Public events, large and small, can influence an inventor’s work. Military conflict, for example, might inspire an inventor to develop a new type of body armor for soldiers. Economic developments, such as a local emphasis on clean energy, could suggest opportunities for potentially profitable lines of inquiry.
Direct evidence of this type of influence on an inventor can be difficult to identify, but may be found in items such as correspondence, magazine subscriptions, and collections of newspaper clippings that monitor situations and ideas. Oral history interviews can be useful in exploring such intangible factors that motivate inventors.