How might inventors best be trained? Previous research has suggested that the most inventive science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) professionals are handy with tools, understand material properties, have an artistic or aesthetic bent, are excellent communicators,
and are generally "cultured." We tested these previous conclusions with a convenience sample of 235 STEMM professionals (89 women, 135 men, one unidentified) regarding their childhood (to age 14) and adolescent/young adult (ages 15 through 25) participation in 23 literary, arts, crafts, or
design (ACD) disciplines. ACD participation was correlated with patent filings and licensing as surrogate measures of proven inventive ability. Women and men had significantly different childhood and adolescent/young adult participation in ACD. Women tended to participate in "fine arts" (music,
painting, fabric arts, creative writing) at significantly higher rates than the men. Men tended to participate in "crafts" (woodworking, metalworking, mechanics, electronics) at much higher rates than the women. "Crafts" avocations (plus glassblowing and printmaking) were highly correlated
with filing patents among both the men and the women. Survey responses demonstrated that participants recognized the utility of their ACD activities for their STEMM practices, which they connected through four types of learning: private lessons, informal mentoring, school classes, and self-learning.
Early learning and persistent practice of ACD from childhood through adulthood is highly correlated with adult production of patents and associated with learning tool use, understanding material properties, developing hand-eye coordination, and training aesthetic sensibility.
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