Thursday, May 09, 2013

What Have You Invented Lately? It’s National Inventors Month!

A shield to protect the face during snow storms. (Canada, 1939)
Interesting Strange Inventions of the Past

Many inventors were people who seemed to be unlikely prospects: they were women, they were African-American, they were too young/old, their profession was something else, etc. But inventors create inventions where they see a need.

  • Gary Burghoff (M*A*S*H*’S “Radar”) developed a device that attracts fish toward a boat.
  • Philo Farnsworth (age 14) had the first idea for the television set, or “image dissector.”
  • Benjamin Franklin (age 83) invented bifocals.
  • Hedy Lamarr (1940’s screen actress), co-invented a “secret communication system” that is a basis for today’s “frequency-hopping spread spectrum” method of transmitting radio signals.
  • Chelsea Lanmon (age 5) invented a diaper that contains a wipe and a powder puff.
  • Stephanie Kwolek (chemist with DuPont) discovered Kevlar, the fiber used in bullet-proof vests.
  • Abraham Lincoln patented a process in 1849, “Buoying Vessels Over Shoals,” which was lifting a boat over sand bars or through shallow water without losing cargo.
  • Elijah McCoy (African -American) had 50 patents involving lubrication systems for steam engines.
  • Garrett Morgan (African-American) invented a type of breathing device and a traffic signal.
  • Marjorie Stewart Joyner (African-American) invented a “permanent-waving machine” for “Madam C. J.” Sarah Breedlove Walker, who created a business empire manufacturing and selling African-American hair care and beauty products.

If you have an idea for an invention, don’t let anything discourage you! The Government Documents Department is a Patent and Trademark Resource Center as well, containing information relating to patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

“If it’s a good idea… go ahead and do it. It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.” – Grace M. Hopper, inventor of the COBOL computer language

Submitted by Michelle Andrews
Government Documents Department
Central Library

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