The Idea Factory

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The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
First edition
AuthorJon Gertner
CountryUnited States
SubjectBell Labs
GenreCorporate history
PublisherPenguin Press
Publication date
March 15, 2012
Media typePrint (hardcover), print (paperback), e-book, audiobook
Followed byThe Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future 

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation is a 2012 book by Jon Gertner that describes the history of Bell Labs, the research and development wing of AT&T, as well as many of its eccentric personalities, such as Claude Shannon and William Shockley.[1][2][3][4] It is Gertner's first published book.


The New York Times said that Mr. Gertner's "portraits of Kelly and the cadre of talented scientists who worked at Bell Labs are animated by a journalistic ability to make their discoveries and inventions utterly comprehensible — indeed, thrilling — to the lay reader".[5]

The Idea Factory was reviewed favorably by Foreign Policy, the New York Times, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and others.[5][6][7] Three adapted excerpts from the book were published in TIME.[8]

Facebook co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg recommended The Idea Factory to his book club in 2015, saying of the choice, "[he is] very interested in what causes innovation — what kinds of people, questions and environments."[9][10]

See also[edit]

Gertner giving an author talk within the old Bell Labs Holmdel Complex, 2018


  1. ^ Rick Wartzman (14 August 2018). "This new laboratory will explore how people can truly flourish at work". Fast Company. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  2. ^ Kelly Giuliano (20 November 2018). "Author says he could not imagine Bell Labs having a future". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  3. ^ "The Idea Factory: How Bell Labs Created The Future". NPR. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  4. ^ Derek Thompson (1 November 2017). "Google X and the Science of Radical Creativity". The Atlantic. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  5. ^ a b "'The Idea Factory,' by Jon Gertner". The New York Times. March 19, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  6. ^ Konstantin Kakaes (15 March 2012). "Book Review: Jon Gertner's "The Idea Factory"". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  7. ^ Karen R. Long (9 April 2012). "In 'The Idea Factory,' Jon Gertner paints Bell Labs astutely". Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  8. ^ Jon Gertner (21 March 2012). "How Bell Labs Invented the World We Live in Today". TIME. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  9. ^ Richard Feloni (9 November 2015). "Why Mark Zuckerberg wants everyone to read about the lab that has won the most Nobel Prizes". Business Insider. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  10. ^ Marguerite Ward (11 April 2017). "2 books that changed the way Mark Zuckerberg thinks about innovation". NBC. Retrieved 14 March 2019.