Imagine the secure and lucrative career paths that would be open to someone graduating from Stanford University with a degree in industrial engineering. In 1948, Roger Corman was in that position, but after only four days actually working as an engineer, he quit. What he really wanted to do was direct. He started with a job in the mailroom at 20th Century Fox, and five years later he decide to produce a film on his own. Two years after that, he tried his hand at directing, even though he had no formal training. Over the next 15 years, he directed 55 films, and over his lifetime he produced more than 300, most so cheaply and quickly made that he became known as “King of the B Movies”. Still, working with few resources forced him to be creative, and making so many movies so quickly taught him a lot about technique. In 2010, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him an Academy Honorary Award for his work.
Legendary Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko — who once asked, regarding work, “If it’s so good, how come they have to pay you to do it?” — had to write more than 2,000 daily columns before he won his Pulitzer prize for commentary in 1972. Eventually he published more than 7,500.
Baseball’s “Mr. October”, Reggie Jackson, who played on five World Series-winning teams and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot, hit 563 home runs in his career. That’s not the Major League Baseball record; Barry Bonds hit 199 more. Jackson had 2,584 hits lifetime. That’s not the MLB record; Pete Rose hit 4,256. But Reggie Jackson did strike out 2,597 times in the Major Leagues, and that is the MLB record.
Marie Curie, who invented the word “radioactive”, was certain that she and her husband Pierre had found evidence that the mineral pitchblende contained a new element, many times more radioactive than uranium. Most scientists of the time recognized the radioactive nature of uranium, but many doubted that the Curies had really found a brand new element. In order to prove her theory correct, Curie painstakingly processed more than 16,000 pounds of pitchblende over a three-year period, and successfully isolated one single gram of the new element, radium. For this work, and her study of the isolated element, she eventually won two Nobel prizes — one in Physics and the other in Chemistry.
The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis is one of the world’s leading centers of the study of plant taxonomy — the systematic classification of plants into species, families, etc., based on the relationships between their physical characteristics. Part of the reason for its success is its possession of an enormous variety of plant samples collected from all over the world — large portions of which were collected by single individuals. Alwyn Gentry, for example, collected more than 80,000 plant samples himself — and claimed he could remember each one. He was killed in a plane crash at the age of 48; otherwise, he might have overtaken his Missouran predecessor, Julian Steyermark, who by the time he died at age 79 had collected more than 130,000 plant specimens.
This is my 100th post. 100 and counting.
What are you counting?