The National Inventors Hall of Fame was established in 1973 to honor inventors who have conceived, patented and advanced technology in our nation. Located on the campus of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a founding partner, the National Inventors Hall of Fame maintains an annual tradition of selecting new inductees who hold a U.S. patent that has contributed significantly to the welfare of the nation and advancement of science and useful arts.
Here’s a look at this year’s inductees.
Physiologically Active Substances (Patent No. 3,983,140)
In 1973, Akira Endo discovered mevastatin, becoming a pioneer in research into statins, which have become a hugely successful class of drugs that can help lower cholesterol. It had been a few years earlier, while at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine when he learned about the connection between high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. He took a hypothesis and tested at Sankyo Company in Japan. Endo currently serves as Director of Biopharm Research Laboratories.
Thixotropic Mixture and Method of Making Same (Patent No. 3,986,969)
Solar Thermal Storage Systems
Known as the “Sun Queen” for her pioneering work in solar energy, Maria Telkes was an innovator in the field and widely published on topics such as solar heating, thermoelectric generators and distillers, and electrical conductivity of solid electrolytes. Telkes spent many years as a researcher at MIT, where she worked on a project called the Dover Sun House that used sodium sulphates to store energy from the sun. Among her inventions was a miniature desalination unit for use on lifeboats that was included in the military’s emergency medical kits during World War II.
Graphical User Interface and Methods of Use Thereof in a Multimedia Player (Patent No. 7,166,791)
iPod User Interface
Very few have had greater influence on the world of personal computing and digital publishing than Steve Jobs, who, at the age of 21, cofounded Apple Computer with friend and fellow National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee Steve Wozniak. As Apple CEO, Jobs launched the first Mac computer in 1984. After he left Apple, Jobs acquired Pixar Animation Studios, which went on to create such animated hits as “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo” (later acquired by the Walt Disney Company). After his return to Apple in 1997, the company released some of its most popular products—the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Jobs received many honors throughout his life, including receiving the National Medal of Technology and being named CEO of the Decade by Fortune magazine.
Byzantine Fault Tolerance (Patent No. 6,671,821)
Programming Languages and System Design
A pioneer in computer programming language design, Barbara Liskov helped make computers more reliable, easy to use and secure. Her work showed software construction, modification and maintenance could be made easier by focusing on data rather than process. She is also known for designing CLU, an object-oriented programming language, and Argus, a distributed programming language, both of which are used in Java, Argus and C++. She is currently a professor at MIT.
Carbon Dioxide Laser Operating Upon a Vibrational-Rotational Transition (Patent No. 3,596,202)
Carbon Dioxide Laser
It was at Bell Laboratories in 1968, that Patel invented the carbon dioxide laser, a technology that has proved highly useful in the fields of medicine, industry and the military. He started his own company, Pranalytica, in 2000 where he manufactures mid-infrared quantum cascade laser systems and gas sensing instruments. Prior to that he was Vice Chancellor for Research at UCLA following a 32-year career at AT&T Bell Labs.
Flying Spot Flat Field Scanner (Patent No. 3,970,359)
Gary Starkweather’s claim to fame is the laser printer. Invented at the Xerox PARC facility, it was the first mechanism that could be used to print images from a computer. His research led to the first laser printer in commercial use. The 9700 laser printer made its debut in 1977. Starkweather retired in 2005 after spending 20 years at Xerox, 10 years at Apple Computer, and eight years at Microsoft.
Bandage for Administering Drugs (Patent No. 3,598,122)
Controlled drug delivery systems
If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking by using NicoDerm CQ—better known as “the patch”—or used Transderm Scop to prevent motion sickness, you’ve benefited from Alejandro Zaffaroni’s innovative work in biotechnology. He went on to found numerous biotech companies starting with Alza in 1968, where his research contributed to medical treatments for conditions such as glaucoma using controlled drug delivery methods.
Integrated Magnetoresistive Read, Inductive Write, Batch Fabricated Magnetic Head (Patent No. 3,908,194)
Magnetic thin-film head
Lubomyr Romankiw, together with fellow IBM researcher David A. Thompson (see below), invented the first magnetic thin-film storage heads, technology that increases the density of data that can be stored on smaller and smaller magnetic disks. A distinguished researcher, Romankiw is an IBM fellow, IEEE Fellow, and holds more than 65 patents related to magnetic materials. He still works at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center.
Thin Film Inductive Transducer (Patent No. 4,295,173)
Magnetic thin-film storage head
Remember floppy disks? Along with fellow IBM researcher Lubomyr Romankiw (see above), David Thompson invented the first magnetic thin-film storage heads that increase storage capacity on magnetic disks. Their technology was key to the disk drive industry, valued at one time at $35 billion in annual sales. Thompson received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D.s from the Carnegie Institute of Technology and went on to work for IBM from 1968 to 2000.
Electron Optical System (Patent No. 2,452,919)
Dennis Gabor’s research in electron optics led to the invention of holography in 1947, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971. Today, because of his work and those researchers who have been inspired by it, holography is used in applications as varied as engineering, art, medicine and manufacturing.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recognizing and honoring invention and creativity. The Hall of Fame honors the men and women responsible for the great technological advances that make human, social and economic progress possible. The organization seeks to give these outstanding individuals the recognition they so rightly deserve as well as inspire future generations of innovators through the light of their examples.