week we introduced you to the top inventors whose names begin with
the letters "A" through "H"; this week we bring you the top
inventors whose names begin with the letters "I" through "O."
There are plenty of inventions that
begin with the letter "I," such as ice cream, instant photography,
the internal combustion engine and the Internet (see Al Gore in last
week's column), but the staff here at Invention Mysteries World
Headquarters had to search far and wide to find an inventor -- any
inventor -- whose name begins with "I."
The Indians of the Navajo tribe
invented the secret code that they used to encode and decode
messages to help the Allies win World War II. Actually, the secret
code was their own language, and the code talkers were instrumental
in every major battle in the Pacific, including Iwo Jima. They were
also the basis of the 2002 movie "Windtalkers."
Michael Jackson has a patent on a
device that creates an anti-gravity illusion, but this show isn't
about freaks, even though Jackson is an attractive woman. The
greatest presidential inventor in United States history owns the
letter "J." Thomas Jefferson invented a moldboard plow, a cipher
wheel, a spherical sundial, a portable copying press, automatic
double doors, the swivel chair, the dumbwaiter and a macaroni
machine. He also introduced french fries, ice cream, waffles and
macaroni to the United States. He helped establish the U.S. patent
office in 1790.
Dean Kamen is an inventor from New
Hampshire whose medical inventions include the first portable
insulin pump and the heart stent used to repair the heart of Vice
President Dick Cheney. His transportation inventions include a
wheelchair called iBot, which allows users to climb stairs and raise
themselves upright, and a gyroscope-based scooter called the Segway
Human Transporter, which made national headlines a few years ago.
Second place goes to Margaret Knight,
whose invention of the flat-bottomed grocery bag in 1871 has stood
the test of time for more than 130 years.
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There was probably no inventor who
surrounded himself with better company than Lewis Latimer, the only
inventor who worked with both Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas
Edison. He's also the only black inventor in this week's list.
William Lear, though, held more than 100 patents in aviation and
electronics, including the world's first working car radio, which he
co-invented and sold to Motorola. He also invented the eight-track
tape player. Disco lives!
There's a lot of competition for the
letter "M," starting with fictional TV character MacGyver (whose
mysterious first name was Angus). MacGyver could make things out of
practically anything, but he loses out on a technicality -- the fact
that he was a fictional TV character. "M" is for Samuel Morse,
inventor of the Morse code and the telegraph which linked the East
Coast and West Coast in 1861. A distant third-place prize goes to
the inventor of the do-over in golf, David Mulligan, whose name is
called out by cheaters everywhere.
On the one hand, you have Alfred Nobel,
inventor of dynamite and some pretty cool awards. On the other hand,
you have the inventor of the game of basketball, Dr. James Naismith.
Call me superstitious, but I just don't think it's a good idea to
upset the person who invented dynamite, so we award the letter "N"
The Olson Twins. No, not Mary-Kate and
Ashley. We're talking about the hockey-playing Olson brothers --
Scott and Brennan -- who invented Rollerblades. The Olson name is
derived from the Scandinavian word that means "ancestor's relic."
How ironic, considering the oldest-known ancestor to Rollerblades
was a relic made by nailing wooden spools to strips of wood and
attaching them to shoes. Coincidence or conspiracy? I'll let you
decide. P.S. The brothers are not twins.
we'll reveal the top inventors whose names begin with the letters
"P" through "Z."
is the author of "Invention Mysteries -- The Little-Known Stories
Behind Well-Known Inventions." He can be reached at
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004