Is Anyone an Inventor Anymore?

Some say the word is a misnomer

7 April 2014

In its November 2013 issue, The Atlantic magazine named entrepreneur Elon Musk the “greatest living inventor” for cofounding PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX. But many of its readers felt differently. They protested that Musk did not come up with the electric car or rocket ship per se—instead he figured out a more efficient way to build, manufacture, and profit from them. Some commenters called him a visionary, a great businessman, and an innovator but disagreed with using the term “inventor.”

However, others defended the title; as one wrote, “Inventors are not just people who conceive of and model an idea. Inventors use the environment around them to get that idea...[Musk] sees the problem. Defines it. Then he has others help him get to the best solution. We need more ‘inventors’ like Musk.”

How do you define “inventor”? With so much happening in technology, is it possible for any one person to truly be an inventor today and, if so, who would you say are some of the greatest of our time?

Learn More