Rube Goldberg

Engineer , Cartoonist , Sculptor ,

Author , Inventor , and

Pulitzer Prize Winner


Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, and author.
Reuben Lucius Goldberg (Rube Goldberg) was born in San Francisco. His father, a practical man, insisted he go to college to become an engineer. After graduating from University of California at Berkeley, Rube went to work as an engineer with the City of San Francisco Water and Sewers Department.

He continued drawing, and after six months convinced his father that he had to work as an artist. He soon got a job as an office boy in the sports department of a San Francisco newspaper. He kept submitting drawings and cartoons to his editor, until he was published. An outstanding success, he moved from San Francisco to New York drawing daily cartoons for the Evening Mail. A founding member of the National Cartoonist Society, a political cartoonist and a Pulitzer Prize winner, Rube was a beloved national figure as well as an often-quoted radio and television personality during his sixty-year professional career.

Through his 'INVENTIONS', Rube Goldberg showed difficult ways to achieve easy results. His cartoons were, (as he said), symbols of man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results. Rube believed that there were two ways to do things: the simple way and the hard way, and that a surprisingly number of people preferred doing things the hard way.

Rube Goldberg's work will endure because he gave priority to simple human needs and treasured basic human values. He was sometimes skeptical about technology, which contributed to making his own mechanical inventions primitive and full of human, plant and animal parts. While most machines work to make difficult tasks simple, his inventions made simple tasks amazingly complex. Dozens of arms, wheels, gears, handles, cups, and rods were put in motion by balls, canary cages, pails, boots, bathtubs, paddles, and even live animals for simple tasks like squeezing an orange for juice or closing a window in case it should start to rain before one gets home.

Rube's drawings depict absurdly-connected machines functioning in extremely complex and roundabout ways to produce a simple end result; because of this RUBE GOLDBERG has become associated with any convoluted system of achieving a basic task.

Rube's inventions are a unique commentary on life's complexities. They provide a humorous diversion into the absurd that lampoons the wonders of technology. Rube's hilarious send-ups of man's ingenuity strike a deep and lasting chord with today's audience through caught in a high-tech revolution are still seeking simplicity.

Hardly a day goes by without The New York Times, National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal or some other major media player invoking the name Rube Goldberg to describe a wildly complex program, system or set of rules such as our "Rube Goldberg-like tax system". The annual National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Purdue University as well as the increasing number of state-wide high school contests, which are covered widely by the national media, brings Rube's comic inventions to life for millions of fans.

The work of Rube Goldberg continues to connect with both an adult audience well versed in the promise and pitfalls of modern technology (can anyone over 40 program their VCR?) as well as younger fans intrigued by the creativity and possibility of invention.