Thursday, February 10th, 2011

When it sucks to be a Genius:

John Fitch, a mechanic, without education or wealth, but with the energy of genius, invented engine and paddles of his own, with so much success that during a whole summer Philadelphians watched his ferryboat plying daily against the river current. No one denied that his boat was rapidly, steadily, and regularly moved against wind and tide, with as much certainty and convenience as could be expected in a first experiment; yet Fitch’s company failed. He could raise no more money; the public did not want it, would not believe in it, and broke his heart by their contempt. Fitch struggled against failure, and invented another boat moved by a screw. The Eastern public still proving indifferent, he wandered to Kentucky, to try his fortune on the Western waters. Disappointed there, as in Philadelphia and New York, he made a deliberate attempt to end his life by drink; but the process proving too slow, he saved twelve opium pills from the physician’s prescription, and was found one morning dead. Fitch’s death took place in an obscure Kentucky inn, three years before Jefferson, the philosopher-President, entered the White House.

– from “The Formative Years: A History of The United States During the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison,” by Henry Adams

Genius | 7:21 pm CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, books, daily drivel, entertainment, play
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