Monday, October 26, 2009

Movie Monday: A Flash of Genius

Today I will be reviewing the movie “A Flash of Genius”. The movie is based on the true story of an inventor, Dr. Robert Kearns, and his battle against the big automotive companies for stealing his idea for intermittent wipers. As portrayed in the movie, Dr. Kearns was a family man with a wife and 6 children. He was a college professor teaching engineering. On the way home from church one day, he was struck with his “flash of genius” to pattern a wiper after the blink of a human eye. He then set about inventing and patenting the “blinking eye” wiper system. While in negotiations to manufacture the device for Ford, Ford suddenly broke off negotiations after they had received a working model from a reluctant Dr. Kearns. What follows is Dr. Kearns untiring pursuit of justice and recognition for the invention.
As a family man of soon to be 6 children myself, I see his pursuit as coming at too high of a price. He thought it was his duty to protect all inventors from being bullied by large firms. If he let Ford get away with it, there would be no stopping them. Dr. Kearns lost his wife, his job, and was temporarily institutionalized as a result of his efforts. He lost time with his children. He turned down many offers at settlement just for the court to say that Ford had done wrong. I think he allowed his pride to surpass justice in his endeavors. He even represented himself at his trial. It was his pride more than anything else that drove him. And so, in 1990, when he was 63 years old, he finally won his court battle with Ford and was awarded 10 million dollars. He would later go on to when an additional 18 million from Chrysler. So, when it was all said and done, what did he get? He got recognition and a pile of money that I doubt he was able to spend before he died in 2005. What he lost were his wife and years with his children, something his money and recognition will never be able to buy.


Troy said...

How sad for him. Its like dropping your winning lottery tick under the train. You can get it but you'll lose everything for it. There are things in life worth losing everything for - you are right, its not money. Recommended reading for a next big idea "HOW TO LICENSE YOUR MILLION DOLLAR IDEA".

jrchaard said...

part of the tragedy is that he went against his gut and his nature and shared it with Ford. I think that drove him nuts because he couldn't believe he allowed himself to make that mistake and wanted to go back in time.

Prophetic Dreamer said...

That's an interesting analogy, Jrchaard, and I think it was that coupled with this personal ethics. Don't forget that he drew a line depicting ethics as engineers by using a healing medical example and the gas chambers in Germany used against the Jews. He was big on right and wrong, black and white thinking. There are some mild mental illnesses, such as Bi-Polar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder which create black and white thinking and feeling.