John Jacob Astor
(1864 - 1912)
John Jacob Astor, the great-grandson of the famous fur trader and financier of the same name, was one of the wealthiest men on earth, with assets somewhere around $100 million (compared to J.P. Morgan, who had amassed a fortune of only $30 million). Astor was an inventor (of a bicycle brake, a storage battery, an internal combustion engine, a flying machine, a machine for removing surface dirt from roads, and an improved marine turbine engine) and also founder of the Astoria (later the Waldorf Astoria) Hotel in New York City. His pneumatic walkway invention won a prize at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and he was one of the first Americans to own a motor car. One of his dreams was to find a way to create rain by pumping warm air from the surface of the earth into the upper atmosphere. His fascination with science led him to begin writing his only novel, A Journey In Other Worlds when he was only 28 years old, and spent over two years writing it. He served in the Spanish-American War, and lost his life in the Titanic disaster, leading his wife to a lifeboat but returning himself to the sinking ship.