As a boy, he was obsessed with tracing pictures from newspapers, books, and calendars. As a young adult, his practical father urged him to become an engineer, which he did, but he quit his first job after 6 months when he became depressed "by the lethargy of city employees." He took a job filing and sweeping out the art department, but then got a break as a sports cartoonist (at first he was discouraged finding that the first cartoons he suggested were thrown away in the wastebasket).
The inspiration for his famous works was an old mechanical engineering professor. "the professor had a big machine that each student had to experiment with and get an answer. And you had to find the weight of the earth with this contraption. There was a whole room full of retorts and Bunson burners and beakers and motors... and there was nothing more ridiculous to me than finding the weight of the earth because I didn't care how much the earth weighed.I thought this was very useless, you know. I had no idea that this was going to come in handy in my cartoon work later on. And, uh, I didn't know, I just hark back to this thing and say, this is funny, and that's the way people, people, uh, go to a great extreme to accomplish very little."
Rube Goldberg Interview
Rube Goldberg Bio
If you haven't seen it before, check out this great Rube-inspired "Cog" (old Honda commercial): here.
It worked on the 606th take.