Doc Brown landed the DeLorean on October 21, 2015 at exactly 4.29pm! We would like to celebrate today since we only have one chance; at least that’s how the story has gone so far. If you have never watched Back to the Future™ it’s time to put this 1985 highest-grossing film on your to-do-list.

Back to the Future - Count Down to October 21, 2015

Continue reading “Let’s go Back to the Future! Wait, that’s today?”

In case you’ve been hiding in the lab the past few months, you should know: Shark Week is finally here! Originally aired by Discovery in 1987, Shark Week was designed to raise awareness and respect for one of the ocean’s most important – if not terrifying – creatures. Now in its 26th year, Shark Week can claim the title as the longest running television event in history.

So, to commemorate the occasion, I thought I’d dive in to the patent database and see what interesting shark-centric patents I could find to share. Who would have thought that “shark repellant” “shark suit” and “shark cage” alone would turn up over 12,000 different shark-related patents? Continue reading “6 Strange, Useful and Downright Unusual Shark Patents for Shark Week”

Happy Birthday, Thomas Edison!

Happy Birthday, Thomas Edison!

This week, we celebrate the 166th birthday of Thomas Edison, arguably America’s most famous inventor.

As great a contributor as Edison might have been to the development of so many technologies, it is sometimes easy to forget he was also just a man. A brilliant, stubborn man, but a man nonetheless.

So, to pay homage to the man behind the legend, here are 5 fun, fascinating, and quintessentially “human” facts about the one and only Thomas Edison, as only he could tell you himself. Continue reading “5 Things You Never Knew About Edison, Even Though He Told You Himself”

This week we celebrate the 307th birthday of America’s First Inventor, Benjamin Franklin.

The Founding Father’s inventions include the Franklin Stove, bifocals, the lightning rod, and even the odometer. In addition to creating everyday objects for the benefit of everybody, he also helped organize a number of firsts in the public service industry. Franklin helped standardize routes for the post office, he was the first to chart the Gulf Stream, and he created the first fire department and the first fire insurance company; he even is credited with creating the first political cartoon!

Franklin was a Renaissance man in the truest sense, constantly looking at ways to participate in and improve the world around him. Continue reading “5 Colorful Quotes From America’s First Inventor”

This Sunday, the PEZ Dispenser celebrates its 60th Patent Birthday.

On December 2, 1952, the iconic flip-top candy dispenser was granted its first American patent. It was designed to look like a cigarette lighter, a nod to the candies initial design as an alternative to smoking.

At the time I don’t think the company could have imagined the cult phenomenon they were creating. The first character dispensers were on the market by the mid 1950s. Sixty years on, children young and old remain “PEZmerized” by the over 600 varieties of character dispensers that have been introduced.

Words can’t describe that excitement, and since we already wrote about the history of PEZ in a previous post, I thought we’d commemorate this moment with some pictures, instead. Continue reading “60 years of PEZ in Pictures”

WilliamIn 1856, a 17-year-old in his home laboratory discovered the first synthetic dye. William Henry Perkin’s mentor at the Royal Academy of Science, August W. Hofmann, had published an article about the possibility of creating synthetic quinine to lessen the cost of treating malaria. Perkin was excited about the idea and began experimenting with ways to produce this substance. He continued his experiments at his own home laboratory in London while on Easter vacation.

Perkin began experimenting with coal tar products including aniline. He treated aniline with potash and created a dirty, slimy black substance. Perkin’s first reaction was to throw away the substance, as this was not the quinine he was attempting to produce. But, instead he decided to examine the product more closely. With this closer examination, Perkin was able to obtain the first synthetic dye known as aniline blue or Mauveine. Continue reading “Wardrobe Color Splash! Invention of Synthetic Dye”

Question from Frosty Fred.:
Can you tell me who invented those awesome hand warmer packets that you can fit in your gloves or shoes, etc?

Hello Frosty. What a timely question!

The first United States Patent for such a device was issued to Jonathan T. Ellis on January 6, 1891. He received patent number 444,395 for a hand or foot warmer. There is no evidence though that this device was ever produced.

Credit for the invention of the first commercially-produced chemical hand warmer is given to Japanese inventor Niichi Matoba. Matoba received a patent for applying the principle of an oxidation reaction that produces heat by means of platinum catalysis. He then devoted his time to researching how to make the product suitable for practical use. In 1923, he manufactured a prototype of his device naming it HAKUKIN-kairo (HAKKIN warmer). A version of these original portable hand warmers is still produced in Japan.

Band-Aid boxDid you know the Band-Aid® was originally invented as a way to help a clumsy woman dress her own wounds?

Did you know they almost never made it to market?

It’s been nearly a hundred years, and today it’s hard to believe something so ubiquitous to our daily life had such a humble beginning:

Earle Dickson: Husband, Inventor, Everyday Genius

Earle Dickson was born in Tennessee on October 10, 1892. He graduated Yale University in 1913 and took on work as a cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson in 1915.

Two years later he married Josephine Knight, the woman who would inspire him in ways he had not yet imagined.

You see, Earle’s doting young wife was – as legend has it – as accident-prone as she was kind. Josephine had a knack for knicks and burns from working in the kitchen, and it was not uncommon to come home and find his wife’s hands covered in bulky bandages.

Not only where they difficult to manage and easily undone, they also where nearly impossible to apply alone.

It was this struggle to help his wife apply and reapply her bandages that the young Mr. Dickson arrived at his ingenious idea:He placed pieces of gauze at regular intervals on an adhesive strip and covered them with crinoline to keep them sterile.

Brilliant! Now all sweet Josephine had to do was cut off a piece of the strip and wrap it around her cut – on her own. Continue reading “How the Band-Aid Was Invented”