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To mark the arrival of the Summer, here are seven other late bloomers

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Fresh Workspace

Awaiting Image

niels-diffrientThe late designer Niels Diffrient was nearly 70 when he began to develop and launch the seating designs that were not only  to change the fortunes of the company Humanscale, but herald a new approach to ergonomics that was based on movement rather than posture and which is now the most enlightened approach to ergonomics we have ever seen. Although he had enjoyed a long and successful career up to that point, his greatest successes were reserved for his seventies. So in honour of both Niels Diffrient, the belated but welcome arrival of the British Summer and as a way of remembering that it’s never too late to start something new and game changing, here are seven more late bloomers and premature write-offs.



According to everything we know about life in the 21st Century, the worst conceivable format for playing recorded music would be a fragile, bulky disc, containing a very limited amount of information that needs a needle to be dragged over its surface at a steady speed to produce a sound, then needs to be turned over halfway through if you want to listen to more than about half a dozen songs.

Written off as soon as the CD of Brother in Arms sold by the palletload in 1985, sales of vinyl albums, singles and 12 inch singles have actually been growing significantly since 1998. According to a report last week from the music industry, annual sales of vinyl albums have exceeded the one-million mark for the first time since the Britpop era, driven by the likes of modern mainstream artists such as the Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay and Adele as well as new albums from old favourites such as David Bowie and Pink Floyd. Many of them were even bought in actual shops, too.

Of course there’s an element of nostalgia and purism involved in this resurgence, but there is also the fact that people genuinely like the physicality of the medium. And because vinyl is able to produce a greater range of sounds than other formats , the music can be audibly better than a CD and miles better than an MP3. Of course, people never really liked cassettes anyway so don’t expect a nostalgia for them.



It’s hard to believe that the world’s largest online retailer and current tabloid corporate whipping boy for its tax avoidance tactics, with a market value of $100 gazillion or whatever it is this week was routinely dismissed as a basket case at the time of the burst of the dot com bubble at the turn of the Millennium. Amazon began life in 1995 and was soon encumbered with a reputation as a perennial loss maker.  Founder Jeff Bezos often explained that he didn’t expect to make a profit in the first five or so years but that didn’t stop people using Amazon as the best proof that nobody would ever make any money from the internet.

But Bezos was right to stick to his guns. Amazon turned its first profit in 2001 and has been thriving ever since, pioneering not only in terms of its own business but also paving the way for all online retailers. With its Kindle e-book, Amazon is now busy doing away with what started it all in the first place; the printed word.


Writers of Bucolic English Children’s Literature

Two of the most fondly held books in the canon of anthropomorphic literature for children were the products of men who were getting on a bit. Watership Down’s author Richard Adams was a 52 year old civil servant  when the book was published in 1972. It took him another two years to give up the day job to become a full time writer. Kenneth Grahame was the former secretary of The Bank of England when he produced the Wind in the Willows in 1908 at the age of 49 following his retirement for ill health.

Many other authors have seen a bit of life before finding fame including Anthony Burgess (39 at the time of the publication of A Clockwork Orange) and Charles Bukowski (49). This is great news because all of us supposedly have a book inside us and writing at least is not constrained by a relatively fixed upper age limit, like football is for example…


The footballers

One of the great goalscorers in the history of English football was playing for Dulwich Hamlet up to just before his 22nd birthday. Signed by Crystal Palace, he was 28 before he joined one of the country’s top clubs, Arsenal. In just seven years with The Gunners he eclipsed the goalscoring record of the legendary Cliff Bastin before embarking on an indifferent career in the media.

In the modern era, the rise of Jamie Vardy has been even more pronounced. Four years ago, at the age of 25 he was playing for Fleetwood Town. Last season he won the Premier League with Leicester and became a full international.


The great minds

Two of the men who shaped the modern world to a remarkable degree were both written off as children. Thomas Edison, the greatest inventor of all time, the creator of the modern incandescent light bulb, the motion picture camera and the phonograph and the holder of a total of over 1000 patents was dismissed as ‘addled’ by a teacher during the mere three months of formal schooling he enjoyed as a child. Notoriously unscrupulous and unpleasant, especially to elephants, they may have had a point.

Albert Einstein had a range of developmental problems in his school years relating to his problems with speech, reading and writing. Because other noted geniuses such as Richard Feynman have had similar difficulties there has been speculation that difficulties with language may help with the development of certain types of analytical skills.


The businessmen

It’s hard to picture the face of KFC as a young man, so it’s just as well for the brand that Colonel Harland Saunders was well into his 60s when he started to franchise his fried chicken outlets. He sold the business in 1964 for $2 million but continued to be the recognised face of the brand to this day.

That was so much fried chickenfeed to Taikichiro Mori who established the Mori Building company in his 50s and according to Forbes Magazine was the richest man in the world in both 1991 and 1992. He died in 1993, barely giving him time to bask in the warm glow of his own Indian Summer.


The performers

The performing arts and music also put no age constraints on us. Liz Smith is a retired BAFTA winning actress perhaps best known for her role in The Royle Family but didn’t start acting until she was 50. Alan Rickman was 28 when he began. Leonard Cohen, downbeat poet and musician, didn’t perform until he was 32. Anton Bruckner,  the great Austrian composer of the 19th Century followed a completely different career path to the child prodigy Mozart. He didn’t begin composing until he was well into his 40s and didn’t find widespread fame until he was in his 60s. His full reputation was only established in the 20th Century, although he could probably have done with the endorsement of Adolf Hitler. Not only was he no prodigy like his countryman Mozart, he was no enfant terrible either. A devout catholic who liked a beer,  his life was marked by humility and a distinct lack of open ambition.