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Friday Slide Show: Faith in a Seed Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

25 March 2022

There are surprisingly several spots in the house which are decorated with cones. The fireplace is one. The coat rack another. There's a small bowl elsewhere stuffed with the smallest cones we've ever seen, which are pictured here. And there's a big pot of them from old Christmas wreathes at the foot of the stairs leading to the front door.

Some home display crucifixes in every room. Some have a mezuzah by the door. Every home, one way or another, has its talisman. Ours, apparently, is the cone.

We're not bragging, understand. It's an act of humility to admit your best is but a seed to something better. But we have always had faith in a seed.

That is the title of a book of Henry Thoreau's writings which we once upon a time gave as a present to our father-in-law.

It went unpublished in Thoreau's lifetime, less poetically titled The Dispersion of Seeds. He wrote:

Though I do not believe a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there and I am prepared to expect wonders.

This was, in a nutshell (if not a seed exactly), the philosophy of our father-in-law. He was, himself, something of a wonderous seed, growing up poor on a farm in upstate New York, the son of an immigrant from Syria.

But he happened to score exceptionally well on a math test and a teacher managed to get him a college scholarship. He didn't waste the opportunity. By the time he was done, his colleagues at Kodak called him The Wizard after he had invented a number of patented processes for the company, an early one of which was so profitable it guaranteed his permanent employment there.

He was the guy behind the Itek printing plate which skipped the middle man in offset printing, making a printing plate directly from artwork. And he was behind the company's instant film emulsion (which Polaroid did not contest in its patent lawsuit, focusing on the delivery mechanism of the camera), the film that went to the moon. He improved many of Kodak's film emulsions over the years (including X-ray film), applying chemistry where physics failed and physics where chemistry failed.

And yet the man stood in awe of his children (not to mention their spouses) and his grandchildren. Because he had faith in a seed.

The Itek plate is history. His instant film is no more. The emulsions he improved have faded in the bright light of digital imaging.

But it was a privilege to have known him. And an honor to have enjoyed the company of his five daughters, their spouses, their children and their children's children.

They, after all, are his greatest invention.

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