May is National Inventors Month! This month recognizes the creators and innovators that have helped shape our world. This holiday originated through the collaboration of the Academy of Applied Science, the United Inventors Association of the USA (UIA-USA), and “Inventors Digest” in August of 1998. The month-long holiday was later moved to May in 2011 to better align with the academic calendar. From light bulbs to solar panels, there are so many people and inventions to celebrate and to become inspired by this month.
Here are a few famous inventors to help inspire you:
- Thomas Edison – Known as the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” Edison has been described as one of America’s greatest inventors. He is credited for his work with electricity, light bulbs, audio devices, and film. He acquired 1,093 patents in his 84 years of life.
- Nikola Tesla – Tesla was hired as an engineer by Edison in 1884. He is credited with inventing the first alternating current (AC) motor and developed AC generation and transmission technology. He also improved lights and the high-voltage transformer known as the Tesla coil. In the 1890’s, Tesla invented electric oscillators and meters. He experimented with X-rays and gave short-range demonstrations of radio communication.
- Dr. Shirley Jackson – Dr. Jackson was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in nuclear physics from MIT. Her work in theoretical physics created a path for a number of developments in telecommunications. These inventions include the portable fax, call waiting, caller ID, the touch-tone telephone, and the fiber-optic cable.
- Marie Curie – Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She was also the first person to ever win two Nobel Prizes. She discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium. She used radium as the gamma ray source on X-ray machines. She also created smaller more portable X-ray machines.
- Alexander Graham Bell – Bell changed the way we communicate with his invention of the telephone. In 1877, he launched the Bell Telephone Company. He held 18 patents. After developing the telephone, he created the photophone which enabled sound to be transferred on a beam of light.
- Nancy Johnson – Johnson’s invention made all of our lives a little sweeter. She invented the first wooden ice cream freezing machine in 1843. This device was created before freezers were ever invented and was operated by using a hand crank.
- Maria Telkes – Also known as “The Sun Queen,” Telkes was one of the founders of solar thermal storage systems. She was best known for her invention of the first solar-powered heating system and solar distiller. This was designed to heat residences.
- Elijah McCoy – Have you ever heard the phrase, “The Real McCoy?” That phrase was created because of this famous inventor! Elijah McCoy received over 50 patents in his lifetime. His most famous invention was a cup that feeds lubricating oil to machine bearings through a small tube. Engineers and machinists only wanted McCoy lubricators because they were, “The Real McCoy,” meaning, “the real deal.”
- Grace Hopper – Hopper helped create UNIVAC, the first all-electronic digital computer. She created the first computer piler which helped translate written instructions into computer codes. This led her to help develop one of the first standardized computer languages, COBOL.
- Aleksandr Stoletov – Stoletov is one of the founders of electrical engineering. He studied the photoelectric effect, which was first discovered by Hertz in 1887. This led him to the development of the first solar cell, an electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect.
Let us all use this inspiration to help us create the next great inventions of our time.