Scott Kirsner and Robert Krim

400 Years of Innovation in 45 Minutes

By its very definition, the world of invention and innovation is relentlessly focused on what’s next — the latest iPhone, the newest social app. But is there space in our crowded brains for innovation history? We’ll describe the ways that Boston, from the 1600s forward, created an ideal petri dish for inventors and innovators and tell some of the lost stories of how the city shaped the career of Thomas Edison, made it possible to do surgery without inflicting pain, and invented not just the telephone but the world’s most popular smartphone operating system. We’ll also touch on how a railroad car outfitted in Boston in 1916 led to the creation of the Wizard of Oz in 1939 and we’ll share an idea we are launching in 2022 for an Innovation Trail running from Downtown Boston to Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

[Recorded August 13, 2022.]

Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner ( is a writer, editor, speaker, and moderator who has covered research, startups, and venture capital in the New England region for publications like Wired, Fast Company, and the New York Times, and has written a regular column for the Boston Globe since 2000. Kirsner is the Innovation Economy columnist for the Boston Globe and author of the recent collection Innovation Economy: True Stories of Start-ups, Flame-outs, and Inventing the Future in New England.

Robert Krim is co-author of the recent book Boston Made: From Revolution to Robotics, Innovations That Changed the World and is a Professor of History and Innovation at Framingham State University.

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