firstflightThe Wright Brothers built the world’s first successful airplane. On December 17, 1903, the brothers made the first powered flight in North Carolina. The flight last for only 12 seconds with the aircraft only ever reaching a height of 20 feet off of the ground. Still, the flight was ground breaking.

This flight led to the Wright Brothers filing for a patent in 1903. They drafted their first patent application themselves and could not demonstrate a working aircraft. They were denied a patent and the US Patent Office suggested that they work with a patent attorney. Friends referred them to Harry A. Toulmin in Springfield, Ohio.

Toulmin assured Wilbur Wright that he would be able to secure a broad patent that would provide great protection for their invention. On January 22, 1904, Wilbur Wright hired Toulmin to help them with their patent. Toulmin suggested that instead of attempting to patent the entire plane the patent should protect the method of flight control. The flight control method included wing-warping and the three-axis system which controlled the aircraft in forward flight. Continue reading “The Wright Brothers Patent Wars”

lilliam gilbrethLilliam Moller Gilbreth is unfortunately best known as the mother from “Cheaper by the Dozen.” In reality, in addition to being the mother of 12 children, she was also an industrial engineer, teacher, author and inventor. She was one of a very few working women engineers. She had a Ph.D. at a time when such a thing was unheard of for a woman and was also the first industrial/organizational psychologist.

Gilbreth believed that efficiency could be better accomplished if the workplace was better suited to the worker rather than the worker having to adapt to the workplace. As consultants and teachers, she and her husband trained many managers and companies to better design offices and manufacturing plants to increase productivity by decreasing fatigue.

After the death of her husband, Gilbreth continued working as a consultant to support her 12 children. She changed her focus to the household and the kitchen. As a mother, Gilbreth spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking meals for her large family. While working as an industrial engineer at GE, she interviewed over 4,000 women to help her design a functional and comfortable kitchen. These interviews led her to design new appliances and products for the kitchen. Gilbreth invented one of the first electric mixers to speed up cooking. She designed shelves for ice boxes to increase storage space and she produced a trash can with a lid. This type of trash can is still found in many kitchens today to keep out bugs and controls smells.
Continue reading “Lilliam Moller Gilbreth: More than “Cheaper by the Dozen””

giletteKing C. Gillette was inspired to invent the disposable razor by his job as a salesman. He was working for the Crown Cork and Seal Company in the 1890’s selling bottle caps. The inventor of the bottle cap, William Painter, advised Gillette to “invent something people would use and throw away.” Gillette recognized the brilliance of this statement when he saw how successful the Crown Cork and Seal Company had become.

Over the years, Gillette thought of and rejected many possible ideas for disposable products. Then one day, in 1895, he had the idea of producing a safe and disposable razor. When traveling, Gillette would often shave in the bathroom of a train using a safety-razor, which was a heavy blade fit into a wooden handle. This was much safer then using a straight razor but the safety-razor had to be sharpened often and wore out too quickly.

Instead, Gillette wanted to design an inexpensive blade using a piece of steel. The blade could then be replaced easily when it grew dull. For the next six years, Gillette attempted to have such a blade produced. He was told by many experts, including metallurgists at MIT, that it would be impossible to manufacture steel that would be thin, hard and cheap enough. Continue reading “Invent Something People Would Use and Throw Away”

gattlinggunJohn Gatling was not a man out to promote war and the killing of men with his invention. Instead, Gatling believed that the invention of an automatic weapon would reduce war and the death of soldiers. He thought because the gun would have such a devastating effect on the armies, once seen on the battlefield it would send the other side running. In addition, a weapon that had the impact of many men when used by few would reduce the number of soldiers needed thereby reducing the number of casualties.

It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine – a gun – which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished. – John Gatling

Continue reading “The Gatling Gun”

“…The way out is not to slash and burn, it’s to innovate.”
– Steve Jobs

This week we mourn the loss of one of the greatest innovators of our time.

Steve Jobs, founder, long-time CEO, and chief creative genius behind all things Apple passed away Wednesday at age 56.

In his lifetime, Jobs brought us new ways of experiencing technology life that we likely may not have thought of on our own. In fact, the Man Behind the Mac has been named on some 313 issued patents. That’s excluding any applications that may have failed to make the cut and whatever countless other innovations he may have influenced that were never patented.

Even more amazing is the variety of items he had his hands in designing over the years. Steve Job’s design patents cover everything from the iconic round mouse and the packing for the iPod to the glass stairs in Apple Store.

Here are just 5 of Job’s most interesting creations: Continue reading “Steve Jobs, A Legend in Innovation”

monopolyadCharles Darrow, an unemployed man living in Germantown, Pennsylvania, created the board game Monopoly in the evenings while trying to make ends meet during the day. In the game, all players have the chance to buy and sell real estate. Living during the great depression, this board game gave the hard pressed workers of the time a chance for fantasy and distraction from their difficult lives.

Darrow showed his new board game to Parkers Brothers executives and they rejected the idea. They stated that the game had at least fifty-two design flaws including that the game was way too long, the rules were difficult to follow, and there was no real goal for the winner. With help from a friend who was a printer, Darrow went on to manufacture the game himself. He sold 5,000 copies to a local Philadelphia department store. The game was hit. Everyone loved it.

Darrow filed for a US patent on August 31, 1935. On December 31, 1935, he received patent #2,026,082 for a board game apparatus.

One of the copies of the game was bought by the daughter of the founder of Parker Brothers. She suggested that her father take another look at the game. Parker Brother decided to license the patent rights from Darrow. Very quickly, Monopoly was selling over 20,000 copies a week. It was the best selling game in 1935. Darrow went from working odd jobs to get by to a very rich man quickly with the success of his game. Continue reading “The True Monopoly History…”