Rube Goldberg Biography

Rube Goldberg

Reuben Lucius Goldberg (July 4, 1883 – December 7, 1970) was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor. Goldberg is best known for a series of popular cartoons he created depicting complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways – now known as Rube Goldberg machines.

Rube Goldberg graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1904 with a College of Mining degree and was hired by the city of San Francisco as an engineer for the Water and Sewers Department. After six months he resigned his position with the city to join the San Francisco Chronicle where he became a sports cartoonist. The following year, he took a job with the San Francisco Bulletin, where he remained until he moved to New York City in 1907.

After six months Rube shifted gears and left the Sewers Department to become an office boy in the sports department of a San Francisco newspaper. While there he began to submit drawings and cartoons to the editor until he was finally published. Rube soon moved from San Francisco to New York to work for the Evening Mail drawing daily cartoons. This led to syndication and a national presence – and the rest is history.

Best known for his “inventions”, Rube’s early years as an engineer informed his most acclaimed work. A Rube Goldberg contraption – an elaborate set of arms, wheels, gears, handles, cups, and rods, put in motion by balls, canary cages, pails, boots, bathtubs, paddles, and live animals – takes a simple task and makes it extraordinarily complicated. He had solutions for How To Get The Cotton Out Of An Aspirin Bottle, imagined a Self-Operating Napkin, and created a Simple Alarm Clock – to name just a few of his hilariously depicted drawings.

Today Purdue University hosts the annual National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest which brings Rube’s comic genius to life for millions of fans. Covered widely by the national media, the winning team and their working invention always appears on late night talk shows like David Letterman, Jay Leno, or Jimmy Kimmel Live. To get a real window into the machine contest, go to www.mousetraptomars.com where you can watch a 2 minute clip from the upcoming documentary that chronicles three teams vying for the winning slot. A coffee table book of Rube’s work is being published by Abrams in 2012, along with a calendar and children’s pop-up book.

At a time when the U.S. is looking to inspire young minds, Rube Goldberg’s legacy represents the best in American innovation, humor and unconventional thinking; an inspiring model for us all.

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