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Thank You, Norman Edmund


Norman Edmund, 1916-2012

I woke up this morning to the news that Norman Edmund passed away last week at the ripe old age of 95.  To a man whose proudest possession is a 48-inch fresnel lens rescued from a discarded TV, this was like like learning Santa Claus had died.

That’s because Norman Edmund was the founder of Edmund Scientific — the company that sells the coolest science gadgets in the world.

Back in the 20th century, every boy or girl with a nerdy streak (like me) desperately yearned for something — check that:  nearly everything — in the Edmund Scientific catalog.  Edmund sold microscopes, telescopes, gyroscopes, rockets, prisms, lab sets, robot parts, crystal radio kits — even lasers!  The point is, it was all cool stuff, and it was all real.  These weren’t crappy toy versions of science gadgets; they were “lab quality,” and you could actually build, grow, fly, peer through, connect and learn things from them.

Upon hearing of Mr. Edmund’s death, I found myself wondering how many of our customers were also former Edmund Scientific catalog geeks.  We tend to attract hosting customers at the honor-roll end of the spectrum, and — well, I guess I’m hoping there’s some love out there for a man who (perhaps without realizing it) started hundreds of thousands of American kids down the road towards careers in engineering, IT and the sciences, over nearly 60 years.

A few months ago, we were planning a special event to which we’d invited some of the pioneers and leaders from the hosting industry.  Talk eventually turned to the topic of the gifts we would hand out to participants, and I lobbied hard for a selection of incredibly cool science nerd toys.  Why hand out printed coffee mugs, I said, when you can print the ServInt logo on space-age polymers that stretch to 90 times their original size without tearing!  Or LED light attachments for kitchen faucets that change color when you make the water hot or cold!  Or bizarre bouncing balls composed of two hemispheres with completely different densities!  I guess old science nerd habits die hard.

It’s not just me, is it?  Are my hunches about ServInt client psychographics correct?  Are there any other grown-up Edmund Scientific Catalog kids out there?  More to the point:  after a trade show, would you rather cart home a coffee mug with a logo on it, or a ZeeBee — a “modern update to the classic Edmund Scientific Jumping Disk”?

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