Monday, September 3, 2007

Charles P. Steinmetz (1865-1923)

Charles Proteus Steinmetz, an electrical engineer whose genius lived up to his middle name, worked at General Electric for many years. One morning he arrived at his office to find there had been a change in policy overnight. On his desk, someone had posted a tidy cardboard sign saying, "No Smoking." Steinmetz took out his pen, re-lettered the sign so that it now read, "No Smoking --- No Steinmetz," and departed. The policy was changed.

One day a whole roomful of General Electric's most expensive machinery went out of order. By this time Steinmetz had retired, but the company's baffled engineers called him back as a consultant. Steinmetz ambled from machine to machine, taking a measurement here, scribbling something in his notebook there. After about an hour, he took out a large piece of chalk and marked a large 'X' on the casing of one machine. Workers pried off the casing and found the problem at once. But when the company executives got Steinmetz's bill for $10,000, they were reluctant to pay it. "This seems a bit excessive for one chalk mark," Steinmetz was told. "Perhaps you'd better itemize your charges." Within a few days, they received the following itemized bill:

Making one chalk mark $1.00
Knowing where to make one chalk mark $9,999.00

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