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Take a look back at the hottest inventions of '05          By Paul Niemann

[FEB. 3, 2005]  Today we look at the hottest inventions that were either created or patented in '05.

How do we know which inventions are the best, since it's only February? We look into the history books.

The year is 1905. Teddy Roosevelt is president. There are 45 states. John McGraw's New York Mets defeat Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics in only the second World Series ever played. Elsewhere in the world, Pablo Picasso is in his prime, and in China they're celebrating the Year of the Snake.

Eleven-year-old Frank Epperson of San Francisco leaves his soft drink outside on the porch with a stirring stick in it one night. The drink freezes to the stick, and he ends up inventing the "Epsicle." I'm guessing that young Frank probably named it after himself. It eventually becomes known as the Popsicle, and the rest is history.

That same year sees Albert Einstein publish his theory of relativity while working in the Swiss patent office. He also makes famous the E = mc2 equation (pronounced as E equals MC squared). Sure, the theory of relativity is important, but it won't cool you down on a hot summer day.

Mary Anderson of Alabama receives a patent for the windshield wipers that she invented two years earlier. Mary does not profit from her invention, but that doesn't seem to matter to her.

Also in 1905, in San Francisco, two guys named Chapman and Skinner invent the first portable electric vacuum cleaner. It weighs 92 pounds and uses an 18-inch fan, which explains why it becomes a commercial failure.

Inventor Luther Simjian was born in Turkey in 1905. The inventions that the multitalented Simjian created include the self-focusing camera, a flight simulator used to train Allied pilots during World War II, an automatic postage metering machine, the teleprompter and an early version of the automatic teller machine.

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The year is 1805. In America, Thomas Jefferson is president, and there are only 17 states. The Louisiana Purchase occurred just two years earlier, doubling the size of the United States. Lewis and Clark are probably somewhere in Montana by now. Elsewhere in the world, Napoleon declares himself king of Italy and is starting to conquer most of Europe.

It was not a great year for inventors, but Congreve's rocket, which was invented a year earlier, was first used in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars. The significance of the Congreve rocket to Americans is that it would later produce "the rocket's red glare" in Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The year is 1705. There are no states yet. One of the greatest inventors of all time, Ben Franklin, will be born next year in Boston.

Thomas Newcomen of England invents the atmospheric steam engine. What's the significance of his steam engine? Even though it wasn't very efficient, James Watt would later use it to make improvements. Watt is the man who is credited with inventing the modern steam engine.

Also in 1705, Edmund Halley correctly predicts that Halley's comet, which appears every 76 years (in 1531, in 1607 and in 1682), would reappear in December of 1758.

Fast forward to 2005. George W. Bush is president, and the Iraqi people have just voted in their first election in more than 50 years. Spring training is less than two weeks away. And it will probably be another 100 years before the Cubs win the World Series.

[Paul Niemann]

Paul Niemann is the author of Invention Mysteries. He can be reached at niemann7@aol.com.

Copyright Paul Niemann 2005



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