Reuben Garret Lucius (Rube) Goldberg was no rube. He was a Pulitzer prize winning cartoonist, famous for his amazing contraptions of fantastically complicated machines that most often executed simple tasks, such as a system of pulleys and gears that allowed a napkin to wipe a diner’s face, or as in the cartoon above, getting your toothbrush loaded the hard way.
His legacy includes his many cartoons, and a great many engineering contests that have grown from his ideas–chain reactions begun with with a simple drop of a marble leading to a surprising outcome. Preposterously complicated machines to do a simple task. And then there are the Monty Python versions, clearly taking inspiration from Goldberg.
Like many cartoonists, Goldberg often alluded to difficult truths and concepts in his drawings. A number of them reference the government and other bureaucracies, along with the stock market. His cartoons often remind us that we often aren’t doing what we think we are, no matter how well-intentioned. And then when the intentions are less than honorable, no matter how they are labeled. . . .
This website, Cool Material, has a number of videos of contemporary Rube Goldberg machines. They are funny, absurd and inspiring all at the same time.
Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George, has written a book about Goldberg, and Rube Goldberg, Inc. “is dedicated to keeping laughter and invention alive through the legacy of its namesake”. I think its worth a visit.