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Knowledge is Priceless...Ignorance is Expensive

Charles Steinmetz

It's quite possible you may have never heard of him. His name was Charles Steinmetz.

He stood just four feet tall, his body contorted by a hump in his back and a crooked gait, and his stunted torso gave the illusion that his head, hands and feet were too big. But he was a giant among scientific thinkers, counting Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison as friends, and his contributions to mathematics and electrical engineering made him one of the most beloved and instantly recognizable men of his time.

General Electric had manufactured a giant generator for the first automobile plant owned by Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. They were having problems with this huge generator. Ford called various engineers to fix the generator but no one could fix it and the longer it took the more money Ford lost in production time.

Ford, whose electrical engineers couldn’t solve the problems they were having with the gigantic generator, in desperation called Steinmetz in to the Ford plant.

Upon arriving, Steinmetz rejected all assistance and asked only for a notebook, pencil and cot. According to those present, Steinmetz listened to the generator and scribbled computations on the notepad for two straight days and nights. On the second night, he asked for a ladder, climbed up the generator and made a chalk mark on its side. Then he told Ford’s skeptical engineers to remove a plate at the mark and replace sixteen windings from the field coil. They did, and the generator performed to perfection.

Henry Ford was thrilled until he got an invoice from Steinmetz in the amount of $10,000. Imagine $10,000 back in the early 1900’s was equivalent to about $275,000 today! Ford acknowledged Steinmetz’s success but balked at the figure. He asked for an itemized bill.

Steinmetz responded to Ford’s request with the following:

Making chalk mark on generator $1.

Knowing where to make mark $9,999.

Ford paid the bill.

The moral of the story: Knowledge is Priceless... Ignorance is Expensive.

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