Spiridon Efstathiou Papalexatos (1912-1992) - Inventor
Spiridon Efstathiou Papalexatos was born in 1912 in the village Vigli, which is located in the northern part of the island. Even though he isn’t very well-known, he is a protagonist in the field of inventions, with many achievements and much activity in his life. His inventions are used by everyone today and we would all be proud if we knew that a fellow countryman was the person who invented them. From childhood, he appeared to be a thinking and special person, with an inclination to learning, letters and research. Just at the age of sixteen, he took his first steps. Upon observing, he realized that the eggs in a hen’s nest hatched due to the temperature the animal’s body produced and only that. This might seem obvious to us today, but back then, especially in villages, this wasn’t known at all.
So when he mentioned this to some fellow villagers, he became the laughing stalk. It’s common to quip someone whose spirit is much more ahead of the time than ours. The then young Spiros became stubborn and wanted to prove the correctness of his observation. Sharp witted as he was, he came up with the idea of measuring the body temperature of a rooster and discovered that it had the same temperature as that of a hen. Thus, he was lead to believe that even a rooster could play the role of a hen and offer the chicks the chance to come out of the eggs, just as it would happen if a hen had hatched them. He then decided to speak to the fellow villagers who initially treated him ironically and suggest something totally unexpected.
He suggested that they bet that the inventor could manage to get a rooster to hatch eggs exactly the way a hen does. Naturally, everyone laughed their hearts out. And one of the “smart” guys of the village agreed to the bet, believing that he would definitely win the wager, since the idea of a roster hatching eggs seemed hilarious to say the least. Naturally, young Spiros was properly prepared, since he was sure that the rooster and the hen had the same body temperature. So the bet was also officially agreed upon in the presence of witnesses. Naturally, a justifiable difficulty that Spiros overcame was how to persuade a rooster to sit on the eggs. He then started training the roster for such a thing and, eventually, tied him onto the eggs. The roster stayed there for the necessary number of days and he feed and watered him, of course. When the necessary time passed, everyone’s anxiousness was brought to an end and the chicks came out of the eggs alive and healthy. Spiros won the bet and everyone was rendered speechless, probably believing that he had done something magical. But the only thing that he had actually done was to apply scientific rules of observation, research and experimentation (the bet). Afterwards, since the rooster had no interest in guarding and taking care of the chicks, young Spiros held them against his chest for days until they would grow a bit. The most important part of this story isn’t the fact that the inventor won the bet, but something else. The news that a crazy Kefalonian had managed to make a rooster hatch eggs wasn’t learnt in all of Kefalonia, but traveled around the world too.
Then, some scientists in countries abroad invented the hatching machine, which is widely used in poultry farms all over the world. The hatching machine plays an important role in poultry production today and has made procedures much easier. Of course, there is no reference to the machine’s inventor, as Spiros never intended to claim the copyright. But those who created a hatching machine for the first time were inspired by the bet which the Kefalonian inventor had won. It’s evident that the hatching machine functions and heats the eggs with the same exact logic that the rooster managed to give life to the chicks. Encouraged by his first chance, Spiros continued his efforts in other fields and was constantly in a state of spiritual stimulation by reading many books. Few knew exactly what he was occupied with every time. His pursuits became known every time his experiments became widely famous, just like the bet with the rooster.
A little while later he was looking into the field of flying machines. Once more, his pursuit became well-known as he managed to literally fly with a makeshift umbrella in the Korinthian bay, in the district of Aigio. No-one knew exactly what he was aiming at with this experiment. He had managed to fly again other times in his village, using other makeshift, but well-weighed sails. At the time the young inventor was taking his first steps, the situation in Kefalonia, as in all of Greece was extremely difficult. Coming from a poor family, this great mind didn’t have the opportunity to study and take advantage of his natural inclination to letters. Since the situation was becoming more and more difficult and poverty was becoming even more unbearable, he was forced to migrate to the United States after the age of 22, as was common back then.
In the U.S.A. as was expected, he continued the same spiritual effort that had predetermined his life from a young age. There he continued being involved with research, observation and experimentation. He reached points of great success. Many were Mr. Papalexatos’ inventions in America, but he received no recognition for any of them, as he never aimed at personal promotion and the official registration of his work. One such case which eventually became known was the appearance of the gramophone in a car for the first time. Before the cassette player made its appearance, the gramophone with vinyl records was used, but there had never been a gramophone inside a car, just plain radios. His idea circled around how a record playing gramophone could be inserted in a car. So, the Kefalonian inventor managed to make a makeshift car gramophone, that fit in every car’s interior design. Such a thing was an innovation, if one considers the fact that this happened in 1955. Comparing it to contemporary facts, this invention was something like the modern day car CD player, only that back then there had never before been any kind of means to play music records in a car. The inventor thought that it was a good idea to present his invention to one of the big multinational companies. Of course, the company appeared as the innovator, launching the first car gramophone. Eventually, no recognition whatsoever was given to the Kefalonian inventor, neither financial, nor moral.
Another invention which was eventually recognized and for which he received both moral and financial recognition, was that of decaffeinated Greek coffee, in other words caffeine-free Greek coffee. He finally managed to fortify this particular invention in the entire dominion of America. Then, the Greek coffee production company “Venizelos”, offered a subvention of 20 cents for every kilo which was sold. His spiritual occupations covered other fields, such as that of academic research, with his greatest achievement being the application of research in the scientific community about unsolved to this day problem of squaring the circle. He gave lectures on the matter of the squaring of the circle and on other physics issues countless times in various American universities, mainly at New York University.
To this day, his documents with research concerned with estimating the distance between planets and the weight of the earth, are saved. Even in old age, he was an active researcher. His work would continue up to this day, but his thread of life was cut in 1992, at the age of 80. The inventor Spiridon Eftathiou Papalexatos ought to make all of us Kefalonians proud. He is a bright point in the history of our island, a personality that always adopted perseverance for conquering our goals and militancy. He is an example to be followed for all of ours.