During this time of appreciation, we say thank you to inventors, so many of whom have made our lives better and richer. Inventors make modern society the abundance we increasingly experience. Mass communication inventions—e.g. printing presses, telegraphs, telephones, televisions, the Internet, wireless data and voice communications, social media, etc.—allow people to share knowledge and work collaboratively. Modern inventions of refrigeration and large scale transportation, as well as, the ability to farm extremely large areas productively are possible because of the machines, chemicals and processes developed by inventors. Since the invention of artificial light, humans have enjoyed extended hours of interaction and production beyond the time afforded by natural daylight alone.
Inventors have extended human life in many ways. Today, life expectancies are entering the 80s for a growing number of countries, thanks to medical science and improved nutrition. Technologies such as medical imaging, endoscopic surgery, functional monitoring, as well as a vast array of medicines and related materials have been developed and manufactured by Inventors. As inventors develop new technologies in these areas, life expectancies may well exceed 100 years for people born today.
The past two hundred years have been especially bettered because of the world’s inventors. Inventors have driven our economy by creating new jobs and companies. Inventors are the creators of global prosperity and their efforts bear fruits with each passing day.
Some of the greatest names Westinghouse (air brake), Ford (car), Gillette (razor), Hewlett-Packard (oscillation generator), Otis (elevator), Harley (motorcycle shock absorber), Colt (revolving gun), Goodrich (tires), Goodyear (synthetic rubber), Carrier (air treatment), Noyce (Intel), Carlson (Xerox), Eastman (laser printer camera), Land (Polaroid), Shockley (semiconductor), Kellogg (grain harvester), DuPont (gun powder), Nobel (explosives), the Wright brothers (aircraft), Owens (glass), Steinway (pianos), Bessemer (steel), Jacuzzi (hot tub), Smith & Wesson (firearm), Burroughs (calculator), Houdry (catalytic cracker), Marconi (wireless communication), Goodard (rocket), Diesel (internal combustion engine), Fermi (neutronic reactor), Disney (animation), Sperry (Gyroscope), Williams (helicopter), even Abraham Lincoln who was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,469.
Over the centuries, there have been a few who are especially recognized. Here we reference Da Vinci, Edison, Lamarr, and Jobs. Although others are of equal import, let’s take a minute and recognize these amazing individuals.
Leonardo da Vinci – The Original Renaissance Man
Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian Renaissance polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of paleontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.
Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination,” and he is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived.
During his lifetime, Leonardo was valued as an engineer. In 1502, Leonardo produced a drawing of a single span 720-foot (220 m) bridge as part of a civil engineering project for Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II of Constantinople. The bridge was intended to span an inlet at the mouth of the Bosporus known as the Golden Horn. Leonardo’s vision was resurrected in 2001 when a smaller bridge based on his design was constructed in Norway. Leonardo was fascinated by the phenomenon of flight for much of his life, producing many studies, including Codex on the Flight of Birds (c. 1505), as well as plans for several flying machines such as a flapping ornithopter and a machine with a helical rotor.
The following YouTube video highlights some of his greatest works:
Thomas Alva Edison – The Wizard of Menlo Park
Thomas Alva Edison has been described as America’s greatest inventor. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. Dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” he was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention, and because of that, he is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.
Holding 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, yet the more significant than the number of Edison’s patents was the widespread impact of his inventions: electric light and power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures all established major new industries worldwide. Edison’s inventions contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications.
Watch the following YouTube video to appreciate his many contributions to our lives today:
Hedy Lamarr – The Most Beautiful Inventor in America
Hedy Lamarr (1914 – 2000) was an Austrian-born American film actress and inventor. At the beginning of World War II, Lamarr and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Although the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of their work are incorporated into Bluetooth technology, and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of CDMA and Wi-Fi. This work led to their induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
And, she was dubbed the Most Beautiful Woman in Hollywood for her time. There, she met MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who offered her a movie contract, where she became a film star from the late 1930s to the 1950s. Lamarr appeared in numerous popular feature films, including Algiers (1938), I Take This Woman (1940), Comrade X (1940), Come Live With Me (1941), H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941), and Samson and Delilah (1949).
During World War II, Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes, which could be important in the naval war, could easily be jammed, thereby causing the torpedo to go off course. With the knowledge she had gained about torpedoes from her first husband, she thought of creating a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed. She contacted her friend, composer and pianist George Antheil, to help her develop a device for doing that, and he succeeded by synchronizing a miniaturized player-piano mechanism with radio signals. They drafted designs for the frequency-hopping system, which they patented. Antheil recalled: We began talking about the war, which, in the late summer of 1940, was looking most extremely black. Hedy said that she did not feel very comfortable, sitting there in Hollywood and making lots of money when things were in such a state.
She said that she knew a good deal about munitions and various secret weapons … and that she was thinking seriously of quitting M.G.M. and going to Washington, D.C., to offer her services to the newly established Inventors’ Council. Their invention was granted a patent on August 11, 1942 (filed using her married name Hedy Kiesler Markey).
Here is a YouTube video highlight Lamarr’s inventive and creative life:
Steve Jobs – The iGenius of Apple
Steven Paul Jobs (1955 – 2011), business magnate, inventor, and industrial designer, was the chairman, chief executive officer (CEO), and co-founder of Apple Inc.; CEO and majority shareholder of Pixar; a member of The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar; and the founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT. Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are widely recognized as pioneers of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.
Jobs and Wozniak co-founded Apple in 1976 to sell Wozniak’s Apple I personal computer. The visionaries gained fame and wealth a year later for the Apple II, one of the first highly successful mass-produced personal computers. In 1979, after a tour of PARC, Jobs saw the commercial potential of the Xerox Alto, which was mouse-driven and had a graphical user interface (GUI). This led to development of the unsuccessful Apple Lisa in 1983, followed by the breakthrough Macintosh in 1984. In addition to being the first mass-produced computer with a GUI, the Macintosh introduced the sudden rise of the desktop publishing industry in 1985 with the addition of the Apple LaserWriter, the first laser printer to feature vector graphics.
Beginning in 1997 with the “Think different” advertising campaign, Jobs worked closely with designer Jonathan Ive to develop a line of products that would have larger cultural ramifications: the iMac, iTunes and iTunes Store, Apple Store, iPod, iPhone, App Store, and the iPad. In 2001, the original Mac OS was replaced with a completely new Mac OS X, based on NeXT’s NeXTSTEP platform, giving the OS a modern Unix-based foundation for the first time.
He has 43 issued US patents on inventions. The patent on the Mac OS X Dock user interface with “magnification” feature was issued the day before he died. Although Jobs had little involvement in the engineering and technical side of the original Apple computers, Jobs later used his CEO position to directly involve himself with product design. Since his death, the former Apple CEO has won 141 patents, more than most inventors win during their lifetimes. Currently, Jobs holds over 450 patents.
This video highlights the inventive career of Steve Jobs:
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