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Ask Marilyn

This is out of the "Ask Marilyn" column in Parade magazine in the Sunday
newspaper, August 24, 1997.  Marilyn is listed in the "Guiness Book of
World Records" Hall of Fame for "Highest IQ".

Would you fill in the details of a sketchy anecdote?  I heard that some
Congressman in the 1800's said the U.S. Patent Office should be closed
down because "everything that can be invented has already been invented."
 Is this true?  If so, what was his name?
--Valerie Dawson, Arlington Heights, Ill.

Marilyn's reply:
According to our research, it's not true!  The myth states that this
humorously short-sighted comment was made in 1899 by Charles Duell,
commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents.  No one knows for sure how
the rumor started, but everyone at the agency knows for sure that no such
comment was ever made.  Let's try to put the myth to rest here and now.

Not that one couldn't wonder about the limits of the human imagination. 
Some of the more commercially unsuccessful (but still patented)
inventions include eyeglasses for chickens, coffins with escape hatches
and...boomerang bullets!