Edison’s Concrete Piano

Edison’s Concrete Piano highlights the careers of famous inventors — revealing the lesser-known and most fascinating facts about their careers, their wackier hobbies, and especially their big flops and great successes. Take Thomas Edison for example, who revolutionized our world with the light bulb, the phonograph, and the forerunner to the movie camera. He also created a concrete piano, a non-operational helicopter made from box kites and piano wire, and a machine to speak to the dead. Edison was not the only one to engineer a complete flop now and again; in fact, failure amid greatness is the norm — not the exception.

Did you know that Henry Ford followed his Model T success with a tractor that was famous for killing its customers? Ever heard of a flying tank? Can you imagine why physics genius Albert Einstein created a refrigerator that howled like a banshee? Or what Nikola Tesla was thinking when he tested his earthquake machine – in crowded Manhattan? And how did Alexander Graham Bell, after inventing the phone, pass the time on his sheep farm in Nova Scotia?

From whole scale improvements, like the assembly line, to those toilet bowl caps, Edison’s Concrete Piano covers it all. Written snapshots of inventors through the ages to the current day are accompanied by photographs and illustrations of their lives and their inventions. Read about Edison, Tesla, DaVinci, Pupin, and Alexander Graham Bell, alongside the inventors you’ve never considered — the people who are dreaming up many of the products you’ll use every day. From Alexander Graham Bell’s multi-nippled sheep to Leonardo da Vinci’s walk-on-water shoes, these ludicrous ideas and faulty designs will leave you with a smile on your face, and the reminder that even the very best of us make mistakes.


“Best Book Title of the Year? […] the popular science is fun and easily accessible, and there’s more to the inventors’ experiments than the title can contain.”

Los Angeles Times

“Wearing’s background as a science educator is advantageous in this entertaining piece of popular science: she portrays lively personalities and eccentric projects in concrete prose.”


“This book sparkles with heaps of ideas, some plain bonkers, others, like the car, more pedestrian. Many are green. But this book is fun and full of quirks because it is about people. There are many more goodies in this readable book […] Of course, not all inventors are bonkers, but they are humans, with all the human frailties perhaps magnified by their creativity and by our scrutiny. This makes a fine yarn.”

Waikato Times

“EDISON’S CONCRETE PIANO is […] one of those enjoyable books that can either be devoured quickly or picked up in a quiet moment for a light read. The book left me with a sense of wonder at the gift these men had – their creativity and resilience. I’m sure my appreciation was enhanced by having a glimpse into the difficulties they faced in their private lives, making their contributions all the more incredible. This book is an interesting, inspirational and easy read, providing pages of fascinating facts and insights.”

MC Reviews

“CONCRETE PIANO is a smart, sophisticated book, full of information gems that have eluded even the most nerdy trivia fans that I know (yes, I have quizzed them). From beginning to end the book engages and gives the reader a fascinating portrait of the personal lives of these inventors, and also the impact their achievements have had. To then delve into the theme of failure—how each saw his achievements in light of his own hopes and expectations, or how the public saw the more radical experiments—is nothing short of brilliant.”

Emily Shultz, author of Heaven is Small and Joyland

“Judy Wearing has written a captivating book on success and failure. In her portraits of sixteen inventors, she shows us how even the most gifted and prolific among them have sometimes missed the mark. But their failures, which only emphasize their humanity, do not diminish their many successful achievements. This book is full of lessons for inventors and non-inventors alike.”

Henry Petroski, author of Success Through Failure

Awards & Accolades