Sometimes we think inventions only happen behind closed doors in a lab. What could be more lab-like than a chemist? It’s interesting to realize that one great chemist, Charles Herty, actually spent a lot of time with people outside the lab.
While serving as a chemistry professor at the University of Georgia in the 1890s, Herty advocated for the expansion of collegiate sports, including the creation of the school’s first varsity football team.
Throughout his career, Herty was active in numerous professional societies, serving as president of national academic and trade organizations. He continually ventured outside his field of chemistry, and at one point, was instrumental in launching the National Institutes of Health.
Herty knew the importance of diversity of thought and collaboration.
His life makes me think of Geekend.
Geekend, which runs from Oct. 15-17, is a place where innovation and creativity merge, a place where people with different backgrounds and interests get together to share ideas, challenge one another and look at things from new perspectives — kind of like Herty and all his activities.
We often think innovation has a minimal impact: It’s incremental, it’s slight and it can’t really make a difference in the world. That’s why I like thinking about Charles Herty.
Herty foresaw the devastating consequences the destruction of the pine forests would bring to the South, so he began searching for solutions.
He didn’t see innovation as something with minimal impact. Quite the opposite. Herty knew his success would have a major impact on industries employing hundreds people. He also knew he could make a positive impact that would last for decades, well beyond his own lifetime.
Herty had a vision of a ‘New South’ created by the naval stores industry, and even if northern companies insisted it was impossible for the South to use pine trees, Herty disagreed. Finally, he received several grants, and his gamble paid off.
Herty’s work is credited with saving one industry, naval stores manufacturing, and creating a new one, newsprint from southern pines. His work helped secure Savannah’s future, and we are still benefitting today.
Knowing what I know about innovation, company creation and collaborative thinking, it is impossible for anyone who cares about the future of Savannah to think “Geekend is not for me.”
Like Herty, who sought out different viewpoints and perspectives to expand his own problem-solving capabilities, Geekend provides the opportunity for you to engage with others from different fields, different experiences and different visions.
Geekend is about maker spaces, virtual reality, healthcare, mobility, the maker movement, entrepreneurship and more. The innovations we can create when we connect and collaborate can be dramatic, and the possibilities are endless.
I love thinking about what the great citizens of Savannah and beyond will do with the things they learn at this year’s Geekend. I get really excited thinking how Geekend 2015 really serves as the “anti-poverty” event of 2025. The only cure for poverty is jobs, and innovation creates jobs — the higher paying, the better.
It’s time to gain valuable experiences outside your “lab” and open your world to the creative minds outside your area of expertise. Be inspired, have a vision, be part of the innovative community. Be the Charles Herty of the 21st century. Geekend is for you.
Sometimes we are so busy looking to the future that we forget to pay tribute to our innovative past. So thank you Charles Herty for realizing the power of collaboration and stepping outside your lab. Your spirit will be with us at Geekend 2015.
I hope you catch the collaboration spirit and join us at Geekend.
Bea Wray is the executive director of The Creative Coast, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the creative and entrepreneurial community within the region. Bea can be reached at 912-447-8457 or firstname.lastname@example.org