TOP FIVE INVENTORS
1,093 PATENTS Thomas Alva Edison Light bulb, phonograph, motion picture, mimeograph, pneumatic stencil pen
925 PATENTS Melvin De Groote Method to separate crude oil from water, process that adheres chocolate to vanilla ice cream
894 PATENTS Francis H. Richards Golf-ball-molding machine, air-cushion door spring, high-speed envelope machine
696 PATENTS Elihu Thomson Electrically operated pipe organ, cream separator, electric welding
554 PATENTS Jerome Lemelson Bar-code reader, computer-controlled tourniquet, audiocassette-drive mechanism, magnetic-recording system
COMPANIES WITH MOST PATENTS IN 20th CENTURY
General Electric 50,837 --Electric fan (1902) --X-ray tube (1913) --First U.S. jet engine (1941) --Solid-state laser (1962) --Computed tomography, a.k.a. CT scanner (1970)
IBM 32,498 --Integrated tabulator (1903) --Scanning tunneling microscope (1981) --Deep Blue parallel computing system (1995)
Westinghouse Electric 28,005 --Full kitchen range (1917) --Commercial nuclear power plant (1957) --Camera on the moon (1969)
AT&T 24,578 --Coaxial cable (1929) --Quartz clock (1930) --Transistor (1947) --Solar cell (1954) --Laser (1958) --Touch-Tone service (1963)
General Motors 23,948 --Electric self-starter (1912) --Diesel-powered train (1934) --Automatic transmission (1940) --Catalytic converter (1975)
EVOLUTION OF A WELL-KNOWN INVENTION Everyday objects seldom spring fully formed into the world. They evolve, sometimes slowly, over centuries. Take the timepiece...
HOURGLASS > SUNDIAL > VILLAGE CLOCK > POCKET WATCH > PENDULUM CLOCK > ALARM CLOCK > WRISTWATCH > DIGITAL WATCH
CONTROVERSIES Who Gets Credit?
THE TELEGRAPH Was It Morse or Cooke and Wheatstone?
It was all three. Numerous inventors often work on the same idea at the same time, and different nations therefore claim credit for being first. In 1837, Britain's Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke patented a five-needle telegraph. That same year, the American Samuel F.B. Morse created a telegraph that used a single key to transmit signals. Soon afterward he developed Morse code, a telegraph language made up of dots and dashes that became the standard.
THE TELEPHONE Was It Bell, Gray, Reis or Meucci?
In 1856, Italian Antonio Meucci set up the world's first phone line, on Staten Island, N.Y. But he never marketed his idea. A few years later the German Johann Philipp Reis made a device he dubbed a telephone, over which he transmitted music. Alexander Graham Bell knew of Reis' experiments, and by 1876 had created the modern phone. A few hours after Bell filed his patent papers, Elisha Gray submitted an application for his own phone. Since Bell was first to apply, he reaped the glory.
CELEBRITY INVENTORS QUIZ
MATCH UP INVENTION IN COLUMN A WITH INVENTOR IN COLUMN B
1 AN "IMPROVEMENT IN ADJUSTABLE AND DETACHABLE" ELASTIC STRAPS FOR GARMENTS
2 HE TOOK A MIDNIGHT RIDE AND BUILT THE FIRST COLD-ROLLING COPPER MILL
3 A DRESSER-TRUNK MADE FOR THOSE LIKE HER WHO SPEND THEIR LIFE ON THE ROAD