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March 12, 2004

One of my favorite magazines, American Heritage, came out recently with its annual selection of the most over and under rated things in many categories. I suspect some of the selections were made with tongue in cheek, others to stimulate discussion, and some a sort of payback for perceived liberties with things the magazine is interested in. No matter. All of them are worth a moment's notice, and that is all they'll get. For your information, here are a few of them.

Most Over Rated Inventor: Thomas A. Edison. The magazine pointed to a story that appeared a few years ago in the Los Angeles Times newspaper in which Mr. Edison was heralded as "the inventor of electricity." Most of us already know that electricity existed years before Mr. Edison found ways to use it. For instance, he gave us the light bulb and phonographs that led to talking machines. But he also battled vainly for the Direct Current (DC) distribution system although the ultimate winner, Alternating Current (AC) was clearly superior. In the end, he lost control of the company that bears his name and he probably wasted a great deal of intellect and effort in the unsuccessful attempt to establish DC systems as the standard in this country. (Yes, the LA Times corrected its gaffe in a later edition.)

Most Under Rated Inventor: The magazine nominates the people who created the computer, probably the most transforming technology since electricity and the automobile. According to the magazine, the fathers of the computer, J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly, have achieved a modicum of post-mortem fame outside high-tech circles." But the article says they are not nearly as famous as they should be.

Most Over Rated Baseball Manager: Connie Mack (nee Cornelius McGillicuddy.) "(He) is to baseball what George Washington is to American patriotist." Mr. Mack practically invented the Philadelphia Athletics. The Most Under Rated Baseball Manager should be Walter Alston of the Brooklyn Dodgers, according to the magazine.

Most Over Rated Political Slogan: "A chicken in every pot a car in every garage" (1928). Most Under Rated: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" (Ronald Reagan, 1980.)

Most Over Rated TV Sitcom: "I Love Lucy." (Let me here add my most hearty concurrence.) Most Under Rated. "Gilligan's Island," 1963. (I didn't care for this one, either, but what do I know?)

That's just a brief look at what the magazine had to say about a lot of things. Maybe you can find a copy somewhere to read the whole shebang. Or you could borrow mine.