3 Famous Mentor and Apprentice Pairings

January 20, 2014
Allen Rabinovich


1. Aristotle and Alexander the Great

Apprentice Accomplishments

Alexander the Great was the King of Macedon and reputably one of the most successful military leaders in history. At the peak of his power, the Macedonian empire stretched from Egypt to India, covering over 2 million square miles. 

Alexander became King of Macedon at age 20 and accomplished this great feat before the age of 30. Imperative to his success was his ability to reason, his geographical prowess, and his intricate knowledge of military history, all bestowed upon him by his mentor.

How the Mentor Helped

Aristotle was hailed as a genius of his time in several subjects, including philosophy, biology, astronomy, geometry, and poetry. Hired by Philip of Macedon, Alexander’s father, Aristotle began mentoring the boy until age 16. He communicated his understanding in various fields but his most profound impact on young Alexander may have come from extensive back-and-forth conversation in the context of Greek philosophy and poetry. By engaging the future emperor and demanding the use of his intellect at an early age, Aristotle endowed Alexander with a unique sense of logic and intuition that far surpassed his peers.


2. Thomas Edison mentoring Henry Ford

Apprentice Accomplishments

Contrary to popular belief, Henry Ford invented neither the automobile nor the assembly line, but it can be argued that he perfected both for personal and commercial use. His contribution to the world of automobile was the Model T Ford, the first mass-produced personal use motor vehicle. In 1908, the Model T cost $825 ($21,430 in today’s dollars), meaning automotive transportation could finally be utilized as a viable method for the common consumer. This was only made possible because of Ford’s improvement in assembly line conveyor technology: each car could be put together in 93 minutes!


How the Mentor Helped

Similar to his apprentice, Thomas Edison is commonly misrepresented as being the inventor of the electric light bulb. His actual contribution involved perfecting the 50-year old idea of electric light, using a safer method that resulted in a longer burning bulb. This meant ordinary folks could install it in their homes for personal use instead of the hazardous, outdated candle.

Henry Ford collaborated with Thomas Edison throughout much of his later career. When the Ford Motor Company took off, Ford constantly looked to Edison for advice about business strategy and technological research.  When Thomas Edison’s neighbors moved out, Ford wasted no time snatching up the 7-bedroom mansion. The wooden fence between the two great pioneers of American innovation was known as the “friendship gate.”


3. Mrs. Duncan mentoring Oprah Winfrey


Apprentice Accomplishments

There is not much to say about this media mogul that isn’t already household information. She worked as a news anchor in Chicago until her emotional connection and popularity with the audience landed her a low key television spot. Oprah then went on to invent the now-popularized daytime talk show industry. I suppose the rest is history. According to Forbes, she is the only black American billionaire and is arguably the most influential woman in the world. In 2013, Oprah was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


How the Mentor Helped

The video says it all. Oprah admitted that Mrs. Duncan encouraged her to be an avid reader and to take advantage of her smarts. She did this by spending plenty of time with Oprah after school, going beyond her normal duties as a classroom teacher. It is no surprise that Oprah Winfrey went on to make a billion-dollar empire through her caring of individuals in need.

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