- Abraham Lincoln
- Zeppo Marx
- Hedy Lamar
- Jamie Lee Curtis
- Michael Jackson
Answer: They all received U.S. patents
on their inventions. This is probably the only time you'll ever see
Abraham Lincoln mentioned in the same story as Michael Jackson.
Now try to match the inventors with
- A diaper equipped with a
pre-moistened baby wipe
- A method of creating an
- A device for buoying vessels over
- A wristwatch for cardiac patients
- A secret communication system
designed to help the Allies in World War II
Here's what they invented:
--President Lincoln was issued Patent
6,469 for "A Device for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals" in 1849 while
he was still a congressman in Illinois. It was never commercialized,
but a wooden model of the device is on display at the Smithsonian
--Zeppo Marx, whose second wife,
Barbara, later became the fourth wife of Frank Sinatra, was the
youngest Marx brother, the one who Groucho said was "off screen, by
far the wittiest and funniest of the brothers." Zeppo patented a
1969 wristwatch for cardiac patients. It had two dials; one driven
by the pulse of the wearer and the other keeping the steady beat of
a normal heartbeat. Zeppo died of lung cancer in 1979 at the age of
--Silver screen superstar Hedy Lamarr,
born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914 in Vienna, Austria, teamed up
with composer George Antheil to patent an invention that manipulated
radio frequencies and was intended to prevent the Nazis from
intercepting radio-guided torpedoes in World War II. Lamarr
personally knew both Hitler and Mussolini when she was married to a
pro-Nazi arms dealer, the first of her six future ex-husbands.
[to top of
second column in this article]
The Navy rejected Lamarr's "Secret
Communication System" in World War II, but the patent, which was
issued in 1942 and expired in 1959, served as a foundation in
developing technologies that were used in the Cuban missile crisis,
the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. The U.S. government kept the
patent confidential until 1981 because it was under secrecy orders
for national security reasons.
The technology, which is similar to
what happens when you hit the "scan" button on your car radio, was
originally known as "frequency hopping" and is now used in cell
phones, pagers, wireless Internet devices and defense satellites.
Hedy Lamarr died in 2000 at the age of
--Jamie Lee Curtis, star of the 2003
hit movie "Freaky Friday," along with "Trading Places," "The Fish
that Saved Pittsburgh" and many other films, received U.S. Patent
4,753,647 in 1988 for a diaper that holds a pre-moistened baby wipe.
--Finally, we can't forget the gloved
one. Michael Jackson -- yes, that Michael Jackson -- is listed on
the patent of a "method of creating an anti-gravity illusion" as a
co-inventor along with two of his stagehands. This invention allows
a person to "lean forward beyond his center of gravity by … wearing
a specially designed pair of shoes." The shoes attach to the stage
to allow Jackson to lean far beyond his center of gravity. In the
past, this was accomplished with cables controlled by stagehands.
The anti-gravity shoes, on the other hand, allow him to perform the
illusion during a live show. The patent was issued in 1993.
There are additional celebrity
inventors who have patented their inventions, and we'll cover some
of them in a future story.
Paul Niemann is a contributing
author to Inventors' Digest magazine, and he also runs
building websites for inventors. He can be reached at
Paul Niemann 2003
column in LDN:
"Left-handed Leonardo -- a clairvoyant
and an inventor"