July Patents That Changed the World

July Patents That Changed the World

by Heleigh Bostwick, June 2009

Since the passage of the Patent Act in 1836, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued more than 7 million numbered patents from the practical to the strange (the Aquarium Watch for example). And while some of these inventions never got off the ground, others are part of every day life today or have played an important part in history.

The month of July holds a special place in patent history. In fact, both the very first US patent (issued in 1790) and the first numbered patent (1836) were issued in the month of July. In July of 1873, Anna Nichols became the first woman patent examiner.

To celebrate July's rich patent history, here's a look at some of the famous patents issued by the USPTO during the month of July.

Samuel Hopkins - "Method of producing pot ash and pearl ash"

The first patent in the United States was issued on July 31, 1790 and is known as US Patent X1. It was signed by the President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson among others. Potash is an ingredient in modern day fertilizers.

John Ruggles - Railroad "Traction Wheels"

Ruggles, a US Senator from Maine who sponsored the 1836 Patent Act, holds the distinction of being issued the first numbered patent in the US. Patent No. 1 was issued on July 13, 1836.

Robert Goddard - "Rocket Apparatus"

US Patent No. 1,103,503 was issued July 14, 1914 for the world's first liquid rocket fuel, a mixture of gasoline and liquid nitrous oxide.

Albert Gonzales - "Railroad Switch"

US Patent No. 764,166 for the Railway Switch, vital to the modern-day railroad industry, was issued July 6, 1904.

Sarah Goode - "Folding Cabinet Bed"

On July 14, 1885, Sarah Goode, a furniture store owner in Chicago, was issued US Patent No. 322,177 for a folding cabinet bed that could be made into a desk when it wasn't being used as a bed. In doing so, she became the first African-American woman to receive a patent.

Guglielmo Marconi - "Transmitting Electrical Signals"

On July 13, 1897, Guglielmo Marconi was issued a patent for Transmitting Electrical Signals, technology that led to the development of wireless telegraphy and the radio.

Miriam Benjamin - "Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels"

Miriam Benjamin, a Washington, DC, schoolteacher was issued a patent on July 17, 1888 for her invention, which consisted of a chair with a button that enabled hotel guests to summon the wait staff from the comfort of their chairs. The US House of Representatives uses a modified version of the chair to signal pages.

Thaddeus Hyatt - "Reinforced Concrete"

Hyatt was issued a patent on July 16, 1878 for Reinforced Concrete, a method of construction in which steel reinforcement bars are placed in poured concrete to give concrete structures greater tensile strength.

Louis Pasteur - "Manufacture of Beer and Treatment of Yeast"

This patent was issued on July 22, 1873. Louis Pasteur, a French chemist and microbiologist, later went on to develop the process for pasteurization and is also famous for his "germ theory".

Ernst Brandl and Hans Margreiter - "Oral Penicillin"

An important and widely used antibiotic, the oral form of the antibiotic penicillin was patented on July 24, 1956.

Richard Hoe - "Rotary Printing Press"

A patent for the Rotary Printing Press, the basis for modern-day offset printing, was issued on July 10, 1847.

William Coolidge - "X-Ray Tube"

The patent for the X-Ray Tube, often referred to as the Coolidge Tube, was issued on July 4, 1933. The Coolidge Tube is still used in X-ray machines today.