Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor and author.
Reuben Lucius Goldberg (Rube Goldberg) was born in San Francisco on July 4, 1883. After graduating from the University of California Berkeley with a degree in engineering, Rube went on to work as an engineer for the City of San Francisco Water and Sewers Department.
After six months Rube shifted gears and left the Sewers Department to become an office boy in the sports department of a San Francisco newspaper. While there he began to submit drawings and cartoons to the editor until he was finally published. Rube soon moved from San Francisco to New York to work for the Evening Mail drawing daily cartoons. This led to syndication and a national presence – and the rest is history.
A founding member of the National Cartoonist Society, a political cartoonist and a Pulitzer Prize winner, Rube was a beloved national figure as well as an often-quoted radio and television personality during his sixty year professional career.
Best known for his “inventions”, Rube’s early years as an engineer informed his most acclaimed work. A Rube Goldberg contraption – an elaborate set of arms, wheels, gears, handles, cups and rods, put in motion by balls, canary cages, pails, boots, bathtubs, paddles and live animals – takes a simple task and makes it extraordinarily complicated. He had solutions for How To Get The Cotton Out Of An Aspirin Bottle, imagined a Self-Operating Napkin, and created a Simple Alarm Clock – to name just a few of his hilariously depicted drawings.
The promise and pitfalls of modern technology make Rube Goldberg’s inventions even more relevant now than when they were originally created. From think-tanks in Silicon Valley, to the New York Times, to Sunday morning’s Meet the Press, hardly a day goes by without the name “Rube Goldberg” being invoked. In fact Rube Goldberg is an adjective in Webster’s Dictionary.
Rube did not build the machines he drew, but his cartoons have become an inspiration to aspiring engineers and scientists across the world.
This year, both the high school level National Contest and the college level Nationals will have new hosts. The Machine Contest brings Rube’s comic genius to life for millions of fans. Covered widely by the national media, the winning team and their working invention have often appeared on late night talk shows like David Letterman, Jay Leno or Jimmy Kimmel Live. To get a real window into the machine contest, go to www.mousetraptomars.com where you can watch a 2 minute clip from the upcoming documentary that chronicles three teams vying for the winning slot. A coffee table book of Rube’s work is being published by Abrams in 2012, along with a calendar and children’s pop-up book.
At a time when the U.S. is looking to inspire young minds, Rube Goldberg’s legacy represents the best in American innovation, humor and unconventional thinking; an inspiring model for us all.