When it comes to bit, life-altering inventions throughout history, there’s a good chance the names of the people who came up with the ideas and the patents are lodged in your brain – Henry Ford, Eli Whitney, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, et al.
Maybe you’ve never spent much time thinking about what they did with the rest of their lives, though, and I’m here to tell you one thing for sure – people like these were always inventing something, and below are 7 of their lesser-known (but still excellent) ideas.
7. Ophthalmoscope – Charles Babbage
Charles Babbage, one of the earliest computer pioneers, suffered from double vision. He invented a device that used a mirror to reflect light into a patient’s eye, and that also had an opening a doctor could look through to see the inner eye.
A version of his ophthalmoscope is still used today.
6. Mock Trial Card Game – Elizabeth Magie
Elizabeth is the woman who invented Monopoly (she called it The Landlord’s Game) before it was stolen by Charles Darrow and Parker Brothers – and she had worked with the latter before, when they published her game Mock Trial in 1910.
5. Airplane Wing De-Icer – Katharine Burr Blodgett
Her most famous invention might be non-reflective glass (it prevents glare and distortion), but her invention that helped de-ice the wings of airplanes was instrumental during WWII.
4. Copier – James Watt
Watt is best known for his work on the steam engine, but he patented a copier in 1780, a technique that involved writing on the top page, then using his device to press it against a thinner, see-through page.
The ink transferred to the second page in reverse, but since it was translucent, you could read it from the other side.
3. Bicycle – The Wright Brothers
You know about their airplane, but did you know they invented the St. Clair and Van Cleve bicycles as well?
The used the St. Clair to innovate their airplane ideas, adding wing-like parts to the sides.
2. Air Conditioner – Maria Telkes
Maria Telkes was a Hungarian chemist who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s, where she went on to innovate in the world of solar energy power in the 1940s.
In the 1970s she imagined an air conditioner that used calts to store cool air at night, then used that cooler air the next day to conserve power.
1. Molecular Knife – Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal
Wong-Staal was the first person to clone and genetically map HIV, work that undoubtedly saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and in doing so invented a “molecular knife” that cuts through the genetic information in cells.
I wish I was smart enough to create something out of nothing like that.
What other lesser-known inventions do you love? Tell us about them in the comments!