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Inventor Monday: Wallace Hume Carothers

Inventor Monday

Some scientists and inventors are household names—such as Edison and Graham Bell.  However, there are plenty of brilliant inventors that are not well known, despite developing critical things we use every day. Wallace Hume Carothers is such a man. Carothers was a brilliant inventor and scholar who held more than fifty patents. He is considered to be the father of the science of man-made polymers and is the man behind the invention of nylon and neoprene. So, let’s find out a little bit more about him.

Carothers was born on April 27, 1896 in Iowa, and showed an early fascination with mechanical devices. When he began his college life in 1915, he got involved in chemistry when the head of the department saw how bright he was. In fact, Carothers excelled so well in chemistry that, before graduation, he was made a chemistry instructor and then promoted to head of the chemistry department. He proceeded to the University of Illinois, where he earned both a Master’s degree and PhD before becoming a professor at Harvard in 1924.

As a young instructor at Harvard, he focused his research in polymers. As luck would have it, the DuPont chemical company was also interested in polymer research and opened a research laboratory for the development of artificial materials. They heard about Carothers, who had just won a prestigious chemist award, and recruited him for the fundamental research program they were organizing. His first assignment was to investigate the chemistry of an acetylene polymer that might lead to a synthetic rubber. At the time, no one knew anything about polymer molecules, so Carothers’ team was really breaking new ground.

In 1930, Carothers’s team invented a new product called “neoprene”, which was chemically similar to natural rubber, but superior in many ways. It became the first commercially successful specialty rubber, and was a big success for both DuPont and Carothers’ team. But, Carothers was just getting started. The research team then turned their efforts towards a synthetic fiber that could replace silk. Japan was the United States’ main source of silk, and as war clouds gathered between the two countries, DuPont saw a need for a synthetic silk and gave Carothers the job of discovering a substitute.

The early compounds were problematic: they melted easily and dissolved in dry-cleaning solvents. After many failed attempts, Carothers had an epiphany and scrapped everything they were doing in favor of using amines rather than glycols to produce polyamides rather than polyesters, which Carothers saw as more stable than the polyesters they had been producing. Sure enough, the new avenue of research paid off, and soon the team created an exceptional polyamide fiber, which they dubbed “nylon.”

Nylon became the first synthetic polymer fiber to be produced commercially, and it revolutionized the textile industry. DuPont introduced “Nylon, the miracle fiber” to the world with a giant display of nylon stockings at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. With the onset of World War II, nylon was used to make parachutes and other things, and as the GIs came home, sales to civilian consumers skyrocketed. Unfortunately, Wallace Carothers died soon after he invented nylon, so he never got to see what a tremendous worldwide success his work produced. But we know, and now we also know a little more about this brilliant inventor.

 

 

SOURCES

 

 

http://inventors.about.com/od/nstartinventions/a/nylon.htm

http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/online-resources/chemistry-in-history/themes/petrochemistry-and-synthetic-polymers/synthetic-polymers/carothers.aspx

http://www.nndb.com/people/670/000117319/

http://www.csupomona.edu/~nova/scientists/articles/caro.html

Photos:

http://invention.smithsonian.org/centerpieces/whole_cloth/u7sf/u7images/sf_banner.jpg

http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/online-resources/chemistry-in-history/themes/petrochemistry-and-synthetic-polymers/synthetic-polymers/carothers.aspx

 

African American Inventors: George Washington Carver

Inventor Stories

When most people hear the name George Washington Carver, they immediately think, “Oh, he was that famous African-American inventor.” But, the truth is, he was a famous American inventor whose ideas changed society much like Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford. Though renowned for developing innovative uses for a variety of agricultural crops such as peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, Carver accomplished much more in his life. He was Iowa State University’s first African American student, and was a skillful musician, artist, and orator. He went on to invent hundreds of products from plants and is credited with changing the South’s agricultural economy from completely cotton and tobacco dependent to a multiple-crop producer. He received numerous honors for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP; he was inducted into the Royal Society of Arts in London; and had a national monument dedicated to him by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. So, let’s take a look at the man who not only broke racial barriers, but was a great American inventor as well.

George Washington Carver was born on his uncle’s farm in Missouri in 1864. His very early life was traumatic: his father died before he was born, and he and his mother were kidnapped by Confederate night-raiders when he was just a baby. When the Civil War ended, his uncle found him and brought him back to the farm, though Carver’s mother was never found. Carver’s uncle and aunt raised him and his brother from that point forward. When he was about twelve years old, Carver decided he wanted to attend school. Unfortunately, because of segregation, there were no schools that accepted black students close to the farm, so he had to leave his aunt and uncle’s home and travel to southwest Missouri to find a school he could attend. There, he studied diligently, worked as a farm hand to support himself, and went on to attend high school in Minneapolis, Kansas.

Carver had applied to many colleges for years, but was rejected because of racial barriers. While he waited to be accepted, he used his cultivation skills to start a small conservatory of plants and flowers. It was his love of plants and flowers that would guide him the rest of his life. Carver finally gained acceptance to a small art college when he was in his late twenties. Since the school had no science classes, Carver had to study piano. But, soon after that, in 1891, he was able to transfer to Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) to study botany—and he became the first African American student ever admitted to the college. He received both a BS and a Master’s degree in agriculture from Iowa State, and because of his proficiency in plant breeding, Carver was appointed to the faculty, becoming Iowa State’s first African American faculty member as well.

While attending his graduate classes and teaching undergrads, Carver was also becoming an expert in plant and fungus pathology. He published several articles on his work, which earned him respect throughout the nation. In 1896, he completed his master’s degree and was invited by Booker T. Washington to join the faculty of Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute as the Director of Agriculture. It was at Tuskegee that Carver developed his crop rotation method, a method to alternate the planting of soil-depleting crops, like cotton, with soil-enriching crops, such as peanuts, peas, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and pecans.

Through Carver’s rotation system, crops flourished—especially peanuts, sweet potatoes, and pecans. This led him to develop many alternate uses for these plants, although the popular story of him inventing peanut butter is actually not true. Here are a few of the innovative things he did create from these crops: adhesives, axle grease, fuel briquettes (think biofuel), ink, linoleum, metal polish, paper, plastic, shaving cream, shoe polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder, and wood stain. All in all, Carver’s work resulted in the creation of over 300 products from peanuts, more than 100 products from sweet potatoes, and hundreds more from a dozen other plants native to the South. He also produced 500 different shades of dye; and, in 1927, he invented a process for producing paints and stains from soybeans.

Despite the hundreds of things he created, Carver was an extremely altruistic man and really never tried to personally benefit from his work, financially or otherwise. He only filed for three patents in his entire life, one for a cosmetic and the other two for paints. All of his other innovations he freely gave to the world through open publications. He is credited with saying: “How can I sell them (his ideas) to someone else? God gave them to me.” In 1940, Carver donated his life savings to establish the Carver Research Foundation at Tuskegee, with the mandate that it should continue his research in agriculture. Inscribed on the tombstone of this remarkably selfless man is the epitaph: “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”

 

African American Inventors: Granville Woods

Innovation, Inventor Stories

We could think of no better way to celebrate Black History Month than to feature African American inventors, such as Granville Woods, who changed history, and without whom our lives would be drastically different today. Many people may have never heard of Granville Woods, but he and his inventions had a profound impact on all of our lives.

A self-educated man, Woods taught himself mechanical and electrical engineering and became a successful inventor, holding more than 50 patents.  He is considered to be one of the ten most important African American inventors of all time, and was so prolific that he has often been compared to Thomas Edison. Probably his best known invention was a telegraph that allowed messages to be communicated from a moving train to a train station, allowing train engineers and station masters to know how close a train was to another, which greatly reduced accidents and collisions between trains.

Woods was born in 1856 in Columbus, Ohio and attended school until he was about 10 years old.  Forced to quit school so he could get a job, he became an apprentice in a machine shop and learned the trades of machinist and blacksmith while repairing railroad equipment and machinery. He developed a fascination for the electricity that powered the machinery, and spent the next few years learning everything he could about electrical engines and all of the other machinery used in railroads.  He also took as many night school courses in mechanics as he could afford, and would encourage his fellow workers to teach him everything they knew. Ultimately, this love of railroad and electrical engines would lead to him to creating a variety of inventions relating to the railroad industry.

One of his first inventions was a device which essentially was a combination of a telephone and a telegraph that allowed a telegraph station to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. Woods filed for a patent for his “telegraphony” in 1885 and later sold the rights to this device to Alexander Graham Bell’s company The American Bell Telephone Company.  The money he made on that deal enabled him to become a full-time inventor.

In 1887, he patented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which allowed communications between train stations and moving trains, and resulted in a huge improvement in rail safety. Surprisingly, Thomas Edison sued Woods, saying that he had created a similar telegraph first and that he was entitled to the patent for the device. The courts sided with Woods, so Edison sued him again. After losing again, the story goes that Edison decided it would be better to have Woods work for him than against him, and offered Woods a prominent position in the engineering department of the Edison Electric Light Company. Woods turned him down.

By now, Granville Woods was becoming a well-known figure in the invention world, and he began to produce a string of inventions and patents. In 1887, in addition to his Multiplex telegraph, he also filed patent applications for a train’s electromagnetic brake apparatus.  In 1888, he manufactured a system of overhead electric conducting lines for railroads, upgraded tunnel construction for electric railways, created a galvanic battery, and made more improvement to railway telegraphy. In 1889, he filed a patent for an improvement to the steam-boiler furnace and automatic safety cut-outs for electric circuits.

In 1892, Woods used his knowledge of electrical systems in creating a method of supplying electricity to a train without any exposed wires or secondary batteries.  He devised a system where the track had a third rail with iron blocks spaced every 12 feet and electricity was passed to the train as it passed over these blocks.  Ironically, when he filed a patent for this “third rail” propulsion system, Thomas Edison had beaten him to it, holding a patent on a similar system ten years earlier.  So, though their paths crisscrossed several times in throughout thier lives, both Woods and Edison had a mutual respect for each other and a mutual love of inventing.

Photo Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granville_Woods

Paul Winchell: An Amazing Inventor

Innovation, Innovative Inventions, Inventions

Davison Blog - Paul WinchellWhat if we told you that there once was this amazing man who had many talents: comedian, ventriloquist, voice actor, inventor, and humanitarian – would you believe us? OK, you’d say – that could happen. But what if we said that he was also the host of a prime-time television show, the host of a children’s show, and has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame? Would you believe us then? Maybe, you’d say – but that is pretty cool if it’s all true. Then what if we said that this guy also invented the first mechanical artificial heart that could be implanted in a person’s chest cavity? Would you still believe us? No way, you’d say – that’s just over the top.

Well, meet Paul Winchell; actor and inventor extraordinaire. Some may remember Paul Winchell from when they were small children, watching his children’s show on Saturday morning. It was fascinating. What made it so cool was that he was a ventriloquist and had two ventriloquist dummies named Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. Throughout time, many people have been fascinated by ventriloquists and their ability to make their voice seem to come from another place.

Ventriloquists have been dazzling audiences for thousands of years, but just in the time we have had radio and television, we have had such artists as Edgar Bergan, Paul Winchell, Shari Lewis and even today we laugh at Jeff Dunham and his curmudgeonly old dummy named Walter. So it’s no surprise that little kids would be fascinated by Paul Winchell and his alter egos, Jerry and Knucklehead, back in the 60′s and 70′s.

Davison Blog - Paul Winchell and TiggerYou may recognize his distinctive voice in numerous animated roles for film and television cartoons. Turns out, he was a very successful voice actor and did a lot of work for Disney and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Perhaps his best remembered role was as the voice of ‘Tigger’ in the Walt Disney movie “Winnie-the-Pooh and the Blustery Day,” which earned an Academy Award for best animated short film. He won a Grammy for the best children’s recording of the year for “Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger Too.”

His voice gave life to many other characters, including Boomer in “The Fox and the Hound,” the Siamese cat in Disney’s “Aristocats,” and many Hanna-Barbera characters, including the evil Gargamel of “The Smurfs.” Winchell provided the voices of Sam-I-Am and his friend in “Green Eggs and Ham” from the animated television special “Dr. Seuss on the Loose” in 1973. In commercials, he voiced the Scrubbing Bubbles for Dow Chemicals and Mr. Owl for Tootsie Roll Pops.

But what was probably most fascinating about Winchell was the fact that he was a very successful inventor. Over the course of his life, he held patents on over 30 devices, including a disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter, an illuminated ballpoint pen, a retractable fountain pen, an inverted novelty mask, battery-operated heated gloves, an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage, and the first artificial human heart. That’s right, the artificial heart.

This invention was developed through collaboration with Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held the first patent for such a device. Though Dr. Robert Jarvik has been referred to as “the inventor of the artificial heart,” documents from the United States Patent Office show that on February 6, 1961, Paul Winchell filed for a patent on his artificial heart. He was granted a patent (3097366) on  July 16, 1963, well before the Jarvik-7 was ever invented.

Davison Blog - Paul Winchell later yearsWinchell established more medical patents while working on projects for the Leukemia Society and the American Red Cross. Some of his other medical inventions were a portable blood plasma defroster, a piezo-electric diaphragm, and a sectional garment for hypothermia. And there’s more. He was also an entrepreneur who owned a shirt factory; and a humanitarian who proposed an idea he called “The Tilapia Project,” which would have used the production of rapidly reproducing tilapia fish as a source of protein for undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa.

We grew up thinking Tigger was all bounce and no brains; so if we told you the man who is the voice of Tigger is really a creative genius who has accomplished so many amazing things in his life, would you believe me?

We bet you would now…

 

SOURCES
http://paulwinchell.net/bio.html

http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/winchell.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/27/movies/27winc.html?_r=0

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Winchell

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0934593/bio

http://www.accuracyproject.org/cme-theartificialheart.html

PHOTO SOURCES:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f6/Paul_Winchell_Jerry_Mahoney_1951.JPG

http://rense.com/general66/paulw.htm

http://ventdj.blogspot.com/2012/03/for-paul-winchell-fans.html

Temple Grandin: Inventor, Author, Scientist, Activist

Innovative Inventions, Inventor Stories

Imagine living in a world of loneliness and isolation; where normal communication, emotions, and social interaction are extremely challenging or even impossible.

Welcome to the world of autism.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.

People with autism may exhibit a lack of or a delay in speaking, use repetitive language and/or motor mannerisms, make little or no eye contact, have a lack of interest in peer relationships, and have persistent fixation on parts of objects. To many people, being autistic is like a life-long jail sentence of isolation. “Once autistic, always autistic” was the attitude taken by many people, including the medical community. The idea that there was nothing that could be done to make their lives better and more productive has meant sad and diminished lives for many children diagnosed with autism.

So let me introduce you to Temple Grandin, a woman who has autism and has beaten the odds imposed on her by the disorder to become an inventor, an author, an animal scientist, a professor, and quite an extraordinary person, to say the least.

How did she overcome these limitations of autism and emerge a stronger person who is capable of doing all of these amazing things? Well, here’s her incredible story.

Temple was born in 1947 in Boston, Massachusetts. She didn’t talk until she was almost four, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism, considered a form of brain damage at the time, and since little was known about autism, her parents were told she should be institutionalized. But, her parents were very supportive and chose to raise Temple. Though getting the necessary help in those days was extremely challenging, her mother took on that challenge and sought the best possible teachers for Temple. Though she made progress academically in school, social interactions remained difficult in both middle and high school, where the other students often teased Grandin and called her “weird.”

As luck would have it, she developed an interest in cattle early in life, while spending time at her Aunt and Uncle’s ranch. At the ranch, she noticed that the cattle were immunized while confined in a squeeze chute that surrounded their bodies and applied constant pressure. She also noticed that the cattle seemed to immediately calm down after the pressure from the chute was applied. Temple realized that the deep pressure from the chute had a calming effect on the cattle, and she decided that something similar might be useful in settling down her own feelings of hypersensitivity. So, she invented a deep-pressure squeezing device for herself and found that the structure had a significant benefit in helping her manage her own anxiety. The ‘hug box’ is now a standard of care for people with autism.

While at the ranch, she also developed a deep feeling and understanding for the animals on the farm, especially the cattle. Later, she would use her unique window into the minds of animals to become the leading creator of corrals for cattle. Her innovative designs improved the quality of life of the cattle by reducing stress. Her insight into the emotions of cattle has taught her to value and address the changes in details to which animals are particularly sensitive, and to use her exceptional visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling.

This was all made possible because she found a mentor who recognized her interests and abilities, and encouraged here to pursue her goals. After earning a degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, she built on her love and understanding of animals by getting a master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University, and then a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As a high-functioning person with autism, Temple has been able to not only understand but also describe to the rest of us how she perceives the world around her. Like most people with autism, she has a hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli. She is also extremely sensitive to details in her environment and to changes in her daily routine. She describes herself as primarily a visual thinker who considers verbal communication to be a secondary skill, which could explain why socializing is so challenging for her.

She tells her story of “groping her way from the far side of darkness” in her book, “Emergence: Labeled Autistic,” a book which amazed people, since most professionals and parents have no idea what it was like to have autism and no idea what a person with autism is capable of feeling and understanding.

“I have read enough to know that there are still many parents, and yes, professionals too, who believe that ‘once autistic, always autistic.’ To these people, it is incomprehensible that the characteristics of autism can be modified and controlled. However, I feel strongly that I am living proof that they can.”

Today, Temple Grandin is an associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University, best-selling author, an expert in the field of animal husbandry and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior.

What a truly remarkable person, who has given hope and inspiration to all the parents of children with autism.

 

SOURCES:
‘Emergence:  Labeled Autistic  – A True Story by Temple Grandin and Margaret Scariano.  1986.  Arena Press.
http://www.templegrandin.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Grandin

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1278469/

http://www.autism-society.org/

http://www.biography.com/people/temple-grandin-38062

Photo Source: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

Defiant Design: The Wright Brothers’ First Flight Flew Above Criticism

Featured Invention, Innovation, Inventing Advice, Inventor Stories

At Davison, we encourage people with ideas to pursue their dreams and create … A Better Way.

Inventing is no easy task, and there are many hurdles standing in the way of budding creators — oftentimes a naysayer.

wright brothers first airplane flight

Overcoming negative reactions to your idea can be difficult. But the Wright brothers didn’t let Thomas Edison (arguably one of the greatest inventors of all time) crush their dream and neither should your clients and their ideas.

In 1895, Thomas Edison was quoted in the New York World, saying “It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the aeroplane, which two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the [flying machine] problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere.”

Less than ten years later, the brothers defied one of the most intelligent men in the United States, if not the world, and made two flights from level ground into a headwind gusting to 27 miles per hour (43 km/h).

Orville WrightWilbur Wright

The first flight, by Orville, of 120 feet (37 m) in 12 seconds, at a speed of only 6.8 miles per hour (10.9 km/h) over the ground, was recorded in a famous photograph. The next two flights covered approximately 175 feet (53 m) and 200 feet (61 m), by Wilbur and Orville respectively. Their altitude was about 10 feet (3.0 m) above the ground.

 

Proof Positive

– The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says that there are, on average, between 25,000 and 30,000 passenger flights in the United States per day.

– The Boeing Company earned 68735.00 M in revenue for 2011, according to Yahoo!

– According to the annual Amadeus Review of Ancillary Revenue Results, 50 airlines from around the world reported making $22.6 billion in fees alone (checked baggage, priority boarding, etc…)

– This website exists.

 

So, don’t let anybody tell you that your idea can’t, won’t or shouldn’t succeed. And let Davison help you find a better way.

Don’t Forget George de Mestral During National Inventors Month

Inventing Advice, Inventor Stories

Inventors who have significantly improved the way we go about everyday life are well-known: Edison, da Vinci, Franklin, etc. In hindsight, we tend to skew historical significance toward indisputable facts: “I can’t live without light bulbs! And, how about those bifocals for reading those books?” As much as inventing harkens back to history, it also alludes to the limitless possibilities of man, the American Dream and, most importantly, fun.
 
May is National Inventors Month, and since Davison supports inventors from all walks of life and inventions both big and small, we’d like to shine the light on some lesser-celebrated visionaries and inventions that have contributed to the betterment of the human race – and to the fun of it. 
 
George de Mestral – Velcro
Learning to tie our shoes is a right of passage, a great gauge of how our children are advancing and another step toward their growing independence. But, until that point, George de Mestral and Velcro can be thanked for getting our children in their shoes in under four hours, so we have more time for grass cutting, dish washing and bed making! And, after a lifetime of chores, who wants to retire and waste more time tying their shoes? 
 
Brooke Miller – Pooper-Scooper
No over-glorifying the credence of this invention: Keeps hands away from well, you know…  and, inventions like the Pooper-Scooper laid the groundwork for other familiar Davison designs, like Potty Paws!  
 
Ron Popeil – Ron Popeil has created countless convenience products over his long inventing career and can be considered one of the founding fathers of “As Seen on TV” products.   
 
Kevin G. Kinsella – The Basketball Return
Remember the kid down the street with all the cool gadgets who had this? We were blown away by how much more interested we were in the concept of this invention than in shooting baskets! 
 
Unknown – The Dachshund Bun
Every time we see this, we promise ourselves that it will be the last time we’re utterly delighted by it – but it never is.
 
Great inventions come in a variety of shapes, sizes and uses. As we celebrate National Inventors Month this May, if you’ve been bit by the invention bug, check out how we can help get their ideas off the ground!

A typical project does not get a royalty agreement, sell in stores or generate a profit.

Celebrating Leonardo Da Vinci with Creationeer Extraordinaire, Lucky

Inventor Stories

In commemoration of the very multi-talented innovator, Leonardo Da Vinci’s birthday, which is this Sunday, April 15th, we asked our very own Creationeer extraordinaire, Lucky, for this thoughts on the famed creator:

Even a great man is still a regular Joe. Or in this case, Leo.
 
Leonardo Da Vinci was history’s greatest polymath: sculptor, musician, mathematician, anatomist, cartographer, writer, painter, architect, scientist, engineer, geologist, botanist and, of course, inventor.  He was also a regular guy and a working stiff.  He had to Leonardo Da Vinciwrite his own grocery lists, doodled with new pens and even sloughed through writing a resume.  Of course, like most of what he achieved, even these seemingly mundane tasks were extraordinary.
 
Here at Inventionland, we use a device that we’ve borrowed from Edison: The Inventor’s Notebook.  If you read our blog regularly, you’ve no doubt heard us talk about Edison’s notebooks before.  Well, it turns out that he wasn’t the only inventor to use small notebooks to journal his ideas and advances.

In a new book, historian Toby Lester says that Da Vinci used to keep a small notebook hanging from his belt and [he] would make a note “whenever something caught his eye,” or begin “sketching furiously.”  Like Edison, Da Vinci filled lots of notebooks with everything from drawings, to writings, theories, inventions, sketches, and even the mundane “to do” list.

Tucked away in one of his notebooks from approximately 1490-1510, is a list containing both things to do and things to pack for an upcoming trip. On his “to do” list:

·      Describe the tongue of the woodpecker and the jaw of a crocodile
·      Give the measurement of the dead using his {my} finger
·      [Calculate] the measurement of Milan and suburbs
·      [Find] a book that treats of Milan and its churches, which is to be had at the stationer’s on the way to Cordusio
·      [Discover] the measurement of the Corte Vecchio and the Castello (The courtyard of the Duke’s Palace and the Palace itself)
·      Get the Master of Arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle (Editor’s note: I think this refers to an algebraic problem that first appeared in the writing of Heron in the 1st century A.D. whereas a square is inscribed inside of a triangle and the lengths and area of the triangle are used to [define] the length, and thus the area, of the square)
·      Observe the holes in the substance of the brain, where there are more or less of them
·      Get {my} anatomy books bound
·      Ask Benedetto Portinari (a Florentine Merchant) by what means they go on ice in Flanders (perhaps a reference to ice skating)
·      [Ask about] the measurement of the sun, promised me by Maestro Giovanni Francese
·      Get hold of skull

And what [did] the great Leonardo Da Vinci take with him?

·      Boots, stockings, comb, towel, shirts, shoe laces, penknife, pens, gloves, wrapping paper, charcoal
·      Spectacles with case, firestick, fork, boards, sheets of paper, chalk, wax, forceps, pane of glass
·      Fine-tooth bone-saw, scalpel, ink-horn
·      Nutmeg (which he may have actually needed to buy at the store)
 
Famous InnovatorBeing Leonardo Da Vinci, you’d think that it wouldn’t be necessary to have to write a resume to get a job.  Even when he was living, he was known for his talent in many, many areas, and often [was] called upon by the rich and powerful in Europe.  That didn’t stop him from having to write a resume in 1482 at the age of 30 for Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.  It obviously worked, as 13 years later, the Duke hired him to paint what would become his second most known work on the wall of the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie; Da Vinci’s Last Supper.  This was his opening paragraph:
 
“Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use:  I shall endeavor, without prejudice to anyone else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.”

A scholar and a gentleman choosing to sell himself, not by comparing himself to others, or listing past achievements and why he would be a better hire, but rather explaining his talents and what he could do for the Duke.  Which, being Leonardo Da Vinci, was a lot.  He designed the first machine to allow man to achieve flight, the submarine, gun powder missiles, canons, battleships… the list goes on and on.  In fact, most of the devices that Da Vinci drew sketches for would not be invented or produced for centuries!

It just goes to show you, if you’ve got an idea for something, be sure to write it down!  It could be very important to history one day.

[Sources: NPR, The Daily Mail and Cenedella.]

Credit for the resume photo:  “Courtesy of Leonardo3 from Hoepli edition 1894-1094 – www.leonardo3.net.”

Edison’s Doll and Other “Out-there” Inventions

Featured Invention, Inventor Stories

We all know the world of inventing is a risky one that is all about taking chances on ideas. Take Mr. D for example, his first invention idea was not as successful as he would have liked, because he was beat to the marketplace by a larger corporation.

Well, it turns out that these “failed” inventions are common with many of history’s famous inventors.

Today, we’ve found some not-so-great inventions from some of the most famous, most successful inventors of all time. Whether these ideas were just ahead of their time or simply just didn’t work, they are definitely worth a second look!
 
Famous InventorsThomas Edison’s Talking Doll – This famous inventor had over 2,000 patents to his name before he died, so it is not hard to believe that one of his creations just didn’t quite work. Perhaps a predecessor to today’s talking dolls, Edison tried to combine his very successful phonograph with a children’s doll, in hopes that little girls everywhere could communicate with their dolls during playtime. Unfortunately, the contraption had a few fatal flaws and it cost the equivalent of $240-$600, which was a bit pricey for Edison’s day.
 
Unusual InventionsLeonardo da Vinci’s Water-Walking Shoes – Famed artist and inventor Leonard da Vinci certainly had a creative flair that didn’t stop with a few paint strokes. In fact, da Vinci tried to solve a problem that we’ve still not touched – walking on water! His inflated shoes resembled water skis, but were nearly impossible to balance and move in!
 
Creative TechnologyGunpei Yokoi’s Virtual Boy – Thanks to Yokoi, every ’90s child can lovingly remember his or her Nintendo Game Boy. What they may not remember is Yokoi’s Virtual Boy, a game system, with 3D graphics, that users were supposed to strap to their faces in order to play! The rumor is that Yokoi’s failed invention was the reason the former Nintendo genius left the company.
 
InnovationSir Clive Sinclair’s Miniature TV – Among Sinclair’s electronic pocket calculator and fold-up bicycle was also his “pocket television,” a brick-sized portable TV. Although it was a genius thought, the mini TV’s screen was tiny, reception wasn’t great and it didn’t fit in most pockets!

Although they may have found failure on their pathway to success, it was the “no quit” attitude of these great inventors that brought us many, very valuable inventions. Read more about these great innovators’ failed inventions here!

Noteworthy Auto Inventions Fuel Industry, Drive Excitement!

Featured Invention, Inventor Stories

Henry Ford Inventions

Ever since Henry Ford, who just happens to be one of Mr. Davison’s favorite inventors, introduced the Model T in 1908, Americans have had an affinity for the motor vehicle, in all of its shapes and, especially, with all of its enhancements!  Today, we take a look at a few of the automobile industry’s top innovations, in no particular order, of course!

Speaking of an order, even before Ford’s Model T, Alabama inventor Mary Anderson was prepared for weathering any storm.  She invented the first spring-loaded, rubber-bladed windshield wipers!  At the time, they were intended for streetcars, but became an automobile essential by 1917.

Not to be taken for granted, the first automobiles didn’t have a starter, but had to be hand-cranked at the start of a trip.  Inventor and eventual vice president of General Motors, Charles Kettering, patented an “engine starting device” in 1911.

Merging into traffic may be nearly impossible without Texas race-car driver and inventor Ray Harroun’s 1911 automobile innovation – the rearview mirror!  He won the Indianapolis 500 with his device, a small mirror attached to his windshield.  At the time, other drivers used riding partners to watch for oncoming traffic.

While not a standard feature ON automobiles, Ford’s 1913 conveyor-belt assembly line made it possible to produce automobiles for the masses – one every 93 minutes, to be exact!  Ford’s method also inspired Mr. D, who followed the example when devising the Davison Inventing Method.  In fact, Mr. Davison is even known as “the Henry Ford of inventing,” because he has made it affordable for anyone to pursue their ideas!

Automobile InventionsReally revving up the industry was the mass production of the V8 engine and we have Cadillac to thank for that!  In 1915, the company introduced a 70 horsepower L-Head V8 engine.  Again, we can thank Henry Ford for making a more affordable model, which he introduced in 1932.

An automobile made out of corn and soybeans?  We think so!  Now termed “bioplastics,” the Ford Motor Company began experimenting with plastic automobile components in the 1920s.  In 1941, they introduced the first bioplastic car – but it never made it to production.

What’s that you’ve got in your trunk?  An air conditioner?!  The Packard Motor Company introduced the first built-in air conditioner in 1939, right before the U.S. entered World War II.  The huge option filled half a trunk and cost over $4,000!

Now, here’s a feature that does not come “standard” – automatic transmission!  Again attributed to Charles Kettering and General Motors, the four-speed transmission was introduced to the masses in 1940 Oldsmobiles, but it didn’t really catch on until Cadillac buyers made it their preferred option.

No automobile could pass an emissions inspection today without the next invention on the list, the catalytic converter!  The device, which converts toxic gases into harmless ones, was pushed to the forefront when the EPA set exhaust restrictions in 1975.  We (and Mother Nature) thank you!

To read more about these made-in-the-USA automobile innovations, visit http://editorial.autos.msn.com/made-in-the-usa.

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