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”

Today is Walt Disney’s 111th birthday.

In a few months, the invention that made Disney famous will turn 72.

photo credit: flickr

Disney's 1937 Multi-Plane Camera - photo credit: flickr

You see, when Disney first started in the business in 1919, animation involved layering transparencies of moving elements right on top of an opaque background. This primitive multi-layer technique allowed artists to focus more on the actual animation process than the stationary background, but it still had its limitations.

The largest of these was the problem of creating realistic depth and scale in the two-dimensional drawings.

In the 1930s Walt Disney set out to improve this process because, as he relates in his patent, “it is extremely difficult for the artist to properly create, by drawing, the shadow of the character upon these background objects.”

Continue reading “Walt Disney: Inventing the Art of Animation”

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”

I’ve had a hard time holding my tongue about this for the past few weeks, but I’ve finally been given the “go ahead” to let the cat out of the bag:

Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have been welcomed into the exclusive Stanford Inventor Hall of Fame alongside sixteen other modern innovators.

The best part? Continue reading “History in the Making: Google Co-founders Inducted into Inventor Hall of Fame”

Ok, that’s a lie.

I’m sorry, but after this morning’s fact-checking debacle, I just couldn’t resist.

To be fair, my morning started out “normal enough” as I perused the web for a good invention history factoid to share with you on our daily Today in Invention History Facebook posting. I got pretty excited when I discovered that – supposedly – the rubber heel for shoes/boots was patented today. After all, they are pretty important part of our daily lives (assuming, of course, that you wear shoes on a daily basis!) Continue reading “Today in History, Nothing Was Invented”

NiepcefirstphotoPhotography has come a long way from the first photographs. Photography has now progressed past the need for film and chemicals to the realm of sd cards and computer processing. The first photograph was taken by the Frenchman, Joseph Nicephore Niépce.

Joseph Nicephore Niépce was fascinated with lithography but he did not have a steady drawing hand. His son instead made the images for his experiments. In 1814, his son was drafted into the army and Niépce was left with no one to make his illustrations. He began looking for other ways to make images.

Niépce experimented with using silver salts and concocted his own light-sensitive coating. He used this on stones and glass plates. He was able to use this process to copy engravings. He is said to have created the first photogravure etching in 1822. The engraving of Pope Pius VII was his first successful attempt. Unfortunately, later when he tried to duplicate the image the first engraving was destroyed. Continue reading “Joseph Nicephore Niépce”

edisonbulbThe light bulb that is synonymous with Thomas Edison has reached the end of its hey day. After over 130 years, the light bulb whose design has virtually remained unchanged, will slowly no longer be imported or produced here in the United States. Starting on January 2, 2012, the 100W incandescent bulb will be the first to no longer be produced. The 75W bulb will stop being produced in 2013 and the 60W and 40W bulbs will follow in 2014. The incandescent bulbs are being replaced by compact fluorescent bulbs.

Thomas Edison was not actually the inventor of the light bulb. Edison built on the 75 years of work by other inventors and made major improvements on the bulb. He worked on over 3,000 different theories and materials for the building an efficient lamp. His basic idea consisted of a filament inside a glass bulb. A glass blowing shed at his laboratory provided him with the bulbs for this experiments.

On October 22, 1879, Edison tested his first successful, commercially practical light. The first bulb only lasted 13 hours. On November 4, 1879, Edison applied for a patent for his newly improved invention. He received US Patent 223, 898 on January 27, 1880 for an Electric-Lamp.

Experiments with the light bulb continued. Carbon filament in an oxygen-free bulb glowed as Edison as hoped but it burnt up after 40 hours. In order to make a bulb that would last much longer, Edison began testing carbonized filaments made from every plant he could find. He had fibers sent from tropical plants too. Eventually, in late 1880, it was the memory of a bamboo pole used on a fishing trip in Wyoming that led to finding the perfect filament. Carbonized bamboo filaments were burning in light bulbs for up to 600 hours.

In 1890, the first plant to manufacturer incandescent light bulbs was opened in Menlo Park, New Jersey. The success of the Edison style light bulb has been tremendous. Now, though this era has ended as Americans will slowly no longer be able to purchase the lightbulb that has looked almost the same since 1880.