The Man Behind the Edwin A. and Marion C. Link Special Collection

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by Diane Newman

Ed Link was an inventor, a pioneer, an engineer, and yes, a genius. Mr. Link could see problems others did not know existed, and more to the point, he could fix those problems. By taking a leap of Imagineering and adapting what he learned about pneumatics in his father’s organ factory, he built a ground based mockup of an airplane he named the “Pilot Maker” for thousands of young American and British WWII soldiers to master the art of flying before they ever took their airplanes off the ground.  After the war, the trainer became known as the “Blue Box”.

Ed Link became known as the “Father of Flight Simulation.”  He was famous.  His engineering skill even contributed to the race to the moon.  When he had finished his work, he did what many men would do, and he went fishing.  But unlike most, he built a portable canoe he named “Linkanoe” for his fishing.

Perhaps while fishing in a pristine Canadian lake far from civilization, he considered the alien world brimming with natural resources beneath the sea.  In the quiet hours Ed fished, it is conceivable he dreamt of designing an exploratory deep sea diving vessel or even an entire village of underwater houses to sustain life in the ocean thousands of fathoms deep beyond the continental shelf.

Perhaps while fishing in a pristine Canadian lake far from civilization, he considered the alien world brimming with natural resources beneath the sea. In the quiet hours Ed fished, it is conceivable he dreamt of designing an exploratory deep sea diving vessel or even an entire village of underwater houses to sustain life in the ocean thousands of fathoms deep beyond the continental shelf.

Ed Link put away his fishing rod and headed to warmer waters.  He built submersibles engineered to take men to great depths, where they could leave their cabin and explore the sea.  He built decompression chambers to bring men safely to the surface and slowly regulate the content of the air they breathed inside their compartment to prevent diving illness.  Once again, Ed Link was a famous man.  Backed by the Smithsonian and National Geographic Society, his underwater archeological excursions were funded, publicized, and memorialized.

The more I learned about this remarkable man, the more I wanted to curate the thousands of items he donated to make his story a permanent part of history when engineering meant mechanical, not digital.  I have been given the opportunity to guard a national treasure.

-Diane Newman, Special Collections Curator, Evans Library

 

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