Read these 53 Famous Inventors and Inventions Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Invention tips and hundreds of other topics.
When kid inventor Becky Schroeder was ten years old, she was doing her homework in the car, waiting for her mom. As it grew darker she wished that there was a way for her paper to light up so that she could see what she was doing more easily. That's when she got her idea for the Glo-sheet.
The next day she began experimenting with paper and phosphorescent paint until she had invented a type of paper that can glow in the dark. In 1974, at the age of 12, Becky Schroeder became the youngest of all famous women inventors to receive a U.S. patent.
The Light Bulb
Although we think of Thomas Edison as the inventor of the light bulb, the light bulb didn't begin or end with his contribution. The first patent for a light bulb was obtained by Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans. In 1879, Thomas Edison purchased the patent and improved on the light bulb with his invention of a carbon filament. That filament lasted for 40 hours, but by the time Edison was done he had a filament that could last for 1200 hours. Later improvements in the light bulb gave us bulbs that don't go black and the tungsten filament.
The Printing Press
The printing press is credited with changing all of Western civilization after being invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th Century. By making the Bible more widely available, this invention weakened the central authority of the state sponsored churches and led to the Reformation. Not many people realize that this famous invention was most likely invented several centuries earlier in China. Probably because Eastern languages contain significantly more characters than Western languages, the impact of movable type was not as great in China.
Many invention ideas have contributed to the modern computer. As early as the 17th Century, scientists were building machines that could do basic mathematical equations. Today's computers can do everything from sending us to the moon to beating us at chess. Computers and computerized appliances have moved from being science fiction to being a necessity of modern life. They continue to be improved on and made more useful.
Bicycles remain the most energy efficient mode of transportation available. There are currently over a billion bicycles at use in the world as children's toys, exercise equipment and means of travel. The technology that went into early bicycles was used as the basis for later innovations in the automobile and the airplane. Women's use of the bicycle in the late 19th Century led to the popularity of bloomers, the overall greater mobility of women and the women's movement.
In the 19th Century, most people would have considered it impossible that something heavier than air could fly. Yet every day, large groups of people fly in heavy airplanes for lengths of time up to fifteen hours. Like most new inventions, the airplane is the culmination of the work of many different inventors and inventions. Sir George Cayley between 1799 and 1809 is credited with being the first to have the idea to hold the wings still and to use propellers for thrusters. The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were the first inventors to build a working airplane in 1903.
It still isn't completely clear whether Elisha Gray or Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone. The two inventors applied for patents on the same day. They fought legally over the patent, but Bell ultimately won out. His invention was inspired by his love of music and financed by his father-in-law who was interested in breaking the monopoly held by the telegraph company. Bell's famous first words over his first successful telephone were to his assistant. He said, "Watson...come here...I want to see you."
The automobile is a culmination of thousands of ideas and patents beginning with rudimentary plans by Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton. Before the modern gasoline engine was made common, steam engines and electric engines were experimented with. It wasn't until 1885 that the first practical automobile was invented by Karl Benz. The French were the first to manufacture a complete motor vehicle with engine and chassis, but it wasn't until Henry Ford streamlined the car manufacturing process in 1913 that car ownership became affordable for many people.
The Steam Engine
The steam engine was the most important invention idea of the industrial revolution. By mechanically producing energy out of steam, it effectively replaced traditional water and muscle power.
A noted opthamologist and famous African American inventor, Dr. Patricia Bath pioneered the 1985 development of a specialized tool and procedure for the removal of cataracts. Her Laserphaco Probe and procedure improved cataract surgery by using lasers to vaporize cateracts painlessly. Previously, cataract surgery had been a difficult manual process involving a mechanical grinder.
Dr. Bath's lifelong dedication to the treatment and prevention of visual impairments has made it possible to restore the sight of many people suffering from cataracts. Because of her unwavering "Fight for the Right to Sight", Dr. Bath remains one of the most important and most famous African American inventors.
If you can read this, thank Thomas Edison and his patent number 223,898. However, it's true that this famous Thomas Edison invention wasn't totally his own creation. It's actually registered as an improvement to the electric lamp as well as a manufacturing method of the same. Patents can be filed not just for new ideas but for significant improvement to old ones. A British man, Joseph Swan was the original demonstrator of the world's first electric light bulb, and a few men before him patented a light bulb but didn't have the capital to commercialize their ideas. So, Edison purchased the rights to their product. He then work fast and diligently to find ways to make the light burn longer and brighter so it's likelihood of commercial success would be greater. Eventually, in 1880, he perfected a 16-watt incandescent bulb that burned up to 1,500 hours.
By September 4th, the first commercial power station was providing light to a square-mile area of lower Manhattan. It's hard to tell if Edison would be happy today to find out that his patent for improvements to the electric lamp has been improved on again and again. These days, with so much interest in protecting the environment, incandescent bulbs are considered less efficient than recently invented improvements such as fluorescent lights and light emitting diodes (LEDs).
Edison's story of patent number 223,898 offers lessons to today's inventors: your idea doesn't have to be completely new to be worth of a patent but you better be able to back it up with investment capital or it might stay stuck in your garage.
When Louis Braille was three years old, he became blind in one eye after an injury in his father's workshop. His other eye soon lost sight as well. In the early 19th Century in France, blind people were almost always destined to a life on the streets, begging for money. Louis Braille's parents instead sent him to school where he learned quickly until he was required to read and write.
Braille won a scholarship to a school for the blind where the teachers tried to teach the students to read letters that were raised on the page. These letters were very difficult to produce and read and didn't provide a way from blind children to learn to write. The raised letters were the first invention idea that contributed to Braille's own invention.
The second contributing invention idea was that of Charles Barbier, a former student at Braille's school who visited and showed the children a system of writing that he had invented. His "night writing" system involved twelve raised dots that symbolized sounds. The purpose was to allow people in the military to communicate to each other in the dark without speaking, but it was too complicated for soldiers to learn.
Louis Braille was still a kid inventor when he synthesized "night writing" and the raised type reading that he had been taught. His new invention was called "braille." It involved a system of six dots that could be reproduced using a stylus and paper. It quickly became very popular at the school.
It wasn't until after Braille's death that his invention became popular. Now, books all over the world are translated into braille. Many blind and partially sighted people are able to read because of the ingenuity of kid inventor Louis Braille.
In the mid-1980s a twelve-year old Canadian female inventor developed an invention that greatly helped people who have difficulties communicating.
For a school science fair project, Rachel Zimmerman created a software program called Blissymbols that allows those with severe physical disabilities, like cerebral palsy, to communicate. Her invention gained worldwide exposure and won several prestigious awards, including the silver medal at the World Exhibition of Achievement of Young Inventors.
Zimmerman went on to study physics in college and now works on tailoring NASA innovations to fit the needs of people with disabilities.
Young women inventors like Zimmerman prove that age is not a prerequisite for innovation.
African American inventor Lonnie Johnson has worked extensively with the U.S. Air Force and NASA on such impressive projects as the Galileo Jupiter probe and the Mars Observer. This famous black inventor has received a nomination for astronaut training and holds more than 40 U.S. patents.
However, Johnson's most well known invention is pure child's play. In 1982, a home experiment involving a heat pump that used water instead of freon led Johnson to invent the Power Drencher, the precursor to the infamous Super Soaker® squirt gun. The powerful squirt gun made Johnson one of the 20th-century's most financially successful black inventors.
After Ruth Wakefield graduated from a Household Arts school in 1924, she and her husband bought a tourist lodge named the Toll House Inn, where Ruth cooked meals for the guests.
In 1930, Ruth was mixing a batch of cookies when she discovered that she was out of baker's chocolate. She substituted broken pieces of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate, expecting it to melt and absorb into the dough to create chocolate cookies. When she removed the pan from the oven, Ruth realized that she had accidentally invented “chocolate chip cookies.”
The treat became extremely popular locally and gained national renown after the recipe was published in a Boston newspaper. Ruth Wakefield's invention soon became the most popular variety of cookie in America, a distinction it still holds today.
Ninety percent of microphones used today are based on the ingenuity of African American inventor James Edward West.
West and a colleague, Gerhard Sessler, developed the mic (officially known as the Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone) while working for Bell Laboratories. They received a patent for the mic in 1962.
Throughout his 40-year career with Bell Labs, West obtained 47 U.S. patents and more than 200 foreign patents, making him one of the most prolific black inventors in history.
Perhaps the most famous of all African American inventors, George Washington Carver was born in Diamond Grove, Missouri, where he was rescued from Confederate kidnappers as an infant.
The young Carver devoted himself completely to his studies, eventually earning a B.S. and M.S. from Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University).
Carver is famous for inventing a method of crop rotation that would transform Southern agricultural practices. The famous African American inventor advised farmers to alternate soil-depleting crops like cotton with soil-enriching varieties such as peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes. Carver's suggestions were instrumental in restoring the greatly depleted Southern soil and helping to revitalize the economy in those regions.
Additionally, Carver developed more than 325 different uses for peanuts – from printer's ink to cooking oil – placing him among the very greatest black inventors in history.
African American inventor Betty Harris became interested in chemistry at a young age. As a research chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Dr. Harris quickly became an expert in the chemistry of explosives. She holds a patent for a spot test that identifies explosives in a field environment.
Recently, this famous black inventor has worked with the Girl Scouts to develop a chemistry badge that is similar to the chemistry merit badge for Boy Scouts.
Dr. Harris has received her state's Governor's Trailblazer Award for her notable achievements.
By the time he graduated high school, computer whiz and African American inventor Mark Dean had already built his own computer, radio and amplifier. He then studied electrical engineering in college and eventually went on to obtain a Ph.D.
In 1980, Dean began working at IBM, where he was instrumental in the development of the “Personal Computer” (PC), thereby solidifying his place among the most accomplished black inventors. He currently holds three of IBM's original nine PC patents and more than 20 patents overall.
One of his most recent achievements has been leading the team that helped produce the 1-Gigahertz chip, which contains one million transistors.
From 1964 to 1995, African American inventor and scientist Valerie Thomas worked in a variety of capacities for NASA, where she developed real-time computer data systems, conducted large-scale experiments and managed numerous operations, projects and facilities.
While overseeing a project for NASA's image processing systems, Thomas' team spearheaded the development of “Landsat,” the first satellite to send images from space. Later, in 1980, she received a patent for an illusion transmitter, which uses concave mirrors on both ends of the transmission to create the optical illusion of a 3-dimensional image on the receiving end. NASA continues to use this technology and is exploring new applications for it.
Like many other famous African American inventors, theoretical physicist Dr. Shirley Jackson first developed an interest in science and math during her childhood. Her interest led her to MIT, where she received bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees, all in the field of physics. In doing so, she became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT.
Jackson's knowledge made many advances in telecommunications while working for Bell Laboratories. These advances include developments in the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cell and the fiber optic cables used to provide clarity in overseas phone calls. In addition, this black inventor also contributed to the invention of Caller ID and Call Waiting.
Bette Nesmith Graham, mother of Monkees star Michael Nesmith, is the woman inventor credited with discovering one of the most widely used office products of the 20th and 21st centuries.
In the early 1950s, Graham and her fellow secretaries at the Texas Bank and Trust were having difficulty correcting mistakes on the new IBM typewriters. They often had to retype entire pages because of one small error. When Graham observed holiday window painters simply brushing over their mistakes with a fresh coat of paint, she mimicked their technique by using a white, water-based tempera paint to cover her typing errors.
“Liquid Paper” was an instant success. By 1967 its sales exceeded one million units per year, making Graham one of the most financially successful female inventors in history.
Although better known as an actress, Austrian Hedy Lammar (born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler) was also an influential female inventor.
Hoping to help combat the Nazis in World War II, Lamar and co-inventor George Anthiel developed a “Secret Communications System” that manipulated radio frequencies at irregular intervals between transmission and reception. The resulting unbreakable code prevented classified messages from being intercepted. The “spread spectrum” technology that Lammar helped to invent influenced the digital communications boom, forming the technical backbone that makes possible cellular phones, fax machines and other wireless operations.
Despite receiving very little recognition at the time, Lammar recently has been showered with such prestigious accolades as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award and the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, making her one of the most decorated women inventors of the past century.
Famous women inventors had many opportunities to shine with the invention of the automobile. One of those was Mary Anderson who invented a swinging arm-like device with a rubber blade that could be operated from the inside of the car to clean the windshield. Her invention was the first windshield wiper. By 1916, thirteen years after she received her patent, just about all new American cars were equipped with windshield wipers.
In the era that launched the development of penicillin post WWII most scientists were men. Today, little by little female scientists are growing and contributing to some of the most significant new inventions in medicine. But, Gladys Hobby, Elizabeth McCoy, Dorothy Fennel, Dorothy Hodgkin and Margaret Hutchinson were all women who contributed greatly to the discovery a penicillin, then considered one of most critical scientific endeavors. This group of women, while they can't claim inventing the drug, played a critical role.
Penicillin was considered the first germ-killer that didn't kill someone who took it. Hobby, a microbiologist at Columbia University that was encouraged by work already done on penicillin, began purifying a previous prototype. She and a partner became the first people to treat a patient with penicillin and cured that person within six months. McCoy's later research led to a way to produce the drug in large quantities, while Hutchinson worked on constructing the first production plant. Hodgkin was able to determine the molecular structure of penicillin, which enabled its synthetic production. In 1964, she became the third women to receive the Nobel Prize for her analysis of penicillin, which also led to the development of vitamin B12. As with many inventions, especially newer scientific ones, a single person cannot claim the credit. For that reason, in certain cases, numerous inventors can be named on a single patent.
Kenneth Dunkley earned a significant place in the history of black inventors by creating Three Dimensional Viewing Glasses (3-DVG). This patented invention displays 3-D effects from regular 2-D photos without any type of lenses, mirrors or optical elements.
By studying human vision, Dunkley discovered that blocking two points in a person's peripheral vision will cause an ordinary picture to appear 3-Dimensional. His 3-DVG was developed to block out these points.
Dunkley now conducts visual effects workshops at the Museum of Scientific Discovery in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This noted African American inventor is also a leader in the field of holography.
When kid inventor Frank Epperson was 11 years old, he accidentally left his juice and stirrer outside on a cold night. The next morning, his juice was frozen solid. Epperson named the frozen juice creation the Epsicle. Later, his kids convinced him to change the name of his invention to popsicle. This popular treat is now a summer favorite for kids everywhere.
Inventing a product or process that people need and want is a tough assignment. If you've got a mind for invention but don't know exactly what to invent, look first within your area of expertise. That's what many of our most famous inventors have done.
– Harry Houdini, of course, was a master magician who often placed himself under water for his escape acts. He used his knowledge of the constraints of being submerged to invent an improved diving suit that increased diver safety.
- John Deere was a gifted blacksmith who serviced the equipment of the many farmers in his region. After seeing how farmers had so much trouble turning over their soil, he invented the steel plow.
- Levi Strauss was an apparel manufacturer in Bavaria, who upon coming to the United States decided to create comfortable, yet durable pants for miners, lumberjacks and cowboys. These pants became the blue jeans we still wear today.
The number of patents in existence when Charles Kettering invented his refrigerating apparatus was well over one million. In 1932, he received a patent that would forever change how we live. Of course, the idea of protecting food by keeping it cold longer had been around a while. Even ancient cultures devised ways to do it and, on the farm, spring houses were common--separate structures with cold water running through the floor that kept milk and other items from perishing. Ice boxes were also used in England prior to Kettering's patent. And, gas-compressing refrigerators were on the US market in the 1920s. So why is Kettering, a man from Dayton, Ohio, credited with his 'apparatus?'
For one thing, toxic gases were leaking from US products and were even proving fatal in some cases. Kettering was an employee working for Frigidaire Corporation charged with finding a way to make refrigerators safer. His patent actually covers a way to make a commercially successful way to use a new gas called Freon. It quickly became a new standard and--even though it's since been proven to cause damage to the ozone layer--is still widely used today. Kettering is now a famous name in itself and is recognized as an inventor extrordinaire. It turns out Charles was a man with many ideas and is credited with various other new inventions in a variety of fields of study. The famous Sloan-Kettering cancer center is named for Charles Kettering of Dayton, Ohio.
Ask anyone who invented the car and they will most likely respond, Henry Ford. Well, Henry Ford invented the first car with a combustion engine, but the first car, which was made with a steam engine, was developed by Richard Dudgeon.
What made Henry Ford's car memorable, was that it was much cheaper to produce, making it affordable for many Americans. Henry Ford's car, the Model T, made it possible for almost every household to own a car, allowing families and friends to visit those living farther away, and for people to drive to work.
But the invention behind the invention that was even more radical was the process Ford developed to manufacture his cars – the conveyor belt-based assembly line. This new process with its subdivision of labor allowed Ford to make a new car in just 93 minutes. This industrial revolution invention allowed him to shorten his workers hours and nearly double their wages.
Mary Quant's contributions to Britain's balance of trade prior to the 1960s was considered so worthy, it earned her the Order of the British Empire in 1966. She walked right into Buckingham Palace to receive the award in a mini-skirt. No one else could have gotten away with this but--even though flapper dresses had been worn by American women as early as the 1920s--Quant was able to take the short version of a skirt or dress into the world with an entrepreneurial whirlwind not known to date.
She was born in 1934 and attended the Goldsmith College of Art. She opened a shop, the Bazaar in Chelsea in 1955 and soon she and her husband-to-be were employing mass production methods of dangerously short skirts mostly popular among a small set of Londoners. But once the mini hit the streets of America, it became a topic of controversy and an immensely popular wearable item. Some girls were kicked out of school if they kneeled and their dress didn't hit the floor. Later the debate over the miniskirt faded and major sellers like JC Penney were carrying Quant's lines.
Before the end of the century women would make major strides in deciding their own fashion fates but not before a similar debate flared over women wearing trousers! Quant's story offers a major lesson for those who strive to invent: Without a flair for reaching the public en mass, most new ideas fade away.
As a Peace Corps nurse during the 1960s in Togo, West Africa, Ann Moore observed African mothers carry their babies in fabric slings tied securely on their backs. Moore noticed that the babies seemed calm because they felt secure and near to their mothers.
When Moore returned to the United States and had her own child, she wanted to carry her baby in the same manner. She and her mother started with a simple backpack and then refined it to their needs. Together, the two women inventors came up with the original soft baby carrier, the Snugli®.
Stephanie Kwolek, one of the first women inventors to work as a research chemist, gained national recognition in 1960 for her study of long molecule chains at low temperatures.
In 1971, Kwolek's further analysis resulted in the creation of Kevlar®, a synthetic material that is five times as strong as steel. Kevlar is resistant to wear, corrosion and flames, and it is the main ingredient in the production of bulletproof vests.
Kwolek owns 17 U.S. patents and has received a variety of prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Technology and the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award.
There's a famous saying by Plato, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Well here is a list of inventions by mothers in need of answers to some practical childcare problems:
- Ann Moore invented the Snugli in 1969
- Ruth Handler created the Barbie Doll in 1959
- Sarah Neal invented the folding crib in 1894
- Adeline Whitney invented alphabet blocks in 1882
Inspiration for inventions can come from many sources, but it stands to reason that great ideas are to be found from just recognizing what would improve our own daily lives.
If you've done much travelling you might have noticed that Ohio's license plate reads "Birthplace of Aviation," while North Carolina's reads "First in Flight." So which is true? Can both states claim such an important part of American invention history? Actually they can. The Wright Brothers lived and worked in Dayton, Ohio conducting most of their flying experiments there. But, what is now known as the first flight actually took place in Kittyhawk, North Carolina fueled by the area's strong winds.
Many people who lived before the Wrights contributed to the birth of flight, but it was the Wright Brothers (Orville and Wilbur) who focused a concentrated effort on controlling flight. Before their famous first flight in 1903, the Wrights were caught up in the bicycle craze and supported their flying dreams by selling, designing and repairing bikes.
At Kittyhawk, a gasoline engine powered the first flight that lasted about 12 seconds and spanned not much more than 100 feet. Thus the Brothers contributed to one of the greatest stories of inventors and inventions in this century. The Wright Brothers were famous for keeping their new invention a secret and that angered the press at times. Other legal and business problems did follow and eventually Orville sold his airplane company and returned to what he loved best: Inventing.
Dr. Charles Richard Drew has an honorable place among famous black inventors as the person who invented the modern blood bank. He discovered that by when red blood cells and plasma are separated, blood can be stored for long periods of time. He used this knowledge to establish blood banks and the Red Cross, where he served as the first director.
After the US War Department announced that the blood of white donors and black donors shouldn't be mixed, Drew stepped down from his position at the Red Cross in protest. He maintained that race did not affect the properties of blood.
Dr. Philip Emeagwali, often called the “Bill Gates of Africa,” was born in Nigeria in 1957. He escaped his war-torn, poverty-ridden homeland and became one of the most famous black inventors by studying hard and receiving a scholarship to Oregon State University at the age of 17.
After completing his undergraduate work in mathematics, Dr. Emeagwali went on to earn a Ph.D. in Scientific Computing from the University of Michigan, as well as two Masters degrees from George Washington University.
In 1989, Dr. Emeagwali used 65,000 processors to create the world's fastest computer. The computer performs computations at 3.1 billion calculations per second. Currently, Dr. Emeagwali's computers are being used to forecast the weather and to predict the likelihood and effects of future global warming.
Sarah Goode earned a prominent place among famous black inventors and famous women inventors by being the first black woman to own a patent in the United States. In 1885 she patented a folding cabinet bed.
Goode was one of the many African Americans to be freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War. She moved to Chicago and opened a furniture store. Her cabinet bed invention was designed with small Chicago apartments in mind.
Tired of wearing the whalebone- and steel-rod corsets that were popular in the early part of the 20th century, New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob determined to find a more comfortable alternative. The unlikely woman inventor took two silk handkerchiefs and, with help from her maid, sewed them together using pink ribbon and cord. The resulting undergarment was soft and light, and it conformed to the wearer's anatomy far more naturally than the traditional corsets.
Jacob's design, which she named “Caresse Crosby,” was the first brassiere to enjoy widespread use, and it catapulted her into the ranks of the famous female inventors. The brassiere's popularity did not peak until long after Jacob sold her patent, but her discovery made life more comfortable and more convenient for millions of grateful women.
Kid inventor Philo T. Farnsworth was only 14 years old when he came up with the idea for the television. Although his parents hoped that he would become a concert violinist, Farnsworth's interests lay in electronics and science. Before he invented the television, he outfitted his family with their first mechanical washing machine and sewing machine, and set up electric lights in the barn.
Farnsworth was born in 1906 in Utah, but lived on a farm in Rigby, Idaho, when he came up with the idea for television. He credits his high school chemistry teacher, Justin Tolman, for encouragment and special lessons that helped him develop his ideas.
Although Farnsworth developed his first working television at the age of 21, this kid inventor wasn't recognized as the father of television until many years later. He spent much of his life in a battle for patent rights with the giant corporation RCA. Early court decisions were for Farnsworth, but as he began to lose money and patents neared expiration, RCA won out.
Now Farnsworth is recognized as the inventor of television, a title he showed ambivalence towards in his later years. His invention may have become one of the most popular devices of modern life, but Farnsworth was disappointed at how it was used to waste time.
Some famous women inventors, like Marion Donovan, drew inspiration from the everyday trials of motherhood. As a single mother of two in post-World War II Connecticut, Donovan quickly become frustrated by the thankless, repetitive task of changing her youngest child's soiled cloth diapers, bed sheets and clothing. The resourceful female inventor sat down at her sewing machine with a shower curtain and created a waterproof diaper cover.
Her invention was far superior to the uncomfortable, rash-inducing rubber baby pants that were already on the market. Her next project was a fully disposable diaper, for which she had to fashion a special type of paper that was not only strong and absorbent, but also kept water away from the babies skin.
Surprisingly, nearly every large manufacturer in the country rejected her idea as superfluous and impractical. It was not until nearly a decade later, in 1961, that Victor Mills drew upon Donovan's vision to create Pampers®.
African American inventor John Thompson created the scripting language Lingo while working as a chief scientist for Macromedia™.
Lingo is a scripting language that helps render visuals in computer programs like Macromedia™ Director. Additionally, Lingo has also been used to create flash and shockwave programs that are now prevalent in video games, Web design, animation and graphics.
The knowledge and experience you have within your field will be a definite asset to you as you work to invent the next great product. You will be better able to identify needs, work with known materials, and you might even already have contacts who can help you market, finance and look for partners.
At the age of seven, Grace Murray Hopper dismantled all of the alarm clocks in her parents' house just to figure out how they worked. This intellectual curiosity led her to a masters and Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University, and eventually earned her a place among the most important women inventors of the 20th century.
During World War II, Hopper joined the Navy. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project at Harvard University, where she became the third person to program the Harvard Mark I computer.
Following the war, Hopper worked as a programmer for Remington Rand. She was a major contributor to the first large-scale commercial computer – UNIVAC. Following this, she oversaw the company's endeavor to produce specifications for a common business language. From 1959-1961, Hopper led the team that developed COBOL, the first user-friendly business computer software program.
A decorated woman inventor, Dr. Hopper received numerous accolades for her efforts, including the prestigious National Medal of Technology.
One of the inventors and inventions that often goes overlooked when listing famous new ideas is one created by Dayton, Ohio resident, Philip Haas. Everyone cringes when they hear how people in history had to relieve themselves: either in a chamber pot indoors that was emptied by a servant or a smelly, cold outhouse separated from one's living quarters. In 1914, Haas filed patent number 1,107,515 for the "Detachable Flush-Rum Fixture." The flush toilet actually reached its infancy in the late 1700s when an Englishman invented a way to avoid odors by trapping water in a section of pipe. A valve was used to 'flush' waste down. Then, in the mid-1880s, an English plumber made improvements toward advancing indoor toilet technology. Believe it or not, his name was Thomas Crapper!
There are actually hundreds of toilet inventions that were eventually developed in the U.S. in the early 20th century. Being from Dayton, Ohio, Haas had plenty of company by others who sought to develop a new invention. The Wright Brothers, credited with inventing powered flight were from Dayton as was Charles Kettering, credited with inventing the automatic car starter among many other things.
Did you know that not every new invention has to be an object? Most people, including inventors often think in terms of inventing a thing. But developing a new process, a specific way of doing something, can be an invaluable invention in and of itself.
Henry Ford's invention of the assembly line was an equally important innovation as his Model T. It changed forever the way manufacturing works. So remember, just because invention is a noun doesn't mean yours can't be a verb.
The 1960s were about a lot more than just peace and love. It was a time of tremendous innovation that benefited all mankind. Consumer goods of all types, science, and technology all made advancements that affected the quality of our lives tremendously. Against the backdrop of civil rights, the space race, and the birth of the environmental movement, innovation flourished at a rapid pace. Here are some 1960s inventions of note:
- The development of the integrated circuit marked the beginning of the computer age, leading to the establishment of hundreds of computer hardware companies including Apple, Dell and Compaq.
- Permanent press fabric would permanently change the lives of housewives around the world.
- The ATM machine was designed allowing bank customers to conduct transactions from any other ATM machine in the world.
- The lava light was invented and became a symbol of the psychedelic age.
- The first automatic analog cellular phone was made, although the first commercial models weren't introduced until 1979.
- The first residential smoke alarm was designed, saving the lives of countless people over the years.
As chemist and female inventor Patsy Sherman can attest, invention is often triggered by an unexpected event.
While she and her colleague, Sam Smith, were working in the lab one day in 1953, an assistant dropped a bottle of synthetic latex that Sherman had made. The contents splashed onto the assistant's white canvas tennis shoes. The two chemists were fascinated to find that while the substance did not change the look of the shoes, it could not be washed away by any solvents. It also repelled water, oil and other liquids.
Sherman and Smith's joint research over the next few years led to the development of Scotchgard™, a versatile fabric stain repellent and material protector. Together, Patsy Sherman and Sam Smith obtained 13 patents related to fluorochemical polymers and polymerization processes.
Sherman was elected to the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame in 1983, and retired as one of the most famous female inventors of the 20th century.
Woman inventor Giuliana Tesoro obtained over 125 patents in the field of fiber and textile chemistry. With a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Yale, Tesoro developed processes to prevent static accumulation in synthetic fibers, designed flame-resistant fibers, pioneered improved permanent press properties for textiles and discovered ways to make new manufacturing projects run at peak operation and efficiency.
Dr. Tesoro's innovative genius made her the most prolific of all women inventors.
Kid inventor Chestor Greenwood didn't let dropping out of grammar school keep him from pursuing his invention ideas. When he was fifteen years old, he came up with the idea for earmuffs. His grandmother sewed the first pair with wire hoops and fur. He called his invention "Greenwood's Champion Ear Protectors."
The ear protectors made Greenwood rich during Word War I and remain the most famous of Greenwood's many patented inventions.
If you glance at any list of inventors and inventions, you will notice that only a handful of inventors are household names – Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Johannes Gutenberg, to name a few. There's nothing wrong with wanting to toot your own horn. Making a name for yourself and your new product is sound public relations practice. Send a press release out to your local newspaper, as well as to trade magazines from your industry.
If you're looking for new invention ideas, try taking a walk around your house, looking at all the gadgets, tools and even design objects that we use almost every day. How often have you had difficulty using one? Chances are, if you have an idea that will make using a tool better for you, it will also be better for lots of others too.
Throughout history, inventions have been developed that have profoundly impacted the course of mankind. Movable type, invented by Johann Gutenberg, and the discovery of penicillin are two notable examples.
But don't think your invention ideas have to be earth shattering to be worthwhile. Think about the little things…everyday objects that have made our lives easier? Take the package saver. What would life be like without that small circular piece that keeps the pizza from hitting the top of the box? Patented in 1985 by Carmela Vitale, the package saver will never bring about a new renaissance, but boy are we grateful.
And then there is post-its. 3M could not find a use for its repositionable adhesive until years later, a new 3M product development researcher named Art Fry, frustrated by the way his paper bookmarks would always fall out of his books, gave the product its current form.
These small and very practical innovations were not only good ideas, but had marketability – a necessary product characteristic for obtaining an attractive return on investment.
The thirst for knowledge and drive to innovate runs well beyond race and gender. The black inventor, throughout history, has made significant contributions to many fields, including commerce, science and medicine.
- The first African American to receive a patent was Thomas L. Jennings who invented a method for dry cleaning clothes in 1821. The money he earned from his patent allowed him to liberate his family out of slavery.
- The first African American woman to receive a patent was Sarah E. Goode in 1885 for her folding cabinet bed. She owned a furniture store in Chicago and recognized the need for people to save space in urban living.
- In 1969, Marie Brown patented the first video home security system.
- Phil Brooks invented the disposable syringe in the 1970s, a major medical improvement.
- David Crosthwait held 34 U.S. patents and 80 foreign patents. Among his innovations was the heating system he designed for New York's Rockefeller Center.
Known as the wizard of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison is one of the world's most famous inventors of all time. Yet he had to struggle to overcome many difficulties, problems and expectations along the way.
One of the greatest lessons his life can teach any scientist or inventor is to believe in yourself despite what others think or believe. As a young man, he was often ridiculed for his ideas because they were just too radical for others to envision. Yet he was only 30 years old when he invented the phonograph, becoming the first to record the human voice.
He experienced many failures along the way – injury and disappointing experiments - but continued to strive to be the best he could be, becoming the inventor of the light bulb, motion picture camera and many more tools and devices.
His motto, “Have faith and go forward” is a testament to his perseverance.
Along with the desire to make a significant contribution to society, deep down, most inventors would also like to be known for having made that contribution.
One of the best ways to gain fame for your invention is to name it after yourself like these inventors did:
- Louis Braille inventing Braille printing
- Rudolf Diesel invented the diesel-fueled internal combustion engine
- Virginia Apgar invented the Apgar scoring system for assessing the health of newborn babies
The next time you put a key in the ignition of your car, turn it and hear the hum of your engine starting, you can thank Nikolaus, August Otto, of Deutz-on-the-Rhine, Germany. His patent number, 365,701 was earned for his invention of a way to ignite gas/motor engines by compressing the charge before ignition happens. His new idea served as a prototype of the combustion engine, which is likely a more well known invention.
Believe it or not, Otto was a traveling salesman before he was compelled to improve engine design. His patent was received in 1887 and named it the Otto-Cycle Engine. Of course, car history to date is full of patents, probably too many to even count. But, the Otto-Cycle Engine--even though significant improvements have been made to it--remain a guide for engines still made today. While Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz both made progress on developing engines based on internal combustion, Otto's was the first commercially successful four-stroke engine. That's why it remains a prototype for engine development to this day.
We all know the story: Alexander Graham Bell of Salem, Mass. spoke into his new invention addressing his partner, Thomas Watson in another room. Watson was able to clearly hear the famous words, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!" This is now widely regarded as the first telephone call. But did you know that Bell was only 29 years old when he received his patent on March 7th, 1876? Or that sound had been a constant interest of Bell, partly due to the fact that his mother was almost completely deaf?
When Bell established Bell Telephone Company just a year later, the telegraph system was ended and a new era had been launched. Because Bell already understood much about the pitches of the human voice--his father was involved in speech pathology--he believed that transmitting instruments with varying rates of vibration could be used to make and break an electric circuit allowing a fluid current over a wire that carried sound.
However, it's a good thing that Bell met Watson as he already had experience helping others perfect new inventions. Later Bell developed a way to transmit sound on a beam of light, a jump start to what is now called fiber optics. But, he was unable to solve the issue of interruptions that occurred so these principals did not fully develop in our society until much later in history. Bell's patent number is 174,465 and his patent application included detailed drawings of his new invention.
There are many inventions are not wholly new, but are improvements to existing products. As a matter of fact, many new inventions are not even attributable to a single moment or inventor, but to a succession of advancements made independently or in teams that lead to a product. Then as further advancements are made, the product is improved. This time line of development is at the root of the television invention, as well as the invention of the motorcycle, phone, and radio, among countless others.
Events that can be attributed towards the television invention actually began in 1831 when Joseph Henry and Michael Faraday work with electromagnetism brought about the beginning of electronic communication. Yet it wasn't until 1927 that Philo Farnsworth filed for a patent on the first complete electronic television system. And new innovations are still taking place today.
So next time you feel you need to think something up from scratch, think again. Build a better mousetrap instead.