Elizabeth S. Eisenstein has passed away

by on February 26, 2016 at 1:44 pm in Books, History, Sports, Uncategorized | Permalink

She wrote the classic book The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, still worth reading.  Here is the NYT obituaryThe Washington Post obituary introduced me to another side of her life:

A year after retiring, Dr. Eisenstein achieved a different sort of professional peak, earning her first No. 1 ranking in tennis — as a member of the U.S. Tennis Association’s 65-and-over division.

Betty Eisenstein, as she was known on the court, played her first adult tournament in 1973, the year she turned 50. She lost — to International Tennis Hall of Fame member Dorothy “Dodo” Cheney — but quickly found her footing in a sport that she had played only briefly as a girl.

Dr. Eisenstein landed on the cover of Washington City Paper in 2005, under the headline “The Assassin.” Though 82 and standing only 5-foot-2, she was said to move “like a kid”: “She makes her opponent work so hard and hit so many extra shots that all the body blows eventually catch up to her,” the writer, Huan Hsu, said of her lethal drop shot.

1 rayward February 26, 2016 at 2:53 pm

What I appreciate about women such as Eisenstein is that they accomplished so much against so much resistance, resistance against women who believed they could have the same careers as men. I say that because my role models are my two grandmothers, two women, born in the 19th century, with very different educational backgrounds, but the same tenacity to achieve as much or more than their male counterparts. Whenever I am feeling like I have challenges, I think of them, and how mine are so much less than theirs.

2 Dmitri Helios February 26, 2016 at 6:02 pm

Cool story brah

3 Mark Thorson February 26, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Too much credit is given to movable type. The real breakthrough was lithography, which greatly lowered the cost threshold to getting a new manuscript into print, especially for short print runs. The inventor of lithography wrote a book about it, Invention of Lithography. Half the book is about how he invented it and the techical details, and the other half is about the social and political environment in which he got the business going. Great book, highly recommended.

4 Ray Lopez February 26, 2016 at 9:31 pm

And he died penniless (relatively) and obscure (you don’t even recall his name). Typical, and my point exactly on this theme. We need stronger and better patent protection. Intellectual property is theft!

5 carlolspln February 26, 2016 at 9:44 pm

..& IP is societies’ gain [patent law is meant to benefit both].

6 Ray Lopez February 26, 2016 at 10:19 pm

@carlolspin, who likes to do make his car spin while laughing-out-loud: the gain to society from existing IP law goes to benefit the assignee, the employer of the inventor, and existing patent law favors small incremental improvements over big breakthroughs, hence my rant. A study once found (somewhere on my HD, numbers are probably hard to verify but it sounds about right) that patent rights-holders (that would be the assignee) only made about 5% from their invention while society made 95%. That ratio is too small, it needs to be closer to 50-50%. There’s no money in science; there is money in rent-seeking (real estate, owning capital, being a manager, politician, gate-keeper, etc). Would you tell your kids to go into science? No, unless you are an immigrant with no money and no other options (e.g., H1B visa applicant). And I had a career to prove it. BTW you’ll not see AlexT opining on this topic since he has no expertise in this area. Rants against patents are typically done by those from the outside with no insight into the workings of innovation (AlexT), and who use theoretical grounds like “cheaper is always better”, akin to ‘free trade’ arguments. We know how badly that went wrong.

7 Cyrus February 26, 2016 at 11:29 pm

I can’t believe a catch-all figure without discussion of which intellectual properties face what degree of competition from substitutes is meaningful.

8 Ray Lopez February 27, 2016 at 1:01 am

@Cyrus – very good point, but this is not the time or place for such learned discussion. Arguably the Big Pharma companies have their act together vis-a-vis patents (arguably, pace FDA delays), since chem engineers make good money more than average engineers, software is in shambles (everybody copies code) and are probably not worthy of protection, electrical engineering is a tossup, the mechanical arts are not that well protected anymore (since China took over), design patents are underused (Nike did design patent some sneaker sole designs, but no major fashion house I know does design patents). It’s a case by case analysis. I’ve told AlexT by email, and he seemed to agree, that we need patents with various degrees of protection and terms, depending on how vigorously examined they are: if ‘laid-open’ (no examination, like certain patents in Japan/Germany) then no protection until litigation (like current US copyright law), but, for the “gold standard”, with a long term of protection, you need more and better examination than the current US Patent Office standard, which is typically less than about half a day of examination from what I’m told. One size does not fit all.

9 Nathan W February 27, 2016 at 1:51 am

Inventors and research scientists are more motivated by curiosity (and sometimes the abstract social benefit) than the prospect of making billions. Not so of capital holders, who may hire such inventive types and provide them with the resources to make it all happen.

10 Ray Lopez February 27, 2016 at 2:05 pm

@Nathan W – that’s true, based on history. But can you imagine a world where innovation can be taught, like chess can be taught? I have no natural talent at chess (unlike our host here), yet, by struggle, perseverance, sweat, toil and tears, and well beyond the “10000 hours of practice” a popular book espoused, I’ve raised by game from a hapless Class C player (average) to Class A, and close to being Expert, in about two decades of trying. Same with innovation. It can be “engineered”. That said, you probably are not going to make a rocket scientist out of the dropout working at McDonalds (though you never know).

11 G Woltmann February 27, 2016 at 1:45 am

Gustavo Woltmann loves finance. This is a great blog about his favourite past time! – Gustavo Woltmann

12 Moreno Klaus February 27, 2016 at 9:18 am

“Dr. Eisenstein landed on the cover of Washington City Paper in 2005, under the headline “The Assassin.” Though 82 and standing only 5-foot-2, she was said to move “like a kid”: “She makes her opponent work so hard and hit so many extra shots that all the body blows eventually catch up to her,” the writer, Huan Hsu, said of her lethal drop shot”

This sounds like she is doping…

13 Rich Berger February 27, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Probably HGH, but it doesn’t work forever, of course. In any case, requiescat in pace, Dr. Eisenstein.

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