or Bonds? Marino, Elway or Montana? Russell or Chamberlain?
While we can't settle the debate over
who was the best athlete at each position, here at Invention
Mysteries World Headquarters we do have the answer to the question
"Who are the greatest inventors of all time?"
Well, sort of. We went through the
alphabet to determine which inventors are the best among those whose
names start their respective letter, and we present our unscientific
A is for Archimedes, a famous Greek
mathematician and inventor born during the third century B.C. He
invented the hydraulic screw, also known as the Archimedes screw,
which was used in pumping water from the Nile River; the worm
gear, which is still used today; and the world's first winch,
which he used to move a ship while it was docked on land. He also
coined the word "eureka."
Which is the more important invention…
the telephone or the World Wide Web? The answer will determine the
more important inventor… Alexander Graham Bell or Tim Berners-Lee.
This is a close call, but without the telephone, there would be no
Web. Runner-up awards go to Clarence Birdseye and Karl Benz.
George Washington Carver, the pride of
Missouri, who was born to slave parents, invented hundreds of uses
for plants and wins for the letter "C" in a landslide. Willis
Carrier, the inventor of the air conditioner, and Chester Carlson of
Xerox fame receive honorable mention.
Hmmm… This is another tough one between
Hall of Fame inventors… Walt Disney or Nelson Doubleday? The man who
basically invented a whole new industry and is in the inventor's
Hall of Fame, or the man who invented the great game of baseball and
whose plaque hangs in Cooperstown? Actually, both men take a back
seat to the great 15th-century inventor and visionary Leonardo da
While you won't find the letter "E"
anywhere in "The Great Gatsby" once you get past the title, you
literature buffs will remember that it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who
is credited with the quote "Necessity is the mother of invention."
(What he really said was "Invention breeds invention.") The real
contest here is between Thomas Alva Edison and Albert Einstein.
Since this column is about inventors and inventions rather than
physics, Edison owns the letter "E" with his 1,069 patents.
[to top of second column in
This is a tough one. How do you NOT
award it to the main inventor of television, Philo Farnsworth, who
started working on TV when he was just 15? Or to Sir Alexander
Fleming, whose penicillin has saved millions of lives? Either one is
worthy, but surpassing them is the multitalented inventor Benjamin
Al Gore invented the letter "G"… No,
wait, it was the Internet that he invented. Due to a technicality --
the pesky little fact that he didn't really invent it -- we award
the letter to Johannes Gutenberg for inventing the printing press.
In a three-way tie for second are Charles Goodyear; Wilson
Greatbatch, who invented the implantable pacemaker; and our favorite
non-inventor, cartoonist Rube Goldberg.
Ruth Handler or Hippocrates? Handler's
company, Mattel, has sold more than a billion Barbie dolls, but
anyone who has an oath named after him gets my vote; he gets bonus
points for being recognizable by only his first name while NOT
acting like a diva like other one-name stars such as Cher, Madonna
Since all good things come in threes
(the three wise men; Peter, Paul and Mary; the Three Stooges; a
priest, a rabbi and a nun) and since we don't want to hog up space
in your newspaper, we'll break this column into three parts. We'll
bring you our letter-winning all-star inventors from "I" to "Z" in
the next two weeks.
You can see what the first eight
winning inventors looked like by visiting
is the author of "Invention Mysteries -- The Little-Known Stories
Behind Well-Known Inventions." He can be reached at
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004