13 accidental inventions


How many inventions have been made by man? We travel with Nog through his highly condensed  13,000 year evolution.

And, with each millennia, we look at one invention that has changed the course of his history.

13000 BC

Around 1750, the first glue or adhesive patent was issued in Britain. The glue was made from fish. Patents were then rapidly issued for adhesives using natural rubber, animal bones, fish, starch, milk protein or casein.

Superglue - Synthetic Glue
Superglue or Krazy Glue is a substance called cyanoacrylate that was discovered by Dr. Harry Coover while working for Kodak Research Laboratories to develop an optically clear plastic for gunsights in 1942. Coover rejected cyanoacrylate because it was too sticky.

In 1951, cyanoacrylate was rediscovered by Coover and Dr Fred Joyner. Coover was now supervising research at the Eastman Company in Tennessee. Coover and Joyner were researching a heat-resistant acrylate polymer for jet canopies when Joyner spread a film of ethyl cyanoacrylate between refractometer prisms and discovered that the prisms were glued together.

Coover finally realized that cyanoacrylate was a useful product and in 1958 the Eastman compound #910 was marketed and later packaged as superglue.

Scotch tape was invented in 1930 by banjo playing 3M engineer Richard Drew. Scotch tape was the world's first transparent cellophane adhesive tape. Richard Drew also invented the first masking tape in 1925, a two-inch-wide tan paper tape with a pressure sensitive adhesive backing.

In 1923, Richard Drew joined the 3M company located in St. Paul, Minnesota. At the time, 3M only made sandpaper. Drew was product testing 3M's Wetordry brand sandpaper at a local auto bodyshop, when he noticed that auto painters were having a hard time making clean dividing lines on two-color paint jobs. Richard Drew was inspired to invent the world's first masking tape in 1925, as a solution to the auto painters' dilemma.

The brandname Scotch came about while Richard Drew was testing his first masking tape to determine how much adhesive he needed to add. The bodyshop painter became frustrated with the sample masking tape and exclaimed, "Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!" The name was soon applied to the entire line of 3M tapes.

Scotch Brand Cellulose Tape was invented five years later. Made with a nearly invisible adhesive, the waterproof transparent tape was made from,  oils, resins, and rubber, and had a coated cellophane backing. 

According to 3M's website:

Richard Drew, a young 3M engineer, invented the first waterproof, see-through, pressure-sensitive tape, thus supplying an attractive, moisture-proof way to seal cellophane food wrap for bakers, grocers, and meat packers. Drew sent a trial shipment of the new Scotch cellulose tape to a Chicago firm specializing in printing cellophane for bakery products. The response was put this product on the market! Shortly after, heat sealing for cellophane reduced the original use of the new tape. However, Americans in a depressed economy discovered they could use the tape to mend a wide variety of things like torn pages of books and documents, broken toys, ripped window shades, even dilapidated currency.

John A. Borden, another 3M engineer invented the first tape dispenser with a built-in cutter blade in 1932. Scotch (TM) Brand Magic (TM) Transparent Tape was invented in 1961, an almost invisible tape that never discolored and could be written on.


born: 290 to 280 BC, Syracuse, Sicily
died:  212 or 211 BC, Syracuse, Sicily

Archimedes was a mathematician and inventor from ancient Greece. He discovered the relation between the surface and volume of a sphere and its circumscribing cyclinder (he had discovered pi). He then formulated a hydrostatic principle based on that mathmatical relationship called Archimedes' principle. He inventing the Archimedes screw - a screw-shaped machine or hydraulic screw that raised water from a lower to a higher level. Archimedes also invented the catupult, the lever, the compound pulley, and the burning mirror (a system of mirrors that burned the boots and ships of invading armies by focusing the sun's rays). Although Archimedes is credited with inventing the screw in the 3rd century BC, his screw was not like today's screw fastener but actually two other screw-type devices.

Hungarian journalist named Laszlo Biro invented the first ballpoint pen in 1938. Biro had noticed that the type of ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge-free. He decided to create a pen using the same type of ink. The thicker ink would not flow from a regular pen nib and Biro had to devise a new type of point. He did so by fitting his pen with a tiny ball bearing in its tip. As the pen moved along the paper, the ball rotated picking up ink from the ink cartridge and leaving it on the paper. This principle of the ballpoint pen actually dates back to an 1888 patent owned by John J. Loud for a product to mark leather. However, this patent was commercially unexploited. Laszlo Biro first patented his pen in 1938, and applied for a fresh patent in Argentina on June 10, 1943. (Laszlo Biro and his brother Georg Biro emigrated to Argentina in 1940.) The British Government bought the licensing rights to this patent for the war effort. The British Royal Air Force needed a new type of pen, one that would not leak at higher altitudes in fighter planes as the fountain pen did. Their successful performance for the Air Force brought the Biro pens into the limelight. Laszlo Biro had neglected to get a U.S. patent for his pen and so even with the ending of World War II, another battle was just beginning..

Historical Outline - The Battle of Ballpoint Pens

The first pen-writing instrument was the quill pen dipped into dark paint. There became a need to lengthen the time between dips, eliminate splatter, eliminate smearing and improve pen handling.

The Ballpoint Pen Becomes a Fad

Ballpoint pens guaranteed to write for two years without refilling, claimed to be smear proof. Reynolds advertised it as the pen "to write under water." Eversharp sued Reynolds for copying the design it had acquired legally. The previous 1888 patent by John Loud would have invalidated everyone's claims. However, no one knew that at the time. Sales skyrocketed for both competitors. Nevertheless, the Reynolds’ pen leaked, skipped and often failed to write. Eversharp’s pen did not live up to its own advertisements. A very high volume of pen returns occurred for both Eversharp and Reynolds. The ballpoint pen fad ended - due to consumer unhappiness.

The Ballpoint Pen Battle is Won

The Ballpoint Pen War is Won

BIC ® dominates the market. Parker, Sheaffer and Waterman, capture the smaller upscale markets of fountain pens and expensive ballpoints.

In 1850, the California gold rush was in full swing, and everyday items were in short supply. Levi Strauss, a 20-year-old Bavarian immigrant, left New York for San Francisco with a small supply of dry goods. Shortly after his arrival, a prospector wanted to know what Mr. Strauss was selling. When Strauss told him he had rough canvas to use for tents and wagon covers, the prospector said, "You should have brought pants!," saying he couldn’t find a pair of pants strong enough to last.

Strauss had the canvas made into pants. Miners liked the pants, but complained that they tended to chafe. Levi Strauss substituted a twilled cotton cloth from France called "serge de Nimes," which became known as denim.

In 1873, Levi Strauss & Co. began using the pocket stitch design. The two-horse brand design was first used in 1886. The red tab attached to the left rear pocket was created in 1936 as a means of identifying Levi’s jeans at a distance. All are registered trademarks that are still in use.

Thomas Adams first tried to change chicle into synthetic rubber products, before making a chewing gum. Thomas Adams attempted to make toys, masks, rain boots, and bicycle tires out of the chicle from Mexican sapodilla trees, but every experiment failed. One day in 1869, he popped a piece of surplus stock into his mouth and liked the taste. Chewing away, he had the idea to add flavoring to the chicle. Shortly after, he opened the world’s first chewing gum factory. In February 1871, Adams New York Gum went on sale in drug stores for a penny apiece. 

Thomas Adams tried numerous trades before becoming a photographer during the 1860's. During that time, General Antonio de Santa Anna went into exile from Mexico and boarded with Thomas Adams in his Staten Island home. It Santa Anna who suggested that the unsuccessful but inventive photograper experiment with chicle from Mexico. Santa Anna felt that chicle could be used to make a synthetic rubber tire; and he had friends in Mexico who would be able to supply the product cheaply to Adams.

The following is an extract from "The Encyclopedia of New York City"
Edited by Kenneth T. Jackson
Yale University Press, 1996,
ISBN 0-300-05536-6

...chewing gum manufacturers, formed as Adams Sons and Company in 1876 by the glass merchant Thomas Adams (1818-1905) and his two sons. As a result of experiments in a warehouse of Front Street, Adams made chewing gum that had chicle as an ingredient, large quantities of which had been made available to him by General Antonio de Santa Anna of Mexico, who was in exile in Staten Island and at whose instigation Thomas Adams had tried to use the chicle to make rubber. Thomas Adams sold the gum with the slogan "Adams' New York Gum No. 1 -- Snapping and Stretching." The firm was the nation's most prosperous chewing gum company by the end of the century: it built a monopoly in 1899 by merging with the six largest and best-known chewing gum manufacturers in the United States and Canada, and achieved great success as the maker of Chiclets.

The following is a quote from a 1944 speech given by Thomas Jr.'s son Horatio at a manager's banquet for the American Chicle Company.

"...after about a year's work of blending chicle with rubber, the experiments were regarded as a failure; consequently Mr Thomas Adams intended to throw the remaining lot into the East River. But it happened that before this was done, Thomas Adams went into a drugstore at the corner. While he was there, a little girl came into the shop and asked for a chewing gum for one penny. It was known to Mr. Thomas Adams that chicle, which he had tried unsuccessfully to vulcanize as a rubber substitute, had been used as a chewing gum by the natives of Mexico for many years. So the idea struck him that perhaps they could use the chicle he wanted to throw away for the production of chewing gum and so salvage the lot in the storage. After the child had left the store, Mr Thomas Adams asked the druggist what kind of chewing gum the little girl had bought. He was told that it was made of paraffin wax and called White Mountain. When he asked the man if he would be willing to try an entirely different kind of gum, the druggist agreed. When Mr. Thomas Adams arrived home that night, he spoke to his son, Tom Jr., my father, about his idea. Junior was very much impressed, and suggested that they make up a few boxes of chicle chewing gum and give it a name and a label. He offered to take it out on one of his trips (he was a salesman in wholesale tailors' trimmings and traveled as far west as the Mississippi). They decided on the name of Adams New York No. 1. It was made of pure chicle gum without any flavor. It was made in little penny sticks and wrapped in various colored tissue papers. The retail value of the box, I believe, was one dollar. On the cover of the box was a picture of City Hall, New York, in color."

In 1888, an Thomas Adams' chewing gum called Tutti-Frutti became the first gum to be sold in a vending machine. The machines were located in a New York City subway station


In 1863, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel invented the Nobel patent detonator (later used with dynamite) which detonated nitroglycerin (invented by Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero in 1846) using a strong shock rather than heat combustion. In 1865, the Nobel Company built the first factory for producing nitroglycerin and later dynamite.

Nitroglycerin in its natural liquid state is very volatile. Albert Nobel recognized this, and in 1866 he discovered that mixing nitroglycerine with silica would turn the liquid into a malleable paste (dynamite), which could be cylinder shaped for insertion into the drilling holes used for mining. In 1867, Albert Nobel patented this material under the name of dynamite - U.S. patent 78,317. To be able to detonate the dynamite rods he also invented a detonator or blasting cap that was ignited by lighting a fuse.

Alfred Nobel - History of Dynamite
Alfred Nobel invented dynamite.

Alfred Nobel - His Life and Work
Alfred Nobel was an engineer and inventor who built bridges and buildings in Stockholm. In connection with his construction work Alfred Nobel also experimented with different techniques of blasting rock - inventing dynamite. Main page

Nitroglycerine and Dynamite
Descriptions of nitroglycerine and dynamite.

Alfred Nobel - Swedish Industrialist
Alfred Nobel was born October 21, 1833 in Stockholm Sweden. Nobel, who invented dynamite, endowed a $9 million fund in his will. The interest on this endowment was to be used as awards for people whose work most benefited humanity.

Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833. When he was 9 years old, the family moved to St. Petersburg. Nobel went on to live in many countries and ultimately came to regard himself as a citizen of the world. He has gone down in history as the inventor of dynamite (patented 1867), the explosive which has played such a central role in the industrial development of the world.

Photography" is derived from the Greek words photos ("light") and graphein ("to draw") The word was first used by the scientist Sir John F.W. Herschel in 1839. It is a method of recording images by the action of light, or related radiation, on a sensitive material.

On a summer day in 1827, it took eight hours for Joseph Nicéphore Niépce to obtain the first fixed image. About the same time a fellow Frenchman, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre was experimenting to find a way to capture an image, but it would take another dozen years before he was able to reduce the exposure time to less than 30 minutes and keep the image from disappearing… ushering in the age of modern photography.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, inventor of the first practical process of photography, was born near Paris, France on November 18, 1789. A professional scene painter for the opera, Daguerre began experimenting with the effects of light upon translucent paintings in the 1820s. In 1829, he formed a partnership with Joseph Nicéphore Niépce to improve the process Niépce had developed to take the first permanent photograph in 1826-1827. Niépce died in 1833.

After several years of experimentation, Daguerre developed a more convenient and effective method of photography, naming it after himself -- the daguerreotype. In 1839, he and Niépce's son sold the rights for the daguerreotype to the French government and published a booklet describing the process.

The daguerreotype gained popularity quickly; by 1850, there were over seventy daguerreotype studios in New York City alone. 

Flying Saucers

Flying Saucers - yes, there are patents issued for this invention.

Left : U.S. patent No. 2,953,321- The Vertical Take-off Flying Platform by Robertson, Stuart and Wagner

Below : U.S. patent No. 3,614,030 - Disk-like Body for a Plane by Paul Moller


The Frisbie Baking Company (1871-1958) of Bridgeport, Connecticut, made pies that were sold to many New England colleges. Hungry college students soon discovered that the empty pie tins could be tossed and caught, providing endless hours of game and sport. Many colleges have claimed to be the home of 'he who was first to fling.' Yale College has even argued that in 1820, a Yale undergraduate named Elihu Frisbie grabbed a passing collection tray from the chapel and flung it out into the campus, thereby becoming the true inventor of the Frisbie and winning glory for Yale. That tale is unlikely to be true since the words 'Frisbie's Pies' was embossed in all the original pie tins and from the word 'Frisbie' was coined the common name for the toy.


A Hills Hoist is an inexpensive rotary clothes line developed and marketed by Australian, Lance Hill in 1945. However, Lance Hill finally patented his rotary clothes line on March 22, 1956.

Hills Hoist
The Hills Hoist is a rotary clothes line fitted with a hoist operated by a crown and pinion winding mechanism which allows the frame to be raised and lowered. It was developed and marketed by Lance Hill in 1945 after he returned from the war.

Hills Hoist
A man called Lance Hill decided to make a less expensive rotary clothesline.

Lance Hill
Lance Hill invented the Hill's Hoist because his wife asked him if he could think of something better than the old clothes line and prop that she had.


When Adelaide motor mechanic Lance Hill returned home from the war in 1945, the trees in his backyard had grown so large there wasn't enough room to dry the household washing on the wire strung between them. Using scrap materials, he constructed a space-saving alternative: an X-shaped, rotatable clothesline frame that sat atop a central pole with a winder mechanism that allowed the frame to be raised or lowered to catch the breeze. Hill wasn't the first to make a rotary clothes hoist. The idea had been patented in the U.S. in 1890 and applications had also been made in Australia. But the Hills Hoist was the first to achieve commercial success--and iconic status. By 1948 Hill had bought a metal-tube factory and began mass producing his device. It quickly became a fixture in the suburbs; topped with a cover, the hoist became a shelter, aiding Australia's outdoor lifestyle. Hill retired in 1955, the same year Hills Industries was floated on the local bourse. His company is now a multinational, and the hoists can be found in backyards from Germany to China.


1856 Refrigerator - Using the principal of vapour compression, James Harrison produced the world's first practical refrigerator. He was commissioned by a brewery to build a machine that cooled beer.

1858 Football - In 1858 Tom Will and Henry Harrison wrote the first ten rules of Football, thus becoming the first people in the world to codify a kicking-ball game. These rules predate those of Rugby, Soccer and Gridiron. Football may have been inspired by the Aboriginal jumping/kicking game of Marn Grook.

1874 The underwater torpedo - Invented by Louis Brennan, the torpedo had two propellers, rotated by wires which were attached to winding engines on the shore station. By varying the speed at which the two wires were extracted, the torpedo could be steered to the left or right by an operator on the shore.

1876 Stump jump plough- Robert and Clarence Bowyer Smith developed a plough which could jump over stumps and stones, enabling newly-cleared land to be cultivated.

1885 Telpahane - The forerunner of the television. It was invented by Henry Sutton in Ballarat.

1879 Refrigeration - Credited with the manufacture of the first artificial ice, Eugene Nicolle and Thomas Sutcliffe Mort developed shipboard refrigeration that resulted in the export of meat from Australia to Great Britain.

1889 Electric Drill - Arthur James Arnot, patented the world's first electric drill on 20 August 1889 while he was an employee of the Union Electric Company in Melbourne. He designed it primarily to drill rock and to dig coal.

1894 First powered flight - Perhaps inspired by the boomerang, Lawrence Hargrave discovered that curved surfaces lift more than flat ones. He subsequently built the world's first box-kite, hitched four together, added an engine and flew five metres.

Hargrave corresponded freely with other aviation pioneers, including the Wright Brothers. But unlike the Americans who monopolised their ideas, Hargrave never patented his. Because it promised public access, Hargrave left all his research to the Munich Museum.

Had Hargrave gained local support to further develop his ideas and not been so generous in sharing his ideas with other aviation pioneers, he probably would have been the first person in the world to achieve sustained and controlled powered flight.

1897 Differential gears - David Shearer of South Australia built a steam car with a differential inside left rear wheel hub.

1902 Notepad -For 500 years, paper had been supplied in loose sheets. J A Birchall decided that it would be a good idea to cut the sheets into half, back them with cardboard and glue them together at the top.

1903 Froth flotation process- The process of separating minerals from rock by flotation was developed by Charles Potter and Guillaume Delprat of New South Wales.

1906 Feature film - The world's first feature length film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was a little over an hour long.

1906 Surf life-saving reel - The first surf life-saving reel in the world was demonstrated at Bondi Beach on 23 December 1906 by its designer Lester Ormsby.

1910 Humespun process -The Humespun process was developed by Walter Hume of Humes Ltd for making concrete pipes of high strength and low permeability. The process revolutionised pipe manufacture in 1910 and has since been used around the world.

1912 The tank - A South Australian named Lance de Mole submitted a proposal, to the British War Office, for a 'chain-rail vehicle which could be easily steered and carry heavy loads over rough ground and trenches'. The British war office liked the idea but then developed the tank themselves without paying royalties.

1913 Automatic totalisator -The world's first automatic totalisator for calculating horse-racing bets was made by Sir George Julius.

1917 Aspro - A pain reliever based on aspirin was developed in Melbourne by George Nicholas. By 1940 it had become the world's most widely used headache and pain treatment.

1922 Vegemite - One of the world's richest sources of vitamin B, vegemite was invented by Dr. Cyril P. Callister. It is made by the autolysis of expired brewer's yeast: a process where the yeast's own enzymes break it down.

1924 Car radio - The first car radio was fitted to an Australian car built by Kellys Motors in New South Wales.

1927 Speedo -In 1927 Speedo launched the revolutionary 'racer-back' style, which reduced fabric drag. In 1955, Speedo introduced the use of nylon for their racing swimwear. At the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics, more than 70 per cent of all swimming medals were won by competitors wearing Speedo.

1928 Flying Doctor Service - Reverend John Flynn founded the world's first Aerial Medical Service in 1928.

1934 Ute- The utility vehicle, with a front like a car and a rear like a truck was designed by Lewis Brandt at the Ford Motor Company in Geelong, Victoria.

1940 Zinc Cream - This white sun block made from zinc oxide was developed by the Fauldings pharmaceutical company.

1942 Transverse folding stroller - Designed by Harold Cornish, the sturdy, lightweight design of his Stoway Strollers made life easier for many parents using public transport as it could be folded and placed under a tram seat.

1944 Antibiotic penicillin- Produced by Howard Florey with help from a Pome named Ernst Chain.

1945 The Hills Hoist - A rotary clothes line with a winding mechanism allowing the frame to be lowered and raised with ease. Invented by Lance Hill.

1952 Victor mower - by Mervyn Victor Richardson, the two-stroke petrol lawn mower with rotary blades revolutionised mowing world wide.

1950s Lagerphone- The lagerphone is a musical instrument made by nailing beer caps onto a stick. It is not known who invented it, but in the 50s it was popularised by the Heathcote Bushwackers as an alternative to the American wobbleboard.

1952 Atomic absorption spectrophotometer -Atomic absorption spectrophotometer is a complex analytical instrument incorporating micro-computer electronics and precision optics and mechanics, used in chemical analysis to determine low concentrations of metals in a wide variety of substances. It was first developed by Sir Alan Walsh of the CSIRO.

1953 Solar hot water - Developed by R N Morse at the CSIRO

1957 Flame ionisation detector -The flame ionisation detector is one of the most accurate instruments ever developed for the detection of emissions. It was invented by Ian McWilliam. The instrument, which can measure one part in 10 million, has been used in chemical analysis in the petrochemical industry, medical and biochemical research, and in the monitoring of the environment.

1957 Trousers with a permeant crease - The process for producing permanently creased fabric was invented by Dr Arthur Farnworth of the CSIRO.

1958 Black box flight recorder - The 'black box' voice and instrument data recorder was invented by Dr David Warren in Melbourne.

1960 Plastic spectacle lenses - The world's first plastic spectacle lenses, 60 per cent lighter than glass lenses, were designed by Scientific Optical Laboratories.

1961 Ultrasound - David Robinson and George Kossoff's work at the Australian Department of Health, resulted in the first commercially practical water path ultrasonic scanner in 1961.

1965 Inflatable escape slide - The inflatable aircraft escape slide which doubles as a raft was invented by Jack Grant of Qantas.

1965 Wine cask -Invented by Thomas Angrove, the wine cask is a cardboard box housing a plastic container which collapses as the wine is drawn off, thus preventing contact with air.

1970 Variable rack and pinion steering - The variable ratio rack and pinion steering in motor vehicles was invented by Australian engineer, Arthur Bishop.

1970 Staysharp knife- The self-sharpening knife was developed by Wiltshire.

1972 Orbital internal combustion engine - The orbital combustion process engine was invented by engineer Ralph Sarich of Perth, Western Australia.

1972- Instream analysis - To speed-up analysis of metals during the recovery process, which used to take up to 24 hours, Amdel Limited developed an on-the-spot analysis equipment called the In-Stream Analysis System, for the processing of copper, zinc, lead and platinum - and the washing of coal. This computerised system allowed continuous analysis of key metals and meant greater productivity for the mineral industry worldwide.

1978 Plastic injection moulding software -Engineers at Moldflow Pty Ltd revolutionised the plastic injection process with a new computer aided engineering software, that simulated the injection moulding process and offered a design strategy to evaluate, refine and optimise successive simulations. The technique has been used widely in the automotive, whitegoods, computer, packaging, communications, aeronautical and photographic industries.

1979 Race-cam - Race Cam was developed by Geoff Healey, an engineer with Australian Television Network Seven in Sydney. The tiny lightweight camera is used in sports broadcasts and provides viewers with spectacular views of events such as motor racing, which are impossible with conventional cameras

1979 Bionic ear - The cochlear implant was invented by Professor Graeme Clark of the University of Melbourne.

1982 The dual flush toilet - As dunnies have a celebrated status in Australia, it is apt that Australia has taken a central role in their evolution. In 1982, the dual flush toilet was responsible for savings in excess of 32000 litres of water per household a year. Pretty important in the world's dries inhabited continent.

1980 Wave-piercing catamarans - The high speed catamarans were developed by Phillip Hercus and Robert Clifford of Incat in Tasmania.

1983 Winged Keel - Ben Lexen designed a winged keel that helped Australia II end the American's 132 ownership of the America's cup. The keel gave the yacht better steering and manoeuvrability in heavy winds.

1984 Frozen embryo baby- The world's first frozen embryo baby was born in Melbourne on 28 March 1984

1984 Baby Safety Capsule - Babies in a car crash used to bounce around like a soccer ball. In 1984, for the first time babies had a harness for their safe transportation in cars.

It would be wonderful if I can  inspire others, who are struggling to realize their dreams, to say 'if this country kid could do it, let me keep slogging away'." - Douglas Engelbart

Douglas Engelbart changed the way computers worked, from specialized machinery that only a trained scientist could use, to a user-friendly tool that almost anyone can use. He invented or contributed to several interactive, user-friendly devices: the computer mouse, windows, computer video teleconferencing, hypermedia, groupware, email, the Internet and more.

In 1964, the first prototype computer mouse was made to use with a graphical user interface (GUI), 'windows'. Engelbart received a patent for the wooden shell with two metal wheels (computer mouse U.S. Patent # 3,541,541) in 1970, describing it in the patent application as an "X-Y position indicator for a display system." "It was nicknamed the mouse because the tail came out the end," Engelbart revealed about his invention. His version of windows was not considered patentable (no software patents were issued at that time), but Douglas Engelbart has over 45 other patents to his name.

Throughout the '60s and '70s, while working at his own lab (Augmentation Research Center, Stanford Research Institute), Engelbart dedicated himself to creating a hypermedia groupware system called NLS (for oNLine System). Most of his accomplishments, including the computer mouse and windows, were part of NLS.

In 1968, a 90-minute, staged public demonstration of a networked computer system was held at the Augmentation Research Center -- the first public appearance of the mouse, windows, hypermedia with object linking and addressing, and video teleconferencing.

Douglas Engelbart was awarded the 1997 Lemelson-MIT Prize of $500,000, the world's largest single prize for invention and innovation. In 1998, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Currently, Douglas Engelbart is the director of his company, Bootstrap Institute in Fremont, California, which promotes the concept of Collective IQ. Ironically, Bootstrap is housed rent free courtesy of the Logitech Corp., a famous manufacturer of computer mice.

The fastening of papers has been historical referenced to as early as the 13th century, when people put ribbon through parallel incisions in the upper left hand corner of pages. Later people started to wax the ribbons to make them stronger and easier to undo and redo. This was the way people clipped papers together for the next six hundred years.

In 1835, a New York physician named John Ireland Howe invented a machine for mass producing straight pins. Straight pins then became a popular way to fasten papers together, although they were not originally designed for that purpose. Straight pins were designed to be used in sewing and tailoring, to temporally fasten cloth together.

Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian inventor with a degree in electronics, science and mathematics, invented the paperclip in 1899. He received a patent for his design from Germany in 1899, since Norway had no patent laws at that time. Johan Vaaler was an employee at a local invention office when he invented the paperclip. He received an American patent in 1901 -- patent abstract  "It consists of forming same of a spring material, such as a piece of wire, that is bent to a rectangular, triangular, or otherwise shaped hoop, the end parts of which wire piece form members or tongues lying side by side in contrary directions." Johan Vaaler was the first person to patent a paperclip design, although other unpatented designs might have existed first.

American inventor, Cornelius J. Brosnan filed for an American patent for a paperclip in 1900. He called his invention the "Konaclip".

But it was a company called the Gem Manufacturing Ltd. of England who first designed the double oval shaped standard looking paperclip. This familiar and famous paperclip, was and still is referred to as the "Gem" clip. William Middlebrook, of Waterbury, Connecticut, patented a machine for making paper clips of the Gem design in 1899. The Gem paperclip was never patented.

People have been re-inventing the paperclip over and over again. The designs that have been the most successful are the "Gem" with it's double oval shape, the "Non-Skid" which held in place well, the "Ideal" used for thick wads of paper, and the "Owl" the paperclip that did not get tangled up with other paperclips.

note: During World War II, Norwegians were prohibited from wearing any buttons with the likeness or initials of their king on them. In protest they started wearing paperclips, because paperclips were a Norwegian invention whose original function was to bind together. This was a protest against the Nazi occupation and wearing a paperclip could have gotten you arrested.



Leornardo DaVinci Parachute drawing

Credit for the invention of the first practical parachute frequently goes to Sebastien Lenormand who demonstrated the parachute principle in 1783. However, parachutes had been imagined and sketched by Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) centuries earlier and other inventors have designed parachutes, including fellow Italian Fauste Veranzio who constructed a device based on da Vinci's drawing and jumped from a Venice tower in 1617.

Jean Pierre Blanchard (1753-1809), a Frenchman was probaly the first person to actually use a parachute for an emergency. In 1785, he dropped a dog in a basket, to which a parachute was attached, from a balloon high in the air. In 1793, Blanchard claims to have escaped from an exploded hot air balloon with a parachute. Blanchard, it should be noted, also developed the first foldable parachute made from silk, up until that point all parachutes were made from rigid frames.

In 1797 (October 22), Andrew Garnerin was the first person recorded to jump with a parachute without a rigid frame. Garnerin jumped from hot air ballons as high as 8,000 feet in the air. Garnerin also designed the first air vent in a parachute intended to reduce oscillations.

In 1837, Robert Cocking became the first person to die from a parachute accident.

In 1887, Captain Thomas Baldwin invented the first parachute harness and in 1890, Paul Letteman and Kathchen Paulus invented the method of folding or packing the parachute in a knapsak to be worn on the back before its release. Kathchen Paulus was also behind the invention of the intentional breakaway, which is when one small parachute opens first and pulls open the main parachute.

Two parachuters claim to be the first man to jump from an airplane, both Grant Morton and Captain Albert Berry parachuted from an airplane in 1911. In 1914, Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick made the first freefall jump.

Next two Patent Drawings: 1920 Parachute Design

The first known written account of a parachute concept is found in da Vinci's notebooks (c l495).

The World of Parachutes, Parachuting, and Parachutists
Parachute is said to have come into being by putting together the prefix "para" and the noun "chute."

First Parachute Training Tower - Switlik Parachute Company
Polish-American Stanley Switlik founded the "Canvas-Leather Speciality Company" on October 9, 1920. The company first manufactured items such as leather hampers, golf bags, coal bags, pork roll casings, and postal mail bags. However, Switlik soon switched to making pilot and gunner belts, designing flight clothing, and experimenting with parachutes. The company was soon renamed the Switlik Parachute & Equipment Company. According to Switlik's Website: 

In 1934, Stanley Switlik and George Palmer Putnam, Amelia Earhart's husband, formed a joint venture and built a 115 foot tall tower on Stanley's farm in Ocean County. Designed to train airmen in parachute jumping, the first public jump from the tower was made by Ms. Earhart on June 2, 1935. Witnessed by a crowd of reporters and officials from the Army and Navy, she described the descent as "Loads of Fun!"

One lovely summer day in 1948, a Swiss amateur-mountaineer and inventor decided to take his dog for a nature hike. The man and his faithful companion both returned home covered with burrs, the plant seed-sacs that cling to animal fur in order to travel to fertile new planting grounds. The man neglected his matted dog, and with a burning curiosity ran to his microscope and inspected one of the many burrs stuck to his pants. He saw all the small hooks that enabled the seed-bearing burr to cling so viciously to the tiny loops in the fabric of his pants. George de Mestral raised his head from the microscope and smiled thinking, "I will design a unique, two-sided fastener, one side with stiff hooks like the burrs and the other side with soft loops like the fabric of my pants. I will call my invention 'velcro' a combination of the word velour and crochet. It will rival the zipper in its ability to fasten."

Mestral's idea met with resistance and even laughter, but the inventor 'stuck' by his invention. Together with a weaver from a textile plant in France, Mestal perfected his hook and loop fastener. By trial and error, he realized that nylon when sewn under infrared light, formed tough hooks for the burr side of the fastener. This finished the design, patented in 1955. The inventor formed Velcro Industries to manufacture his invention. Mestral was selling over sixty million yards of Velcro per year. Today it is a multi-million dollar industry.

Not bad for an invention based on Mother Nature.

Velcro and Trademarks
Today you cannot buy velcro because VELCRO is the registered trademark for the Velcro Industries' product. You can purchase all of the VELCRO brand hook and loop fasteners you need. This illustrates a problem inventors often face. Names can become generic terms. Many words used frequently in everyday language were once trademarks, for example: escalator, thermos, cellophane and nylon. All were once trademarked names and only the trademark owners could use the name with a product. When names become generic terms, the U.S. Courts can deny exclusive rights to the trademark

Prior to the manufacture of Henry Ford's Model A, Mary Anderson was granted her first patent for a window cleaning device in November of 1903. Her invention could clean snow, rain, or sleet from a windshield by using a handle inside the car. Her goal was to improve driver vision during stormy weather - Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper. 

During a trip to New York City, Mary Anderson noticed that streetcar drivers had to open the windows of their cars when it rained in order to see, as a solution she invented a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver from within the vehicle via a lever. The windsheld wipers became standard equipment on all American cars by 1916.

The automobile gave women ample opportunity for invention. In 1923, of the 345 inventions listed under "Transportation" in the Women's Bureau Bulletin No.28, about half were related to automobiles and another 25 concerned traffic signals and turn indicators. Among these inventions -- a carburetor, a clutch mechanism, an electric engine starter, and a starting mechanism.    development of innovative uses of alumina ceramics.

Another woman inventor named Charlotte Bridgwood invented the first automatic windshield wiper. Charlotte Bridgwood, president of the Bridgwood Manufacturing Company of New York, patented her electric roller-based windshield wiper called the "Storm Windshield Cleaner" in 1917. However, her product was not a commercial succes