Mihailo Pupin

(1858 - 1935)

Mihailo (Michael) Pupin was born in Idvor, little Serbian village. "My life as a scientist began with the questions I asked myself in the blackness of midnight when I lay with my ear pressed to the ground listening to the secret code of our little band of village boys." He watched at night with other village boys to keep the oxes from straying beyond their pasture into the fields of tall corn and falling prey to the cattle-thieves who lay there in hiding.

The young herdsmen were trained by their leader to send signals through the ground to each other in time of danger. With their long wooden-handled knives plunged deep in the earth, they made a sound by rapping on the stout handles. This, their comrades, listening with ears pressed close to the ground, could hear at a considerable distance. The boys discovered that the rap-rap of their signals could not be carried through the air, nor could it be heard over the soft plowed land of the corn-fields. But they became expert in sending warnings to each other through the hard earth of the open fields, knowing that the Rumanian thieves who might be lurking among the corn could not overheard the sound and locate the watchers.

When he asked his teacher why the sound was lost in the air, he shook his head in a puzzled faction "There are many things we can not explain."

Through many years he never stopped trying to find an answer to that question, pressing on through many adventures with science which brought that best reward of hard work in which all people have a share. Through the careful experiments he arrived at his invention of loading a telephone wire with inductance coils also known as Pupin's coils. AT&T bought the rights to use the patent for half a million dollars.

It was estimated that in first twenty two years this invention had saved over a hundred million dollars. "Where are those one hundred million dollars which the invention has saved?" Pupin asks. "I know that not even a microscopic part of them is in the pockets of the inventor. I have figured out also, with the same accuracy with which I once figured out the invention, that those hundred million dollars are not in the pockets of the telephone company. They must be, therefore, in the pockets of the American public. The invention made it possible to provide the telephone service, which is now being given, at a lower rate than would otherwise have been possible."

Adapted from the: High Adventurers by Merry R. Parkman.