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Culture & Language

Inventing "the better mousetrap" has become a cliche, but actually, many have tried to improve on the original spring-loaded mouse trap invented by Wm. C. Hooker in 1894.

The pencil has its origins in the 4th millennium B.C., the Marita culture used graphite in a ceramic paint for decorating pottery. But in the early 1500s, on a sheep farm in near Cumbria, England. At first used to mark sheep, it was later used to line molds for cannonballs, resulting in rounder, smoother balls that could be fired farther, contributing to the strength of the English navy. This particular deposit of graphite was extremely pure and soft, and could easily be broken into sticks. Because of its military importance, this unique mine and its production were strictly controlled by the Crown. At first, early users encased sticks of graphite in wool to protect their hands, and later began to use wood for that purpose, the beginning of the pencil.

Carbon paper was invented in 1806. Before that, every  copy had to be made by hand.

New Haven, Connecticut, was the birthplace of many inventions:
    1638: New Haven becomes the first planned city in America.
    1776: Yale student David Bushnell invents the first American submarine.
    1787: John Fitch builds the first steamboat.
    1793: Eli Whitney (a Yale graduate) invents the cotton gin.
    1836: Samuel Colt invents the automatic revolver in Whitney's factory.
    1839: Charles Goodyear of New Haven discovers the process of vulcanizing rubber.
    1860: Philios P. Blake patents the first corkscrew.
    1877: New Haven hosts the first telephone switch office.
    1878: the world's first phonebook was made in New Haven.
    1892: Local confectioner George C. Smith of the Bradley Smith Candy Co. invents the first lollipops.
    1900: Louis Lassen, owner of Louis' Lunch, is credited with inventing the hamburger, as well as the steak sandwich.
    1911: The Erector Set, the popular construction toy, is invented in New Haven by A.C. Gilbert. 

Henry Maudslay was a British machine tool innovator, tool and die maker, and inventor. He is considered a founding father of machine tool technology and a foundation for the Industrial Revolution. Maudslay's metal al lathe to cut metal (patented in 1848) enabled the manufacture of standard screw thread sizes, which then  allowed interchangeable parts and the development of mass production.

A lathe created in 1817 made wooden lasts for shoes. Prior to that, shoes were offered up in barrels, at random. A customer shuffled through the barrel until finding a shoe that fit.

The envelope folding and gumming machine was invented in 1864 by Thomas Waymoth.

The first modern coin-operated vending machines were introduced in London, England in the early 1880s, dispensing postcards. The machine was invented by Percival Everitt in 1883 and soon became a widespread feature at railway stations and post offices, dispensing envelopes, postcards, and notepaper. The Sweetmeat Automatic Delivery Company was founded in 1887 in England as the first company to deal primarily with the installation and maintenance of vending machines. In 1893, Stollwerck, a German chocolate manufacturer, was selling its chocolate in 15,000 vending machines. It set up separate companies in various territories to manufacture vending machines to sell not just chocolate, but cigarettes, matches, chewing gum and soap products.

The ball bearing was invented in 1794 by Philip Vaughan Welsh. Then in 1869, Jules Suriray, a Parisian bicycle mechanic, designed the first radial style ball bearing, which was then fitted to the winning bicycle ridden by James Moore in the world's first bicycle road race, Paris-Rouen, in November 1869.

In 1790, the U.S. government issued its first ever patent—for potash, an ingredient used in glassmaking and fertilizer.

The first woman to receive a U.S. patent, in 1809, was Mary Dixon Kies, who invented a process for weaving straw, silk and thread together to make hats.

WD40 was invented in 1953 by Rocket Chemical Company. It took 40 attempts to create the best formula, hence the name, WD (for water displacement) 50.

Carleton Ellis was a pioneer in the field of organic chemistry, who invented margarine, polyester, paint thinner and also figured out how to add milk to dog biscuits to make them more nutritious and palatable. They evolved into the popular Milkbones. 

Ron Klein is still solving problems in his 80s. The inventor of the magnetic strip on credit cards, the credit card validity checking system, computerized systems for real estate multiple listing (MLS) services, voice response for the banking industry, and the BOND quotation and trade information system for the New York Stock Exchange still mentors via his website:

The first railway roundhouse was built in 1839 at Derby, England by the North Midland Railway. It allowed many locomotives to be serviced at the same time.

20,000 pounds of fish & 70,000 pounds of vegetables are being grown on a 1/4 acre. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water only), in a carefully designed, hyper-productive closed-loop system. There is no pesticide, no fungicide, no fertilizer, no watering. Check out:

The Chinese food take-out box is a great example of origami. Invented by Frederick Weeks Wilcox in 1894, it is cut from one piece, with no seams, and can be opened up to form a seamless plate.

Tin was first replaced by aluminium in 1910, when the first aluminium foil rolling plant was opened in Switzerland. J.G. Neher & Sons were aluminium manufacturers, and his sons, together with Dr. Lauber, discovered the endless rolling process and the use of aluminium foil as a protective barrier in December 1907.

George Washington granted the first U.S. patent to Samuel Hopkins, who invented "pot ash" which later became an important component of fertilizer.

Thomas Edison was afraid of the dark. Do you think that's why he was so interested in the  light bulb?  Actually, it was Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans who patented the first electric light bulb, after testing it successfully in Toronto. They later sold the patent to Edison.

Edison bought up many patents in order to refine their designs. He was the first person to set up what amounted to a research and development lab, and to share profits with his staff.

In fact, according to an article in the NY Times by Maggie Koerth-Baker, "the electric light was initially a failure. Invented by the British chemist Humphry Davy in the early 1800s, it spent nearly 80 years being passed from one initially hopeful researcher to another, like some not-quite-housebroken puppy. In 1879, Thomas Edison finally figured out how to make an incandescent light bulb that people would buy.

In fact, it was Lewis Latimer improved on Edison's light bulb by using carbon filament which made the bulb last longer.

But it took another 40 years, into the 1920s, for electric utilities to become stable, profitable businesses. And even then, success happened only because the utilities created other reasons to consume electricity. They invented the electric toaster and the electric curling iron and found lots of uses for electric motors. They built Coney Island. They installed electric streetcar lines in any place large enough to call itself a town.

Electric lights allowed factories to operate 24 hours a day, allowing for shift work and boosting productivity. Street lights also reduced crime and allowed the growth of evening entertainment, such as theatres, dance halls and nightclubs. 

Edison patented 1,093 inventions in such diverse disciplines as telegraphy, cinematography, sonics, metallurgy, chemistry and botany. At the International Electrical Exhibition in Philadelphia, a tower of more than 2,000 light bulbs spelled out his name.  He created the world’s first central power station at Pearl Street, in Lower Manhattan (now considered to be his greatest achievement, eclipsing the phonograph.

Samuel Insull left Britain in 1881 for New York to become Edison’s assistant. He eventually worked his way up to become one of the founders of what we now know as General Electric, and in 1892 left New York to helm the financially struggling Chicago Edison Co. He believed in providing electricity to as many customers and at the lowest price possible. By the 1920s Insull owned shares in all the major Chicago area utilities as well as the region’s transit lines. He invested in programs to modernize, consolidate and publicize their existence and offerings. Insull traveled extensively to his U.K. homeland throughout his years in America, and  while visiting Brighton, England, in 1894 he noticed that many of the shops that were closed for the evening were still brightly lighted – something unheard of in the “flat-rate billing” world of the United States. After tracking down the head of that township’s electric company, Insull was introduced to the use of a “Demand Metered” billing system. It applied different rates to different times of the day. Upon Insull’s return, Chicago soon saw a similar approach as well as an eventual 32 percent cut in rates for the consumer.

            Alessandro Volta invented the first battery 1799. Known as Voltaic piles, they consisted of stacks of different metals separated by brine-soaked paper that generated just enough electricity to operate simple mechanisms.
            Eventually, Canadian scientist Lewis Urry was working with Eveready's carbon-zinc-based power cells. He experimented with alkalines and then tried powdered zinc.
            Urry remained with Everready for 54 years, and ended up holding more than 50 patents, including several on lithium batteries.
            Eventually, Eveready changed its name to Energizer and adopted its pink bunny mascot.

General Electric gave birth to the washing machine, the clothes dryer and the toaster oven. 

Artur Fischer, a German inventor, registered more than 1,100 patents,  putting him just ahead of Thomas Edison, who had 1,093 patents to his name. Fischer invented the synchronized mechanism that triggers the flash when a camera shutter is released. The device was bought by Agfa, a large camera company. In 1958, he addressed a problem faced by construction workers and home-repair amateurs alike: how to insert a screw securely into plaster or drywall. He devised a nylon plug with a split tip to be inserted into a drilled hole. As the screw turned, the plug prevented it from dislodging the plaster. As the screw advanced toward the tip, the anchor expanded, pressing tightly against the hole. Two anti-rotation fins on the plug wedged into the plaster, keeping the anchor securely in place. In Germany, Mr. Fischer is famous for his Fischertechnik kits — sets of nylon blocks with electric motors and photosensitive cells that schoolchildren and hobbyists have used to make machines and robots, and engineers have used to model prototypes. The first kits were given to clients in 1964 as Christmas gifts, but they were so popular that they were sold to consumers the next year. Many of Mr. Fischer’s humble inventions led to spinoffs. He applied the principle of his wall plug, for example, to create a series of surgical plugs to hold broken bones together.

Kodak introduced the Brownie camera in 1900. In 1925, the Leica camera was introduced. Because it used motion picture film, the negative size was reduced and picture quality improved.

Belgian Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre described his theory of an expanding universe. Using Einstein’s theory of relativity as a guide, Lemaitre speculated that space is constantly expanding and, therefore, the distance between galaxies is also increasing. Later, Hubble would demonstrate the same thing and even to this day is generally given credit for coming up with the idea.  Further, Lemaître discovered what has since become known as “Hubble’s law,” a rate of expansion related to the galaxies’ distance from Earth. Lemaître also derived what is now known as “Hubble’s Constant.”  In both of these instances, he did this before Hubble published his work concerning these same revolutionary ideas.  Hubble’s real contribution in this case was to provide the observational basis for Lemaitre’s mostly mathematically-based theory.

In 1895, German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen accidentally discovered X-rays. He noticed that these invisible rays could pass through most substances but not bone and metal, offering a powerful new medical imaging technology.

James Clerk Maxwell demonstrated that electric and magnetic fields travel through space as waves moving at the speed of light. This led to the use of radio waves and xrays. By bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon, he's been credited witih the "second great unification in physics" after the first one by Isaac Newton.

The fax machine began with Alexander Bain, a Scotsman clockmaker living in London, who used the newly popularized telegraph (patented by Samuel Morse in 1837) and added electromagnetic pendulums (like his clock) that would scan the image and puncture a chemically treated paper with lines and tics, which would then be interpreted by a telegraph operator. He tried repeatedly to obtain patents for his devices, including one that included sketching out and sending facsimile images. He used paper was treated with a mixture of ammonium nitrate and potassium ferrocyanide, so when electrified, the paper turned blue. Sir John Herschel had already invented a method to easily copy drawings using potassium ferrocyanide and ammonium iron citrate, called cyanotype. Later Alphonse Louis Poitevin used ferro-gallate, which dropped to about one-tenth the cost of having someone simply trace the original plans, helping the popularity of blueprints explode. Herschel was also the first to apply the terms “negative” and “positive” to photography.

George Claude invented the first neon tube light. He was also the first person to franchise his business.

Augustin-Jean Fresnel developed a special lens for lighthouses, which later became popular for theatrical lighting. The distinctive lens has a 'stepped' appearance instead of the 'full' or 'smooth' appearance of other lenses. This allows the lens to have a much greater curvature than would otherwise be practical. The lens focuses the light by tilting each ring of glass slightly more towards the center as the distance is increased from the center of the lens. If the glass were completely flat, this would cause a corresponding pattern of circles of light, so Fresnel lenses are usually stippled on the flat side. This pattern of small bumps helps to break up the light passing through the lens and gives Fresnels their characteristic soft beam. For theatrical use, the Fresnel lens washes light over an area of the stage. The lens produces a wider, soft-edged beam of light, which is commonly used for back light and top light.

Dutch eyeglass maker Hans Lippershey invented the optical telescope (telescopes that see visible light) in 1608. He saw children in his shop playing with lenses, and saw that they could see objects at a distance by putting two lenses together.

Sir John Ambrose Fleming, an English electrical engineer and physicist, invented the first thermionic valve or vacuum tube. A consultant to the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, Swan Company, Ferranti, Edison Telephone, and later the Edison Electric Light Company, he invented the two-electrode vacuum-tube rectifier in 1904. That's considered the beginning of electronics, as Fleming's diode was used in radio receivers and radars for many decades afterwards, until it was superseded by solid state electronic technology more than 50 years later.

In 1920, while tilling a potato field in a monotonous back and forth pattern with his horse-drawn plow,  Philo T. Farnsworth imagined that an electron beam might scan an image in exactly the same way, moving across the image line-by-line. In 1927, in a makeshift laboratory in a San Francisco loft, Farnsworth transmitted the world's first electronic television image: a straight white line scratched into a piece of black-painted glass. When the glass slide was slowly rotated ninety degrees, so, too, did the image on the screen. 'There you are,' Farnsworth said with typical aplomb, electronic television.

In 1947, scientists had invented the "transistor" to replace the bulky and fragile glass vacuum tubes in computers. This enabled an explosion in the electronics industry with products such as the pocket-sized "transistor radios."

The revolving door was invented in 1888 by Theophilus Van Kannel, who was tired of holding doors for other people!

Stanley Works in Connecticut devised the automatic door opener, which uses a photocell, in 1931. 

The earliest waffle irons originated in the Low Countries around the 14th century, designed to be  baked over the hearth fire. In 1869, American Cornelius Swartwout patented the stove-top waffle iron, by adding a handle and a hinge that swivelled in a cast-iron collar, allowing the waffle-maker to flip the iron without danger of slippage or burns. In 1891 John Kleimbach, a German immigrant living in Shamokin, Pennsylvania became a traveling salesman of waffles after fashioning an iron for the Mansion House Hotel. Kliembach sold waffles for a penny each or ten cents for a dozen.[8] This was popular at the Chicago World's Fair. It wasn't until 1911 that General Electric produced a prototype electric waffle iron, although production did not begin until around 1918.

In 1971, Oregon track coach and Nike Co-founder Bill Bowerman used his wife's waffle iron to experiment with the idea of using waffle-ironed rubber to create a new sole for footwear that would grip but be lightweight. Bowerman's design inspiration led to the introduction of the so-called "Moon Shoe" in 1972, so named because the waffle tread was said to resemble the footprints left by astronauts on the moon. Further refinement resulted in the "Waffle Trainer" in 1974, which helped fuel the explosive growth of Blue Ribbon Sports/Nike.

Reginald Aubrey Fessenden was a Canadian inventor who performed pioneering experiments in radio, including the use of continuous waves and the early—and possibly the first—radio transmissions of voice and music. In his later career he received hundreds of patents for devices in fields such as high-powered transmitting, sonar, and television.

Edward Rogers invented the alternating current radio tube in 1925. He also launched the world's first all-electric radio station, CFRB, in Toronto.

It took 38 years for the radio to reach 50 million people but it only took 13 years for television to do it. The Internet did it in four years. IPod did it in 3 years, Facebook reached it in 2 years. It took Twitter only six months.

Philo T. Farnsworth was an American inventor that was the first to engineer and successfully transmit an image using electronic means, a discovery crucial to the early development of the television. Despite this integral contribution, a rival inventor of the Radio Corporation of America sued Farnsworth over the patent and won. Farnsworth went on to make great contributions to the development of broadcasting.

        Allen B. DuMont was in charge of tube production at Westinghouse, the country’s largest radio manufacturer. But by 1928, after his innovations had increased daily tube production tenfold, DuMont got bored and wanted to try something new. Companies like RCA and the radio networks (CBS and NBC) were already experimenting with television. DuMont proposed to his bosses at Westinghouse that they do the same. They weren’t interested, so DuMont quit and set up his own TV lab in the basement of his house. Just two years later, he had perfected the cathode ray tube, the component that allows a TV set to convert the received broadcast signal into an image. And unlike previous cathode ray prototypes, DuMont’s lasted indefinitely, rather than burning out after a few days.
       DuMont sold the patent to RCA and used the money to start a TV manufacturing business. In need of more cash, he sold 40% of the company to Paramount Pictures in 1939, giving him plenty of money to make TVs.
       In 1944 DuMont got a broadcasting license and opened his first station in New York: WABD (for “Allen B. DuMont”). He opened a second station, WTTG (after DuMont’s vice president Thomas T. Goldsmith) in Washington, D.C., in 1945. Then, using more than 200 miles of coaxial cable, DuMont connected his lab in Passaic, New Jersey, to the two stations. On August 9, 1945, DuMont aired an announcement that the U.S. had just dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. That brief message was seen on TV sets in New York, New Jersey, and Washington. The DuMont Network—and commercial TV—was born. The network began regular broadcasts a year later with its first show, Serving Through Science.
      Among DuMont’s contributions:
      The First TV Sitcom: Mary Kay and Johnny (1947). Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns, married in real life, played “themselves.” Most of the action took place in the couple’s apartment.
      The First TV Soap Opera: Faraway Hill (1946). 
      The First Religious TV Show: Life Is Worth Living (1952). Hosted by Catholic bishop Fulton J. Sheen, who delivered lectures on moral issues. It was DuMont’s top show.
      The First Kids’ Show: Your Television Babysitter (1948)
      Home Shopping: On Your Television Shopper, a host presented items (cheap jewelry, small appliances) and viewers called in to have them shipped to their home COD.
      Televised Sports: DuMont was the first network to regularly air football and basketball games (and boxing and wrestling matches).
      The First Science Fiction Show: Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1949). 
      TV Advertising: The other networks did with TV what they had done on radio: One company sponsored an entire show. But DuMont sold individual blocks of commercial time—thirty seconds to a minute each—to multiple sponsors. That’s how TV advertising works today.
      After he retired, DuMont became a philanthropist and donated much of his fortune to help fund National Educational Television, a nonprofit TV network that evolved into PBS.

Arthur Charles Nielsen opened the A.C. Nielsen Company in 1923, providing performance surveys of industrial equipment until the Great Depression. He then created a system (and the box to monitor TV usage) and by the late 1940 he had become the leading force in market research. 

Amar G. Bose was a perfectionist and a devotee of classical music who was disappointed by the inferior sound of a high-priced stereo system he purchased when he was an M.I.T. engineering student in the 1950s. His interest in acoustic engineering piqued, he realized that 80 percent of the sound experienced in a concert hall was indirect, meaning that it bounced off walls and ceilings before reaching the audience. This realization, using basic concepts of physics, formed the basis of his research. In the early 1960s, Dr. Bose invented a new type of stereo speaker based on psychoacoustics, the study of sound perception. His design incorporated multiple small speakers aimed at the surrounding walls, rather than directly at the listener, to reflect the sound and, in essence, recreate the larger sound heard in concert halls.

Ray Milton Dolby was an American engineer and inventor of the noise reduction system known as Dolby NR. He helped develop the video tape recorder while working at Ampex.

Lou Ottens and his team at Philips, the Dutch electronics company, introduced the cassette tape in 1963 as a way to play music in a portable fashion. The invention revolutionized the music business

Elisha Graves Otis is considered the father of the modern elevator. He founded the company bearing his name in 1853, but didn't sell many until he introduced his safety device via a theatrical stunt at the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in New York City in 1854. Mechanical elevators  were made possible by the invention of iron-wire cable in 1834.  Read this fascinating story at:

However, the Romans used elevators to bring animals from pens on the lower level of the Colosseum to the main arena. These were lifted by manpower, using heavy ropes.

Galileo was an Italian physicist, mathematician, engineer, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the scientific revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope, and the realization that a pendulum could be used to keep time. He invented the first pendulum clocks. 

In 1867 Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel Lewis invented the first typewriter that allowed an operator to type substantially faster than a person could write by hand. The patent  was sold for $12,000 to Densmore and Yost, who made an agreement with E. Remington and Sons (then famous as a manufacturer of sewing machines), to commercialize what was known as the Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer. Remington started production of their first typewriter on March 1, 1873 in Ilion, New York. It introduced the QWERTY keyboard, designed by Sholes, and the Remington No. 2 of 1878 was the first typewriter to include both upper and lower case letters via a shift key, and led to the popularity of the QWERTY layout.

However, these typewriters didn't allow typists to see their work. That innovation came with Edward Elijah Horton, a Canadian who, in 1883, got rid of the arrangement of keys that came up from the bottom so they hit the page where the typist couldn't see them. Horton was a court reporter and knew how to take shorthand. He designed keys that struck from the front. He and his brother founded the Horton Typewriter Company in 1885, but sold the patent two years later. Their original prototype is in the Museum of Science and Technology in Canada.

The typewriter was first sold commercially in 1867. 

In 1830, a French tailor by the name of Barthelemy Thimonnier patented a sewing machine that used the chain stitch, the first such machine to replicate sewing by hand. By 1841, he had a factory with over 80 machines and a contract with the French army for uniforms. However, the factory was destroyed by a riotous group of French tailors who were afraid the sewing machine would spell the end of their trade. Thimonnier never recovered and died pretty much penniless.

In 1846 Elias Howe patented the first practical sewing machine. Then, in 1851, Isaac Merritt Singer, a machinist from Boston, Massachusetts, introduced the first sewing machine scaled for home use.  Although Singer’s early machines were based on Howe’s concept, he later patented the rigid arm for holding the needle and a vertical bar to hold the cloth down against the upward stroke of the needle.

Five years after being granted a patent for the first practical sewing machine, Howe patented his design for a zipper-like garment fastener. However, he never put much effort into marketing this invention, perhaps due to the great success of his sewing machine, and today, credit for the zipper's development is largely given to Whitcomb Judson, who demonstrated his innovative slide-fastener design 42 years later at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

American mechanic Walter Hunt is regarded as the inventor of the safety pin that bears resemblance to those used today. The safety pin included a clasp that covered the point and kept it from opening, and a circular twist at the bend to act as a spring and hold it in place. Charles Rowley patented a similar safety pin in October 1849.  Hunt sold the patent to W. R. Grace and Company for $400.

Kevlar, used in everything from bullet-proof vests to tennis rackets, sneakers, and even snare drums, was discovered by Stephanie Kwolek, but she signed away the patent royalties to DuPont. She was given a Lavoisier Medal, which DuPont gives to employees for outstanding contributions, the only woman to have ever received the award. Kwolek also laid the groundwork for the flame-resistant nylon-like material used in firefighters’ suits. She was involved in the development of spandex. She had earned a degree in chemistry, intending to become a doctor. To save up money for tuition for medical school, she applied for a job with the DuPont chemical company. Kwolek was honored with an Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Honor, along with induction into the National Plastics Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. She lived in Wilmington, Delaware until she passed away in 2014 at the age of 90.

The Nigerian email scam is also called 419. It dates back to the Spanish Armada in the 1500s, when wealthy landowners would receive letters saying, My father is being held in a Spanish prison. He has millions in gold that he's hidden away, so if you help me free him (by sending xx amount of gold) I will reward you handsomely. When the economy of Nigeria collapsed in the late 1970s into the 1980s.

Morse Code was invented by Samuel Finley Breese Morse, born in 1791, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Morse attended Yale University, where he was interested in art, as well as electricity, still in its infancy at the time. After college, Morse became a painter. In 1832, while sailing home from Europe, he heard about the newly discovered electromagnet and came up with an idea for an electric telegraph. He had no idea that other inventors were already at work on the concept. In 1838, he demonstrated his telegraph system, which eventually revolutionized long-distance communication. Morse also brought photography to the U.S., after seeing a photo of the Louvre in Paris.

Jacob August Riis is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash powder to allow him to take pictures indoors. A journalist and photographer, he documented the impoverished lower classes in New York tenements and helped spur more humane housing options. Some of his efforts lead to significant improvements such as indoor plumbing, sewers and garbage pick-up. His book, How the Other Half Lives, contained many of his "halftone" photos. 

The use of "flash powder" led to the term "flash gun" long after the highly flammable powder was no longer used for photography. 

In the late 1890s, there was great interest in science from men who created laboratories in their homes to experiment with various elements.  Paris had electric streetcars, telephone exchanges, and moving pictures created by the Lumiere Brothers. The Eiffel Tower has been built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair, and amateur scientists were interested in the Periodic Table, compiled by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869. Mendeleev helped found the first oil refinery in Russia, and introduced the metric system to that country.

Others had also contributed significant discoveries, such as Joseph Priestly, who invented carbonization in 1767, and Lavosier who claimed credit for that and in 1789 wrote a textbook announcing oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and water as basic elements. It was soon discovered that releasing oxygen from rocks revealed other elements.

Humphrey Davy discovered potassium and sodium by using an electric battery, and discovered nitrous exide (otherwise known as laughing gas). Meanwhile, in Italy, Allessandro Volta created methane and created electric current (known later as voltage).

Many other elements were added later. Marie Curie discovered polonium and radium, which glowed in the dark because of its instability. She then conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win twice in multiple sciences, and was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. Between 1898 and 1902 the Curies published, jointly or separately, a total of 32 scientific papers, including one that announced that, when exposed to radium, diseased, tumor-forming cells were destroyed faster than healthy cells.

The periodic table reveals that elements have what looks like a unique barcode, similar to DNA sequencing.

The letter J does not appear anywhere on the periodic table of the elements

Glen Seaborg discovered eight new elements, and when the Germans split the uranium atom, Enrico Fermi was able to build the first nuclear reactor, and contribute to the development of quantum theory. Seaborg  added plutonium to the table, and was part of the Manhattan Project and the University of Chicago, which created the atom bomb. 

At the end of the Second World War, Americans were picking over the technological remains of German industry. One of the things they discovered was magnetic tape; the Nazis had been using tape recording to broadcast propaganda across time zones. Previous sound-recording technologies had used wax cylinders or discs, or delicate wires. But magnetic tape was remarkably fungible: it could be recorded over, cut and spliced together. Plus it sounded better. Bing Crosby used his industry power—by then he was on top, one of the world’s richest, most famous and intensely beloved celebrities—to step away from live broadcast by choosing a sponsor and network that would let him use large, wax discs. Philco Radio Hour débuted in 1946 on ABC, at thirty-thousand dollars a week. Bob Hope was his first guest. Meanwhile, engineers interested in tape, having learned what they could from what the Nazis left behind, made their way to Crosby and showed him what the new magnetic technology could do. His interest was more than piqued; he handed fifty thousand dollars to the men from the Ampex corporation, which at that time was just a half-dozen people. The machines they delivered went into use in 1947, and a new Crosby show, edited by tape splicing, was broadcast—the first radio show to use the new technology. Suddenly audio—recorded media—was flexible. It could be cut and pasted, rearranged, and edited.

Tapes were still awkward beasts, however—a tape is essentially a long piece of string. If a piece of data is at the end of the string, you have to spin the tape until you get to the end. As anyone who grew up on old machines that used cassettes to store programs knows, with tape the basics of computing—storage, retrieval—take what, to modern sensitivities, feels like an eternity. In the nineteen-fifties I.B.M. developed a research project to create the RAMAC, for Random Access Method of Accounting and Control. Roughly the size of a washing machine (and that was just the disk), RAMAC was a set of platters that held about five megabytes of data—about as much data as is in a single longish MP3 today. Behold the glory of this majestic device: This was, of course, the first hard drive. In Magnetic Disk Storage: A Personal Memoir, a man named Albert S. Hoagland, who worked on the RAMAC, cites the Crosby connection.

Ada Lovelace, the only daughter of Lord Byron, was an English mathematician and writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. Because of this, she is often described as the world's first computer programmer.

The first electronic tabulating machines were invented by Herman Hollerith in 1889, making it possible to collect and manage data in new ways. He created the first automatic card-feed mechanism and key-punch system with which an operator using a keyboard could process as many as three hundred cards an hour. Under the direction of Thomas J. Watson, Hollerith’s company merged with three others in 1911 to form Computing Tabulating recording Company. In 1924, the company was renamed International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).

In 1968, Evelyn Berezin had the idea for a word processor to simplify the work of secretaries, and in 1969 she founded Redactron Corporation, which became a public company and delivered thousands of systems to customers throughout its international marketing organization. The company's main product was called the "Data Secretary" and it was the size of a small refrigerator, had no screen, and the keyboard and printer was an IBM Selectric typewriter.

Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) invented the first mouse prototype in 1963. The trackball, a related pointing device, was invented as part of a post-World War II-era radar plotting system called Comprehensive Display System (CDS) by Ralph Benjamin when working for the British Royal Navy Scientific Service in 1946.

Steve Wozniak made the first personal computer by hand in his garage, in 1976. It had just 4k onboard.

The first desktop computers appeared in stores in 1977. They used large, floppy disks and had no hard drive.

When Tim Berners-Lee envisaged what would become the world wide web, it was with the idea of making academic papers and other documents widely available. To this end he devised a simple way of laying out text and images on a page, inventing what we now call Hypertext Markup Language or HTML.

In 1934, a little-known Belgian bibliographer named Paul Otlet published his plans for the Mundaneum, a global network that would allow anyone in the world to tap into a vast repository of published information with a device that could send and receive text, display photographs, transcribe speech and auto-translate between languages. Otlet even imagined social networking-like features that would allow anyone to “participate, applaud, give ovations, sing in the chorus.” Conceived in the pre-digital era, Otlet’s scheme relied on a crazy quilt of analog technologies like microfilm, telegraph lines, radio transmitters and typewritten index cards. Nonetheless, it anticipated the emergence of a hyperlinked information environment — more than half a century before Tim Berners-Lee released the first Web browser. Despite Otlet’s remarkable foresight, he remains largely forgotten outside of rarefied academic circles. When the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1940, they destroyed much of his work, helping ensure his descent into historical obscurity (although the Mundaneum museum in Belgium is making great strides toward restoring his legacy). Most of his writing has never been translated into English.

Linus Torvalds transformed technology twice -- first with Linux, which helps power the Internet, and again with Git, the source code management system used by coders worldwide.

Email was invented by Shiva Ayyadurai, who was only 14 when he realized that the inter-office copying system could be replicated on computers. Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai holds four degrees from MIT, is a world-renowned systems scientist, inventor and entrepreneur. He is a Fulbright Scholar, Lemelson-MIT Awards Finalist, India’s First Outstanding Scientist and Technologist of Indian Origin, Westinghouse Science Talent Honors Award recipient, and a nominee for the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation.  In 1978, as a precocious 14-year-old, after completing a special program in computer science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Science at NYU, Ayyadurai was recruited by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) as a Research Fellow, where he developed the first electronic emulation of the entire interoffice mail system.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin first met at Stanford University in 1995 when Sergey (21) was assigned to show Larry (22) around the school. They founded Google, which was first incorporated as a private company on September 4, 1998.

Most consider the world’s first ATM to be the one invented by John Shepherd-Barron and installed by Barclays Bank in North London on June 27, 1967.

Jacob Perkins invented the first version of the refrigerator in 1834 when it was discovered that the hazardous compound ammonia, when liquefied, had a cooling effect. But it wasn’t until the late 1920s when Freon was developed by General Motors and DuPont as a “nontoxic” cooling agent.

Two inventors sewed clear plastic shower curtains together to create what they thought might be a new idea for wallpaper. But what they gave birth to was bubble wrap.

The first feature film created solely with Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) was Toy Story (1995). Over 800,000 hours of mathematical equations went into the film, which works out to more than a week of computer time for every second on the screen.

First developed in 1967 in Canada, the IMAX technology premiered with the first IMAX film, a short titled Tiger Child, at the Fuji Pavilion at EXPO '70 in Osaka, Japan. Today the company has 371 IMAX theatres in 43 countries, although two-thirds of them are located in North America. The bulb used in an IMAX projector is bright enough to be seen by residents of the International Space Station if pointed in their direction.

Other Canadian inventions include the paint roller, the electric oven, the green garbage bag, the cordless mower, and plexiglas.

Canadian engineer George Kelin revolutionized the wheelchair for wounded veternans of World War II. He devised a propulsion system and a joystick control still used today.

Nestor Butnyk and Marceli Wein were researchers at Canada's National Research Council when they pioneered an animation technology that won them an Oscar.

The first entire meal cooked by electricity took place in 1992 in Windsor, Ontario. The inventor, T. Ahearn, hailed from Ottawa, and was also responsible for putting the first electric car on the road in Canada.

The first practical zipper was invented in 1913 by Gideon Sundback. 

Earle Dickson, a cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson, invented the Band Aid in 1920.

The first pacemaker was invented by John Hopps at the National Research Centre in 1950.

Louis Sokoloff won the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 1981 for his role in developing the PET scan, which reveals vivid color images that map brain function.

Willie Haviland Carrier invented air conditioning in 1902, to cool the paper at a NY City printing plant. because heat and humidity kept it from inking properly. 

WD-40 was invented by chemist Norm larsen, tried 39 times before succeeding,  in 1953,  developing a liquid to protect the outer skin of the Atlas missile. As workers took it home to use privately, more than 2000 uses were discovered. The name stands for Water Displacement 40th Attempt.

In 1961, the Studebaker Packard Corporation acquired Chemical Compounds, a company with seven employees and only one product: STP (for scientifically treated petroleum). Andy Granatelli was named the president and changed the company name to STP.

The paper clip has an unusual beginning. Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian with degrees in electronics, science and math, received a patent for the paper clip in 1899, and obtained an American patent in 1901. During World War II, Norwegians were forbidden by the Nazis from wearing anything with an image of their king. Since many buttons bore that image, the people rebelled by using paperclips instead, in honor of their Norwegian inventor. Their original purpose, to "bind together," symbolized their resistance against Nazi occupation.  

In 1858, a stationer named Hymen Lipman patented a newfangled pencil with a rubber plug embedded in one end of its wood shaft. An entrepreneur named Joseph Reckendorfer guessed that the pencil-plus-eraser would become a blockbuster product and bought the patent from Lipman for $100,000, about $2 million in today’s dollars. Had that patent held up, Reckendorfer might have become a titan of industry. By the 1920s, almost all of the pencils sold in America included erasers. But the Supreme Court ruled in 1875 that the eraser-tipped pencil didn’t count as a legitimate invention. In the eyes of the court, all that Lipman had done was combine an eraser, which was a known technology, with the pencil, which was a known technology, says Henry Petroski, author of The Pencil, a book on the history and design of the tool. Because Reckendorfer lost the case, companies like A. W. Faber could use Lipman’s design without paying any royalties.

George Owen Squier invented "multiplexing," which allowed sending multiple signals over one line. The former Army Signal Officer went on to develop "wired radio," which he later named Muzak.

Alexander Graham Bell was only 29 when he received a patent for his revolutionary new invention–the telephone. Bell invented many things, including the metal detector. He had been working on a crude version when President Garfield was shot, and Bell raced to the hospital to see if he could help doctors locate the bullet lodged in Garfield's back.

John Wesley Hyatt invented plastic in 1869, to replace ivory billiard balls.

In 1839, Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanized rubber. Legend has it that while in an argument with his lab partner, he angrily threw a piece of sulfur-covered rubber into a potbelly stove. The rubber charred and, then, hardened. Heat had combined the sulfur molecules to the rubber molecules, creating a rubbery substance that was stronger and more elastic. The vulcanization process and his subsequent patents changed the world. By the mid-1800s, products using vulcanized rubber started flooding the market, including footwear, sheet rubber, car springs, bicycle tires and toys.

Monopoly was initially rejected by Parker Brothers, but after the creator met with success selling the game himself, the toy firm reconsidered and bought it in 1935.

Scrabble was invented in 1931 and was originally called Criss Cross. For 17 years toy makers snubbed this game, saying it was too intellectual, so the inventor Alfred Botts decided to manufacture and sell it himself. It is the world's second best selling game.

When Richard James knocked a spring off a shelf in 1943, he noticed how it jumped across the floor, and invented the Slinky.

Jigsaw puzzles originated as educational devices to teach geography in 18th-century England. Their invention is credited to British map maker John Spilsburg, who created the first one in 1767. Dissected pictures followed, covering such subjects as history, alphabets, botany, and zoology. The use of popular pictures began in the 1860s and 1870s, in both Great Britain and the United States. The puzzles became extremely popular in the early 1900s and had a revival in the Great Depression of the 1930s as an inexpensive, reusable amusement. Another revival began after World War II, and jigsaw puzzles have remained popular since then.

Play-Doh, that strange, brightly colored, salty clay that all of us grew up molding and poking was first invented in the 1930s by a soap manufacturer named Cleo McVickers, who thought he’d hit upon a fantastic wallpaper cleaner. It wasn’t for another twenty years that McVicker’s son, Joseph, repurposed the goop as clay for pre-schoolers and called it Play-Doh, a product that remains wildly popular among the under-5 crowd today.

Yoga was introduced to the West by Hindu leader Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902). He addressed the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. The Beatles, especially George Harrison, also helped popularize  yoga. They were the first to bring the sitar into rock and roll and the first to introduce Hindu melodies into modern music.

Although most people have never heard of him, Maurice Hilleman developed dozens of vaccines, including for chickenpox, Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles, meningitis, mumps, and pneumonia.

Dr. James Jude was a resident at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine when he recognized that external manual pressure could revive a stalled heart, a discovery that led to the widespread use of CPR.

Kleenex tissues were originally marketed as a cold cream remover in 1924, having been initially developed as a liner for gas masks in World War I. In 1929, the company decided to suggest they would make a good disposable handkerchief.

The first permanent color photograph was taken by James Clerk Maxwell in 1861.

In 1810, Peter Durand invented the tin can for preserving food.

King Gilette gave away razors but charged for blades.

The match was an accidental invention by John Walker, a British chemist, who decided to use a wooden stick to stir some chemicals in 1826.

Superglue was also a bit of an accident. Dr. Henry Cooper was trying to create a stronger adhesive, and mixed the first batch of super glue in 1942, but it was too strong, so he put it aside. Then, in 1951, it was the ideal glue to hold difficult parts together.

In 1909, Eugène Schueller founded the French Harmless Hair Dye Company, which later became L’Oreal.

Toilet paper was invented in China in the late 1300s. It was for emperors only. Joseph Gayetty is widely credited with being the inventor of modern commercially available toilet paper in the United States.  Before then, a number of outhouses in America were stocked with dried leaves. Gayetty's paper, first introduced in 1857, was available as late as the 1920s. Gayetty's Medicated Paper was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor's name. Seth Wheeler of Albany, New York, obtained the earliest United States patents for toilet paper and dispensers, the types of which eventually were in common usage in that country, in 1883. Toilet paper was introduced in the United States in roll form by Scott Paper Company in 1890.  In 1901, Northern Paper Mills introduced a bundle of 1000 sheets with a wire through it so it could be hung.

The Chinese invented paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.

According to  Mark Miodownik, the author of Stuff Matters, many important inventions originated in the far east.  For example, until the industrial revolution, only the Samurai possessed the secret of creating hard, sharp steel. The essential factor, the carbon content, was known to no one until the Japanese firgured out how to select  the sharpest steel.

Miodownik also points out that porcelain, whose strength and translucency comes from combining white clay, feldspar and quartz heated to 1,200C. Until 1704 only the Chinese knew that.

Another substance we take for granted are carbon fibre composites, which are used in aircraft construction and sports equipment. They were invented in 1963 by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough,  then commercialised by Rolls-Royce and Courtaulds.

Harry Brearley invented stainless steel in 1913. He grew up in Sheffield, a city famous for the manufacture of cutlery. A metallurgist, he searched for a way to keep carbon-steel knives from rusting.  He discovered that adding chromium would produce a "rustless steel, " and experimented by testing the metals with food acids such as vinegar and lemon juice. And a colleague suggested they change the name to stainless steel.

Listerine was invented 133 years ago, first as a surgical antiseptic, but also as a cure for gonorrhea. An article from 1888 recommends Listerine for sweaty feet. Over the course of the next century, it was marketed as a refreshing additive to cigarettes, a cure for the common cold, and as a dandruff treatment. But it was in the 1920s that the powerful, germ-killing liquid finally landed on its most lucrative use as a magical cure for bad breath.

In 1859, chemist Robt Chesebrough noticed that workers used the residue on oil rigs to soften their rough hands. He refined it and named it Vaseline.

In 1913, Thomas L. Williams mixed Vaseline and coal dust for his sister, Mabel. It became the first cake mascara for his new company, Maybelline.

In the late 1890s, a chemist at a German pharmaceutical firm tried to synthesize morphine into codeine, a milder pain-killer, but the result was heroin. The company was Bayer, who had just developed aspirin.

 From 1850 to 1942, marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia as a useful medicine for nausea, rheumatism, and labor pains and was easily obtained at the local general store or pharmacy.

Henri Nestlé, born in Germany in 1814, was the 11th of 14 children—only half of whom survived to adulthood. After apprenticing to a pharmacist in the 1830s, he began to work on an infant food that could serve as a substitute for breast milk for struggling babies. Combining milk, flour, and sugar, he created the first commercial infant formula and founded what is today the largest processed foods company in the world.

It takes 3650 peanuts to fill a 5-pound container of peanut butter. Half of all edible peanuts consumed in the US are used to make peanut butter.

George Washington Carver developed 300 derivative products from peanuts.

In 1746, Eva Ekeblad, a Swedish noblewoman, discovered how to make flour and alcohol from potatoes.

Brandy started off as a byproduct of transporting wine. About 900 years ago, merchants would essentially boil the water off of large quantities of wine in order to both transport it more easily, and save on customs taxes, which were levied by volume. After a while, a few of these merchants, bored perhaps after a long day on the road, dipped into their inventory and discovered that the  distilled wine tasted pretty good.

China invented ice cream, and Marco Polo is rumored to have taken the recipe (along with the recipe for noodles) back with him to Europe.

The popsicle was invented when an 11-year-old boy, Frank Epperson, added powdered flavoring to soda, left the stir stick in the cup, and put it on his front porch to cool. He forgot it overnight and it froze.

In 1873, James  and Gilbert founded Ganong Bros. Limited in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. In 1884 the partnership was dissolved: James expanded into a successful soap production and Gilbert maintained the candy company known as Ganong Brothers. The fourth generation of Ganongs still runs the candy business, which was the first in North America to wrap a candy bar. They also created the first heart-shaped boxes for Valentine chocolates.

When a chocolate bar melted in Percy L. Spencer's pocket as he stood in front of a magnetron, this man who never finished elementary school invented the microwave oven.

In 1876, Milton Hershey started a candy company in Philadelphia, but it failed six years later. At the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, he got hooked on chocolate and bought some German candy-making machinery and had it shipped back to Pennsylvania. After much experimentation, Hershey figured out the formula for making milk chocolate-a secret process known only to the Swiss at the time. He started the Hershey Chocolate Company and the rest is history.

The 1893 Exposition (the first "World's Fair"), was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. 

It was the first World's Fair to include an amusement section, featuring a huge Ferris Wheel, 250 feet in diameter, carrying 36 cars, each capable of holding 60 people.

Among the products first shown to the public at the Fair include the phosphorescent lamp (a precursor to fluorescent lamps), Cracker Jacks, Juicy Fruit gum, Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, Shredded Wheat, spray painting, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and the hamburger.  The US Post Office produced it first picture postcards and Commemorative stamp set, the US Mint offered its first commemorative coins, and the "clasp locker," a clumsy slide fastener (forerunner to the zipper) was displayed, as was Aunt Jemina as a logo for pancake syrup.

One invention displayed there was the first practical dishwasher. Josephine Cochran, a wealthy matron in Illinois, was tired of having her dishes chipped by servants. In 1886, she proclaimed,  If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I'll do it myself. She expected the public to welcome the new invention, which she unveiled at the 1893, World's Fair, but only the hotels and large restaurants were interested.  She founded a company to manufacture these dish washers, which eventually became KitchenAid. But it was not until the 1950s, that dishwashers caught on with the general public.

Another female inventor was Mary Anderson, who invented the first windshield wiper in 1902. It was originally only used on street cars.

On May 8, 1886, Atlanta pharmacist John Styth Pemberton invented the flavor syrup for Coca-Cola. He was
a Confederate veteran turned pharmacist who wanted to replace morphine and alcohol dependency among war wounded. Cocaine was considered a kinder, gentler addiction. The popular beverage was originally green. For years, his recipe remained a secret. It was quietly published in 1979 in the Atlanta Constitution-Journal but went unnoticed. It has two parts. The first includes “fluid extract of coca,” citric acid, caffeine, sugar, water, lime juice, vanilla, and caramel. The second, called “7X,” includes alcohol, orange oil, lemon oil, nutmeg oil, coriander, neroli, and cinnamon. The company claims this recipe is not accurate, and maintains that the original formula is still locked in their vaults.

7-Up started as a hangover cure in the roaring twenties: SEVEN in the morning, time to get UP.

Jello was created by carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle B. Wait. He and his wife May added strawberry, raspberry, orange and lemon flavoring to the powder and gave the product its present name in 1897. Unable to successfully market their concoction, in 1899 the Waits sold the business to a neighbor, Orator Francis Woodward, for $450. Even Woodward struggled to sell the powdered product. Beginning in 1902, to raise awareness, Woodward's Genesee Pure Food Company placed advertisements in the Ladies' Home Journal proclaiming Jell-O to be "America's Most Famous Dessert." Jell-O remained a minor success until 1904, when Genesee Pure Food Company sent enormous numbers of salesmen out into the field to distribute free Jell-O cookbooks, a pioneering marketing tactic at the time

It is believed that the original potato chip recipe was created by chef George Crum at a restaurant in Saratoga Springs, NY. Fed up with a customer who continued to send his fried potatoes back with the complaint that they were too thick and soggy, Crum decided to slice the potatoes so thinly that they could not be eaten with a fork. The customer was delighted, and the chips became a regular item on the lodge's menu.

IKEA's founder, Ingvar Kamprad, started by selling matches, pens, and flower seeds from his bicycle when he was five years old. IKEA is an acronym of his name plus Elmtaryd, the village where he grew up, and Agunnaryd, the name of the farm.

The IKEA catalogue turned 60 years old in 2010. It's now printed in 29 languages, and there are 316 stores in 38 countries worldwide. In August, 2011, the IKEA Foundation donated $62 million to the UN refugee agency to provide emergency relief to the world's largest refugee complex in Kenya. For every SUNNAN lamp sold in IKEA stores, the Foundation donates one lamp to UNICEF and Save the Children. By the end of 2015, it's estimated that IKEA's social projects will have helped 100 million children.

The Hammond organ was invented by Laurens Hammond and John M. Hanert and first manufactured in 1935. It was originally designed as a lower-cost alternative to the wind-driven pipe organ, or instead of a piano in smaller churches. It quickly became popular with professional jazz musicians, who found it a cheaper alternative to the big band.

In 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada, tailor Jacob Davis were given a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the birth of one of the world’s most famous garments: blue jeans. The man who invented the rivet was  Jacob Davis. He didn't have the money to file the necessary patent paperwork, for he wrote to Strauss, suggesting they apply together.

Jan Ernst Matzeliger invented the lasting machine which allowed soles to be attached to shoes.  Previously, this was done manually by a "hand laster", who could only produce 50 pairs in a ten-hour day. After Matzeliger obtained his patent in 1883, machines could produce between 150 and 700 pairs of shoes a day, cutting shoe prices across the nation in half.

X-rays were discovered by accident when German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen was experimenting with vacuum tubes in 1895. He refused to take patents out related to his discovery because he wanted humankind as a whole to benefit.

Barbara Cartland, the British author best known for her romance novels, in 1931 helped develop a technique of towing gliders long-distance. It was used to deliver airmail and later transport troops.

Donald Douglas was responsible for the first all-metal passenger plane. He called it the DC-3, for the third prototype of the Douglas Civilian plane. DC-3s were used extensively in World War II, and many are still used today for short trips.

The first shopping cart was created by a Sylvan Goldman in Oklahoma City in 1939. It was actually a folding chair that had been mounted on wheels.

Scotch Tape was created in 1930 by 3M engineer Richard Drew, who had invented masking tape in 1925. At first, the clear cellulose tape was used by bakers and butchers to keep seal packages to resist moisture. But during the Depression, consumers found many other uses for the handy tape, repairing many things that might otherwise have had to discarded.

Duct tape was an idea that came from a mother of sons fighting in World War II. Vesta Stoudt wrote to FDR saying her sons needed a faster way to open sealed boxes of ammunition, and the President had duct tape created.

In 1913, Thomas L. Williams mixed Vaseline and coal dust for his sister, Mabel. It became the first cake mascara for his new company, Maybelline.

In 1885, Karl Benz created what he later would call the Motorwagen, a three-wheeled vehicle with a one-cylinder, four-stroke gasoline engine. While others, such as Gottlieb Daimler, were independently working on essentially the same thing with similar success, it was the Motorwagen that is credited as the world’s first practical, commercially available, internal combustion engine powered automobile. Benz had help from his wife, Bertha. She was the first to ever take an  automobile "road trip," during which she discovered various issues with her husband's invention, coming up with some very innovative ideas in the process, such as inventing the brake pad mid-trip. 

The parking meter was invented in 1935 by Carl C. Magee in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The first meter was installed there later that year, guaranteeing drivers a parking space for an amount of purchased time. Used until the 1980s, Magee’s original design had a coin acceptor, a dial, and a visible flag indicating the expiration of paid time.

In 1951, Lillian Katz took $2,000 of wedding gift money and placed a small ad in Seventeen magazine for $495 offering a purse and belt with free monogramming. Her investment in ad space generated 6,450 orders and $32,000 in sales. The Lillian Vernon catalog was born.

In 1977, Richard Thalheimer, then a young office supplies salesman and occasional lawyer, used to jog in San Francisco and keep track of his progress on a wristwatch that had been specially designed for runners. All who jog should have this item, Thalheimer reasoned. So he cut a deal with the manufacturer and had designer Steve Sugar craft an ad offering the watch for $69 in Runner’s World under the corporate moniker The Sharper Image. The ad generated $300,000 the first year, and the rest is history.

Mel and Patricia Zeigler found a batch of surplus French Army shirts in 1978. Patricia designed a small space ad and Mel wrote the copy. They sold out and Banana Republic was born.

In the late 1800s, the first bathing suits appeared and consisted of padded bloomer pants made from wool or flannel, topped off with a knee-length dress, black wool stockings, shoes, and ruffled hats. The heavy fabric made it almost impossible to swim.

The Skycam, which enables TV viewers to watch stadium games from all angles, was invented in 1984 by Garrett Brown.

Tim Berners-Lee proposed an information management system at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) 20 years ago which led eventually to the World Wide Web.

However, Vinton Gray "Vint" Cerf is recognized as one of "the fathers of the Internet", sharing this title with American engineer Bob Kahn.

In 1993, Marc Andreessen led a team that developed a browser for the World Wide Web, named Mosaic.  This was a graphical browser developed via funding through a U.S. government initiative, specifically the “High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991. This act was partially what Al Gore was referring to when he said he “took the initiative in creating the Internet.”  Vincent Cerf said, “The Internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the Vice President [Al Gore] in his current role and in his earlier role as Senator&ldots;As far back as the 1970s, Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship&ldots;  His initiatives led directly to the commercialization of the Internet. So he really does deserve credit.”

Marty Cooper, who worked for Motorola, invented the first cell phone in 1973.

Joe Sutter, the former chief engineer of Boeing’s 747 program, led the development of the first widebody aircraft, which introduced the era of mass air travel.

James Spratt, an Ohio electrician, who had gone to England to sell lightning rods in 1860,  saw British dogs being fed old ship biscuits, and thought he could make a better biscuit. His formulation, based on guesswork, not science, succeeded and he soon had a thriving business among English gentlemen who owned sporting dogs. In 1890 the company went public and came to the US. Thus, an American lightning rod salesman started the entire pet food business.  (written by Barbara Moss,

In 1826, British chemist John Walker was mixing some chemicals with a wooden stick. When he accidently struck it against his work table, it ignited, and the wooden match was the result.

1884, the first roller coaster in America opened at Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York. Known as a switchback railway, it was the brainchild of LaMarcus Thompson, traveled approximately six miles per hour and cost a nickel to ride. The new entertainment was an instant success and by the turn of the century there were hundreds of roller coasters around the country.

The Geek Squad was founded in 1994 by Robert Stephens, who began alone and with only a bicycle to get around. It now employs more than 20,000.  To honor the state where it began, Minneapolis has enshrined the Geek Squad uniform in its museum.

Grace Hopper, a US Navy officer who devoted herself to programming after World War Two, led the team that invented the first program to convert normal English into computer commands. We owe her for the terms “bug” and “debug,” apparently coined when she had to pick moths out of an early computer.

NASA is responsible for many things we use every day, including memory foam, water filters, scratch-resistant eyeglass lenses, and such medical devices as the cochlear implant and the insulin pump.

The fork was introduced in the Middle East before the year 1,000.  

Bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers were all invented by women.

The safety pin was created by Walter Hunt in 1849. He sold the patent for $400.

In 1801, Joseph Marie Jacquard invented the punch-card system to create complex designs for looms so they could produce intricate patterns for fabrics and rugs. This was the first example of the use of the binary system.

            Ole Evinrude patented the outboard motor in 1907.

                            Joel Spira invented the light dimmer. 

Texan Bette Nesmith Graham was a single mother who worked as a secretary for the Texas Bank & Trust. One day she noticed a sign painter using the background color to correct a mistake, and decided to try white water-based tempera paint to cover her typing errors, later refining the product and began to sell it, in 1956, as Mistake Out.  Eventually, she patented the product and renamed it Liquid Paper. She offered to IBM, which declined, and by 1968, it was profitable enough for her to invest in a factory. In 1979 the Liquid Paper Corporation was sold to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5 million with royalties. Graham's son Mike Nesmith, who first achieved fame as guitarist/singer in the popular 1960s pop band The Monkees, was the primary heir to her fortune upon her death.

Alfred Taubman was the first to create parking in front of stores, inventing the strip mall.

The first electric car made its debut in 1896. The man who invented it was Andrew Riker, and it was very popular for many years, until the gasoline engine took over, enabling cars to travel further.

After World War II, Forrest Gill realized that combining bright colors and sticky paper could produce the first bumper stickers.

In 1928, cousins Edward M. Knabusch and Edwin J. Shoemaker set out to design a chair for what they called "nature’s way of relaxing." Using orange crates to mock-up and refine their idea, they invented a wood-slat porch chair with a reclining mechanism. Knabusch and Shoemaker then upholstered their innovation and marketed it as a year-round chair. The chair was a success and after holding a contest to name it, the La-Z-Boy was born.

Sylvester March invented processes for rendering lard and drying grain, and in 1852, he hiked up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, and was stranded overnight in a storm. He then devised a passenger train using a toothed wheel or cog, to power the train and act as a brake on descent. The unique cog railway was first used in 1869, and the railway is now a National Engineering Landmark.

In 1845, Stephen Perry, a British inventor and businessman, patented what is now a staple office supply—the rubber band. While their intended function is to hold items together, rubber bands have been used in a number of other capacities; they can be wrapped around one another to form a bouncy ball or used as "ammunition" in rubber band guns. Though many modern rubber products are commonly made with synthetic rubber, rubber bands are still primarily manufactured using natural rubber.

The hammock dates back to the Maya in Latin America. The word hamacas means fishing nets, and became popular because they were easily transportable and kept sleepers above the ground,  dry and away from snakes and insects. They were quickly adopted on sailing ships because they took up much less space than beds and were easily stored.

The prototypes for universal symbols were developed in the 1930s at the Museum of Society and Economy in Vienna by Otto Neurath (1882-1945), a left-leaning Viennese social scientist who specialized in political economy. His system of sign symbols, which became known as the International System of Typographic Picture Education (Isotype), grew out of his calling to revolutionize understanding among peoples and institutions.

A Venn diagram shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets. Venn diagrams were conceived around 1880 by John Venn. They are used to teach elementary set theory, as well as illustrate simple set relationships in probability, logic, statistics, linguistics and computer science. Venn diagrams normally comprise overlapping circles. The interior of the circle symbolically represents the elements of the set, while the exterior represents elements that are not members of the set.

New NASA satellite data revealed Earth’s largest underground aquifers, which are a source of fresh water, are being depleted at alarming rates, according to research published Tuesday in the Water Resources Research Journal Research shows 21 of the 37 largest aquifers located around the world have passed a sustainability tipping point, which means more water was taken out than replaced during the 10-year study period. The new research underscores major concerns about the reliance on underground aquifers, which supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Drought-stricken California is using aquifers for 60 percent of its water use, compared to typical use of 40 percent. The study points out the emptying aquifers are exacerbated by human activity such as agriculture, growing populations, and mining.

The habit of burying the dead in the ground contributes significantly to pollution.  Burying coffins means that 90,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, and over 30 million feet of hard wood covered in toxic laminates are also buried per year.