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United States

Abraham Lincoln the Early Adopter 261

Hugh Pickens writes "On the 200th anniversary of his birth, President Abraham Lincoln's popular image as a log-splitting bumpkin is being re-assessed as historians have discovered that Lincoln had an avid interest in cutting-edge technology and its applications. During the war, Lincoln haunted the telegraph office (which provided the instant-messaging of its day) for the latest news from the front; he encouraged weapons development and even tested some new rifles himself on the White House lawn; and he is the only US president to hold a patent (No. 6469, granted May 22, 1849). It was for a device to lift riverboats over shoals. 'He not only created his own invention but had ideas for other inventions, such as an agricultural steam plow and a naval steam ram, [and] was fascinated by patent cases as an attorney and also by new innovations during the Civil War,' says Jason Emerson, author of Lincoln the Inventor. But Lincoln's greatest contribution to the war effort was his use of the telegraph. When Lincoln took office the White House had no telegraph connection. Lincoln 'developed the modern electronic leadership model, says Tom Wheeler, author of Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph To Win the Civil War. At a time when electricity was a vague scientific concept and sending signals through wires was 'mind boggling,' Lincoln was fascinated by the telegraph and developed it into a political and military tool that allowed him to project himself to the front to monitor and track what was going on. 'If he were alive today, we'd call him an early adopter,' says Wheeler."

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