New Bedford’s Father of Invention
Do you believe that necessity is the mother of invention, meaning if you really need to do something, you will think of a way to do it? If that's true, then innovation ought to be the father of invention.
Lewis Temple was a brilliant innovator who moved to New Bedford from Richmond in 1829. No one knows for sure if he was enslaved or free at birth, but this much we do know: he was not only an innovator, pioneer and pathfinder, but someone who revolutionized the entire whaling industry, causing an immediate major change in the economy worldwide.
For centuries, Eskimos and Indians used the harpoon, but the single pointed end would slip out of the whale, working itself loose. In 1848, Temple's idea of attaching a second pivoting head, or a toggle, that would open up like a butterfly once inside the whale and secure the whale, became the standard bearer for the whaling industry here and abroad.
It's regrettable that Temple did not patent his invention.
Sea Lab, New Bedford Public Schools' marine science education program, honored Lewis Temple by dedicating the Sea Lab lobby to him when it opened in 2007.
"At Sea Lab, we honor this particular gentleman of color everyday, not just during Black History Month," commented Simone Bourgeois, Facilitator of Sea Lab. "Temple was the kind of thinker who'd look at a problem and solve it."
Bourgeois said it was her father teaching her about Temple's legacy that made her want to honor him.
When I was asked to dedicate the school's lobby, I remembered my father's inspiring story about Lewis Temple and decided to name the lobby, as well as our scholarships to Sea Lab, after Lewis Temple," she said.
Revolutionizing an industry worldwide, as Lewis Temple did, is not just about building a better product. It's about changing the perception of that industry, because changes in perception are what ultimately drive changes in attitudes and behavior. It changes the way people think, and as a tribute to Black History Month, its impact compounds over time.