July 4 - Happy Birthday, Rube Goldberg

Posted on July 4, 2018

Why is the name of an engineer who designed sewer pipes for San Francisco used as an adjective for "unnecessarily complicated"? Did he do poor designs that were, themselves, unnecessarily complicated?

No, Rube Goldberg's sewer pipe designs were perfectly sensible.

Why is the name of a Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist used on a contest to create a machine that does something in the funniest but super-est complicated-est way imaginable? Did he win a Pulitzer Prize for a funny-and-super-complicated cartoon?

No, it's pretty simple. And stark.

Even though Rube Goldberg earned a engineering degree at UC Berkeley (a highly respected university)... Even though Goldberg was super prolific as a cartoonist, producing quite a few different cartoon series at the same time... Even though Goldberg created seven short animated films... Even though Goldberg's political cartoons were syndicated all over the U.S., and Goldberg was considered America's favorite cartoonist by many...

Most of us only know the name "Rube Goldberg" for the cartoons of funny and crazy-complicated machines that do simple things in the craziest, most round-about ways. Check out one or two:

Nowadays, people do all kinds of crazy-contraption contests, videos, and drawings - and many of them do indeed use Rube Goldberg's name as a stand-in for the sort of silly complexity he became famous for...

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