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In 1912, as the HMS Titanic was going down, Sarnoff was involved with using early radio equipment to transmit information about the ship’s demise. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis)

Before Steve Jobs: 5 Corporate Innovators who Shaped Our World

The former head of Apple comes from a long line of American innovators who changed society

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison
(Library of Congress - digital ve / Science Faction / Corbis)
In his ability to envision novel technologies and make them an essential element of daily life, Edison was the original innovator in the Jobs mold. “What he did first with lighting, but later with movies, was that he sold a new concept, he created a market that wasn't there,” says Allison.

His pioneering efforts with electricity distribution, the light bulb, the phonograph and film introduced completely new technologies to the public. For them to gain acceptance, he drew upon his impressive skills as a promoter. “There's certainly no question about him being a great marketer, as well as a great technologist,” Allison says.

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