From the earliest days of the United States to the modern high-tech era, American inventors have led the way in the conception and development of a huge range of devices and products.
Here are some of the breakthroughs inventors have achieved in this country, from every-day tools to high technology to toys. Often the story of the person is as interesting and inspirational as what they created.
Considered to be the forebear of modern CAD programs, Sketchpad was invented by Ivan Sutherland in 1963 as part of his PhD thesis. Both the graphical user interface and modern object-oriented programming were derived from this breakthrough. Sutherland has received many honors and awards for his work, including the Turing Award and the Kyoto Prize. His positive attitude towards his work shines through in his public comments: “Knowledge is a rare thing—you gain by giving it away.”
A mainstay of mills and workshops, the circular saw was invented around 1810 by Tabitha Babbitt. She developed the idea after watching the inefficiency of the back and forth motion of a two-man saw. She devised a notched tin disk powered by the pedal of a sewing wheel, allowing all of the effort to go into cutting. A Shaker, Babbitt’s religious beliefs prevented her from patenting her invention, but she is now generally recognized as the inventor of what became standard equipment in American sawmills.
With a background in nuclear engineering and a 12-year stint at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, George Johnson is no stranger to sophisticated technology. Ironically, he’s most famous for his 1989 invention of the Super Soaker, a pressurized toy water gun that has sold over two million units. The success of the Super Soaker allowed Johnson to devote his time to companies that pursue research, develop new technologies, and perform community outreach.
Ralph Teetor was an inventor and mechanical engineer who conceived of this invention while riding in a car whose driver would speed up while talking and slow down while listening. Teetor, who had lost his sight in a childhood accident, became so annoyed that he decided to invent a device to control automobile speed. Called the “Speedostat” system, it received a patent in 1945. Teetor went on to make numerous other contributions to the automobile industry.
The first commercial chocolate 3D printer.
Blending a love of food and additive manufacturing, high school junior Evan Weinstein prototyped a 3D chocolate printer with plywood, an extrusion head, motor, and cooling system. He perfected the prototype while studying mechanical engineering and applied mechanics at Penn. The idea got traction at Maker Faire in New York City and now Weinsten fine-tuning and finalizing the Cocoa Press, the first commercial 3D chocolate printer, at a startup incubator. Soon bakeries, chocolatiers and consumers will be able to print their sweet dreams.
We tip our hats to these ingenious Americans!