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These 26 inventors make our list of
all-stars, from A-Z

Part 1

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By Paul Niemann

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[JUNE 10, 2004]  Ruth 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 findings here.


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 Vinci.


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.


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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 Franklin.


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 and Fabio.

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 www.InventionMysteries.com.

[Paul Niemann]

Paul Niemann is the author of "Invention Mysteries -- The Little-Known Stories Behind Well-Known Inventions." He can be reached at niemann7@inventionmysteries.com.

© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004

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