Innovator for the ages rests in good company

Few Americans have had as profound an impact on the culture as Steve Jobs, but 3 trailblazers come to mind.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a unique combination of creative innovator and savvy businessman. He revolutionized how everyday Americans lived their lives. In the process, he resurrected his company from near-bankrupt afterthought to a technology titan.

In trying to put his accomplishments in context, we wondered who else spurred a comparable level of change while managing a similar success. Three people came to mind: Henry Ford, George Eastman and Thomas Edison. Here's how the Tribune handled the news of their deaths.

THOMAS A. EDISON: The death of the "man who lighted the world" was overshadowed in Chicago by a federal jury convicting Al Capone of tax evasion, so he was relegated on Oct. 18, 1931, to secondary treatment. Besides the incandescent light bulb, the Wizard of Menlo Park invented the phonograph, the motion picture camera and hundreds of other products.

GEORGE EASTMAN: The founder of Eastman Kodak invented roll film, which made photography accessible to the masses — and led to the need for such computer programs as iPhoto. He became immensely wealthy and a noted philanthropist. Eastman, who was in ill health, killed himself on March 14, 1932, after writing a short note. It read, "To my friends: My work is done. Why wait? G.E." He also died on a heavy news day, with efforts to repeal Prohibition failing in the U.S. House and the hunt for Charles Lindbergh's kidnapped son continuing.

HENRY FORD: The auto pioneer's death on April 7, 1947, came a year and a half after he gave the reins of Ford Motor Co. to his grandson. Ford revolutionized automobile production, making cars affordable for many more Americans, and gave birth to the nation's love affair with its cars. In the process, this "industrial genius" became one of the wealthiest men of his time.

Editor's note: Thank you to Chicago reader Andy Anderson of Rogers Park for suggesting this idea.

Whom would you add to this list? We invite you to share your ideas at or by calling Stephan Benzkofer at 312-222-5814 or emailing

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