Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The glass harmonica: a story of creativity and innovation (No.8)

To see the previous posts in this series click here.

The history of the glass harmonica provides important insights into the nature of the innovative process. Five aspects are particularly significant. 

Here is the second aspect:

Some sort of communal or institutional space is created to encourage innovative thinking and the sharing of innovative ideas.

In 1660, roughly at the start of the 'Age of Enlightenment', the Royal Society (a scientific academy dedicated to promoting excellence in science) was founded. It was this society, through raising the profile of Edward Delaval's glass harp, that inspired Benjamin Franklin to invent the glass harmonica:

"At the time, Franklin was living in England as a Colonial envoy. He spent much of his time consorting with his fellow scientific enthusiasts in the Royal Society, and it was through them that he became fascinated with the musical glasses."
(From Music of the Spheres: the Glass Harmonica by Elijah Wald)

Without this platform for the public sharing of ideas, some of these sharings becoming catalytic events that inspired individuals to innovate, it is less likely that the glass harmonica would have been invented during the 18th century. Indeed, it is conceivable that the instrument might not have been invented at all.

To read the next post click here.

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