthy individuals of all time. He should have been as wealthy as Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Instead, Sir John Ambrose Fleming, inventor of the vacuum tube, lived to a ripe old age on his professorial pension, neither exceptionally wealthy nor particularly poor. His financial means remained modest, even as those who later used his invention as the basis for a whole new industry got incredibly rich.

Fleming was born in England in 1849, and lived most of his early years in London. He took a degree ...

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