Moonbeams Murray —- an international treasure.

14 Aug

Good Evening,

We have just passed that moment when envelopes drop through the letter box with a dreaded thud. Inside said envelopes, bits of paper, which have been typed and prepared god alone knows where, set out this year’s results for standard grades, highers and advanced highers. These envelopes effectively determine the immediate futures of hundreds of thousands of child adults— those teenagers who are not quite children anymore — yet not altogether fully fledged adults either.

This exam sitting and results waiting process continues year after year, with annual comparisons to the results of previous years being blasted all over the newspapers and airwaves. ” Passes are up” says one ” Exams are too easy” says another: ” More kids going to University” cries the TV and yet ” More graduates among the long term unemployed” say the business pages.

This is all very hard for the wizened grey haired old buggers like me to follow, let alone those hundreds of thousands of child adults who are the unfortunate subjects of these headlines. Equally, it has to be said that while waiting on your own results was not the most pleasant of experiences, waiting on the results of your children is undoubtedly worse– as you have no control over the outcome, could not influence the answers on the paper, and yet have to manage the emotions, expectations, joys and disappointments once those dreaded envelopes have been opened.

I cannot help get the feeling that our children are ever more channelled by modern education. They are streamed and corralled down certain well defined routes which year after year lead to the same results, same career paths, and same lifelong projectories. Don’t get me wrong this is not necessarily a bad thing—– but—- occasionally I think it is good for the child adult– and indeed the adult child—- to be reminded that such a life course does not suit everyone.

Nor should it.

Of course, our television is full of people who find fleeting fame and perhaps considerable fortune by means of a different route. The Professional footballer at the top of the tree can earn a life changing fortune in the course of a few short years, The X factor winner, the latest Hollywood sensation, celebrity chat show host and so many more so called “personalities” may well provide for their families and descendants by means that have nothing whatsoever to do with exam results and those dreaded envelopes. They merely project their voices and images over the airwaves and collect the dosh in return for………. well whatever it is they do in return for the pound sterling or the American Dollar.

However, let’s forget celebrity and fame for a moment, and instead celebrate and praise the very folk who are often mocked and portrayed in a dreadful stereotypical fashion by Hollywood and its “darlings”, yet who very often do not quite follow the traditional educational route that results from the exam envelope falling through the door.

They are the class “Geeks” — those individuals who may or may not have the typical social skills of the average teenager, but who for some reason are fascinated by all things technical– possibly mechanical or electrical— and who from an early age always seem to be engrossed in tinkering with some item which to everyone else seems boring and a complete waste of time.

Such folk are often regarded as slightly backward and even plain “nuts”.

These individuals  are often no use whatsoever at writing down any type of coherent answer to your average higher paper question. Stereotypically, they are also not to be found on the football field or the drama class or behind a microphone belting out the latest hits.

Instead they are often thought of in a world of their own, slightly isolated , often bespectacled and holding their head at a slightly funny angle while staring at something which requires mending, or altering or which plain does not work and about which the rest of us don’t really give a damn.

Except that without the said Geeks the rest of us would all be forced to work a great deal harder, would be greatly inconvenienced, would moan a great deal more and could possibly even be dead.

Oh and bar a remarkable few, said people in the main remain completely anonymous and unknown to the public.

So let me introduce you to one such little known geek— little known at least in Britain. Admittedly he is from a different country and a differnet age– yet he has undoubtedly affected and changed the life of every single person who has read this article thus far– and indeed everyone who has not.

Everyone has heard of Marconi, Edison, John Logie Baird, Alexander Fleming, the Wright Brothers and even Mr Dyson– but few will have heard of……………. Mr Jerome L Murray.

Many geeky people have gone into Industry and through research and development have become accredited “Inventors” within specific sectors of a given industry or trade– such as Alexander Fleming or Marie Curie.

What sets Jerome Murray apart from many a research genius was his completely geeky maverick nature, and his “hobby” which can best be described as an ability to look at something that would be part of every ordinary day and say ” That shouldn’t be that way” and come up with the most efficient, if simple, of solutions.

Jerome, was born in New York City in 1912 and lived there for most of his life. Eventually, he would gain a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (thus showing he was no academic slouch) and while working for an aeronautical company he would develop, design and invent many a thing to do with the jet engine and its small individual components  — all of which made such engines more efficient, faster, safer and the likes.

However, long before any academia called, and long before he became a test pilot which lead to his working in the world of aeronautics, Jerome Murray changed the lives of literally millions of people just by being…… a enquiring but nosey geek!

Throughout his life, he had an ability to see things that others could just not see at all– spot a problem that could be fixed or see a situation which just need not exist at all.

This ability to see a problem and a solution first manifested itself when he was just fifteen years old and still at school.

America had huge farmlands stretching thousands of miles throughout the continent, and in the twenties many of the remote farms had no electricity whatsoever. The young fifteen year old Murray saw this and invented  a simple windmill attached to a small generator which in turn powered a radio. Murray sold this invention to a well known radio manufacturer- Cosby Radio– who then sold it to thousands of farmers throughout America who were only to happy to buy the device so that they could access the radio waves– whether for entertainment or otherwise.

This ability to look at ordinary everyday situations and improve them was to be a constant throughout his life.

When television arrived, Murray noticed that the picture often improved if the TV antenna on the roof or on the top of the box set was moved to a different angle. However, rather than get out on to the roof or out of the chair each time the antenna needed adjusting, Murray came up with the TV Antenna Rotator, which automatically changed the angle of the TV Antenna at the touch of a button. This device generated over $40 Million in sales over several decades.

Similarly, he noticed the effort required and cut variation when different people went to cut the Sunday Roast– the result was his invention and development of the electric carving knife. Similarly, he transformed the culinary experience in the kitchen when he noticed that there was no way of knowing exactly when a pressure cooker had in fact steamed vegetables or other items to perfection– accordingly he came up with the whistle that is to be found on every pressure cooker in the world today.

A trip to the dentist resulted in his inventing the high speed minuscule dental drill thus revolutionising the trip to the dentist. Further, we can also thank Jerome Murray for envelopes that you do not need to lick– such as those that bring the aforementioned exam results.

The powered seat in your car, and the ability to close the roof of a convertible by means of a switch in the arm rest are both down to the keen eye and brain process of Murray.

One day in 1951, Murray was standing at Miami Airport watching passengers disembarking from a plane and landing on the tarmac in driving rain. He saw them come down some rickety steps and was somewhat aghast to see passengers who required wheelchair assistance being unloaded by way of a forklift truck!

As a result, Murray came up with the airport ramp that connects to the door of the aircraft and leads straight into the terminal building, thus enabling all passengers to embark and disembark from a plane with ease– and without needing to be exposed to either blistering sun or biting wind and rain. Of course such ramps are now to be found in every large airport throughout the world.

However, by far his most important piece of tinkering came with what was originally known as the “Murray Pump”.

In truth the pump is really called the peristaltic pump, which moves fluids in a wavelike motion of contractions and expansions similar to the way that the peristalsis moves the contents of the digestive tract. The pump was the first device in the world capable of pumping blood without damaging cells, which was a breakthrough for open-heart surgery and later other operations such as kidney transplants and so on.

However the use of the pump does not end with surgery as the pump’s uses now range from kidney dialysis to food processing, such as assembly-line injection of vegetable soup into cans without crushing the peas and carrots.

Not only that, Murray later donated the design, copyright and rights to the pump to John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore so that the hospital could develop it further and benefit from any ongoing use elsewhere. Once again, Murray’s invention was to be used throughout the world.

Inventors work by inspiration, Murray once said,  he thought it was a skill that cannot be taught.

”I’ve never seen courses in the art of inventing,” he said. ”Science and marketing can be learned, but inspiration comes from within.”

Most of his ideas, he said, came from observation and trying to find a better way and he said he always looked for a gimmick and a short cut that would do the job cheaply and efficiently.

When asked whether inventors should be well educated, Jerome Murray said some of the greatest inventors such as Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford came from ”a one-room schoolhouse” and so did not always need university degrees and screeds of highers or other academic qualifications.

On being questioned about being perhaps perceived as being geeky or slightly odd he made the following observation:

”The Wright brothers had the same (basic schoolhouse) education,” he said in a 1991 interview. ”They were considered a couple of nuts with a bicycle factory in Dayton, Ohio, yet they invented all the aerodynamics of basic flight.” Those same nuts effectively invented one of the worlds greatest and most lucrative industries changing all of our lives forever.

Alas, Jerome Murray shuffled off his mortal coil in January 1998 by which time he had moved to New Jersey but still attended his office in New York most days. He was 85 years old and had what could be considered a good innings for someone who was born before the great war. At the time of his death he held over 75 national and international patents– all of which came from his “hobby”!

Yet, as the writer and broadcaster Alistair Cook remarked at the time, the rest of us should be grateful for every day of his very being yet surely regret that he did not live longer and continue with his hobby of seeing the solutions to problems that no one else knew existed.

What the Murray brain would have done with a world now linked by the world wide web we can only guess.

However, if any of you are a parent to a geeky, bespectacled,slightly introverted, gadget tinkering kid who perhaps did not get the results they wanted from the white envelop — remember the name Jerome L Murray and his like — as without him our day to day lives would be much the poorer and very different in all sorts of ways.

Oh– and if you started reading this article because you thought it was about someone else called Murray — well, hey, you never know there may well be an article about the late  great Chic on another occasion!

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2 Responses to “Moonbeams Murray —- an international treasure.”

  1. RonnieD August 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    The last line was a belter.

  2. jarvisarrow August 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Another literary masterpiece from BRTH

    Where do you get your inspiration from

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