It’s Elon Musk’s world, and everyone else is just driving in it


(Jack Plunkett/Associated Press)

High praise keeps rolling in for Elon Musk, perhaps best known as CEO of the electric-car company Tesla. The Atlantic named him on its list of inventors that future historians will consider among today’s greats:

In the spirit of inveterate and wide-ranging tinkerers like Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin, Musk has transformed virtually every field he’s taken an interest in, from electronic payments to commercial spaceflight to electric cars.

He dropped out of a Stanford graduate program to launch his first company, an online mapping and directory service whose sale enabled the launch of what would become PayPal—and Musk’s ticket to big-time innovation. Like many of his PayPal colleagues, Musk used his fortune from the sale of that company to fund a flurry of new ventures, including Tesla, a manufacturer of electric cars, and SpaceX, a commercial spaceflight operation.

Musk also has his hand in another potential world-changing field, solar energy, as chairman of SolarCity.

“I’m trying to allocate my efforts to that which I think would most affect the future of humanity in a positive way,” Musk once said. Not a bad goal at all.

In recent news, Musk has hired Apple’s chief Mac engineer to lead vehicle development at Tesla. Musk appears to have survived a scare in which a Tesla Model S caught fire earlier this month, raising questions about the safety of electric vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration won’t investigate after determining the fire wasn’t caused by a safety defect.


To illustrate his rise, here’s a look at Google searches for Musk in recent years:


For comparison’s sake, he’s still a blip on the Google radar compared to say, Justin Bieber (shown in red). But ultimately, being remembered by history isn’t about short-term popularity.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland · October 24, 2013