How to invent a clean energy company

The common view of invention is that it is unexpected. The people who do it are extraordinary individuals. There are risk takers but also naturally creative geniuses. Ancient Archimedes came up with his theory of buoyancy by his spontaneous revelation, a “eureka moment” in a bath.

In the 19th century, August Kekulé invented our theory of chemical structure. This made industrial chemistry possible and thus much of our modern life. One of his central discoveries came after he day-dreamed an ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail, and this metaphor became his notion of the circular ring of six carbon atoms, a crucial base unit in organic chemistry.

Charles Edison was a freakishly inventive man with more patents than many countries and progenitor of General Electric and another dozen companies. And Albert Einstein was, well, Albert Einstein.