We’ve all heard of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs, and we know all about their inventions and the things they did for society. But what about the inventors that, for some reason, people have forgotten about? We’re not talking about people whose ideas were stolen from them like Nikola Tesla, we’re talking about the inventor of cell phones, the inventor of the dishwasher, and the inventor of the Internet, who are credited with designing life changing inventions, but aren’t known about by the people that use their creations.
We’re here to share with you the stories of the greatest inventors that were unfortunately forgotten. Furthermore, we’re going to tell you why, in some cases, these great inventors were omitted from the history books, and sometimes, left penniless.
10. The ATM Machine
The Inventor: Luther George Simjian
The Story: In 1939, Luther George Simjian built the first Automated Teller Machine, also known as an ATM; perhaps his most famous invention. Many banks thought that this machine wasn’t a good idea, but Luther George Simjian went through with it anyway and registered 20 patents for his device. He persuaded Citibank, which was called City Bank of New York at the time, to try his machine for 6 months. At the end of the trial, the bank discontinued the machine because it lacked demand. Almost nobody was using the machine. The only people that were using the device were prostitutes and gamblers that didn’t want to deal with tellers face to face.
This failed invention (at the time) kept Luther George Simjian out of the limelight, and is why John-Shepherd Barron is often attributed with building the ATM machine. In reality, he built the first true electronic ATM.
9. The Dishwasher
The Inventor: Josephine Cochrane
The Story: Josephine Cochrane was a wealthy woman who enjoyed having large numbers of guests over for dinner parties. As such, she was hosting these parties often. While the didn’t do the dishes herself at the end of the night, she had servants for that, she wanted to ensure that her dishes were washed faster, but in a way that they wouldn’t get chipped. With no one else wanting to invent such a machine, Josephine Cochrane took it upon herself to create such a machine. She measured her plates so they would fit snug into different compartments. She fit a motor that turned a wheel, all the while soapy water was shot from the bottom of the boiler and flowed down the dishes back to the bottom.
Word of her invention spread, her friends wanted one, restaurants wanted them, and hotels wanted them. Despite naming it the “Cochrane Dishwasher”, her name was lost in the history books after the company she created was bought by KitchenAid, which was later bought by Whirlpool Corporation.
8. The Pop-top Can
The Inventor: Ernie Fraze
The Story: In 1959, while on a picnic, Ernie Fraze was faced with the dilemma of opening a canned beverage without a can opener. To do this, he had to use a car bumper to tear them open which was probably as messy as it sounds. Several months later, during a night where he was unable to sleep, he decided he was going to figure out some of life’s most mundane problems. At the time, many inventors had tried to create a can that was easy to open, but many had failed or broke apart. Ernie Fraze designed the easy opening pop tap that we see on most cans today, and applied to patent his design in 1963.
By 1965, almost 75% of breweries inside of the United States were using Ernie Fraze’s design, making him a wealthy man. By 1980, his company DRT Mfg. Co, was earning over $500 Million in annual revenues as a result of supplying can manufacturing systems all around the world. After Fraze passed away, it was sold and later repurchased by its own management. Ernie Fraze may be gone, but his can lives on.
7. Friction Matches
The Inventor: John Walker
The Story: John Walker was an English chemist in the 19th century, and he accidentally invented friction matches. One night, Walker was preparing a mixture and a stick, which had been dipped in his mixture, generated friction against his hearth. With a few minor adjustments, John Walker started producing friction matches and selling them in boxes of 50. According to his journal, the exact date of his discovery was April 7, 1827. Despite the encouraging words from his friends and family, John Walker refused to patent his invention as he was already living comfortably, making his idea freely available for anyone to make. As a result of this, he wasn’t incredibly rich or famous, although he had a comfortable retirement late in his life.
6. The Flushing Toilet
The Inventor: John Harrington
The Story: Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Crapper did not invent a toilet that could flush. He did, however, increase the popularity of the toilet. John Harrington, a man who lived in the 1500’s, is the original inventor of a toilet that could flush. It was called the Ajax at the time, and he installed it in his private manor in Kelston. Harrington wrote a book about his invention under the pseudonym Misacmos. The book, although informational about his invention, also made allusions to the Earl of Leicester, which angered the Queen. After the book was published. John Harrington was banished from the Queen’s court. Although his book was popular when it was published in 1596, John Harrington, perhaps because of the Queen’s disapproval of him, isn’t remembered for inventing a toilet that was the basis for the porcelain throne that we all know and love.
5. The Crossword Puzzle
The Inventor: Arthur Wynne
The Story: While working for the New York World newspaper, Arthur Wynne was responsible for creating the page of puzzles known as the “Fun” section. On December 21, 1913, Arthur Wynne introduced a puzzle with a hollow centre, and diamond shape. The letters F-U-N were already filled in at the top. Wynne called his game a “Word-Cross Puzzle.” However, Arthur Wynne’s game was very closely based on earlier puzzle games that were already popular. In addition to using some of their elements, Arthur Wynne added a few of his own unique ideas. One of these ideas is separating horizontal and vertical words with black squares. Funny enough, a type error renamed Arthur Wynne’s “Word-Cross Puzzle” to “Cross-Word Puzzle” just a few weeks after it’s initial debut. The name stuck, and the game has been known as a crossword ever since!
4. The Dandy Horse
The Inventor: Karl Drais
The Story: The what? The Dandy Horse, also known as the Laufmaschine, also called the velocipede, draisine, was invented by Karl Drais, and is credited as the earliest form of a bicycle. Essentially, it was a man powered bicycle, without pedals, that was the first personal vehicle to utilize two wheels. The first recorded ride of The Dandy Horse was on June 12, 1817. However, at the time of his invention, he had no patent to declare that the design legally belonged to him. He received a handsome salary as a result of his invention, but in 1849, it was seized to save money. The revolution that was happening against the Prussians at the time needed every dime that could be provided.
Unfortunately, despite building the frame for one of the most used forms of modern transportation, Karl Drais died without a dime to his name.
3. The Mobile Phone
The Inventor: Martin Cooper
The Story: In 1973, the first hand-held cellphone was revealed to the world by John F. Mitchell, and Dr. Martin Cooper, the man who was responsible for designing, and is credited with inventing the cellphone while pairing with Motorola. Before the phone was revealed, Dr. Cooper spent almost all of his time trying to create a phone that could be used anywhere, by anyone.
After 10 years of a rigorous process to bring the cellphone to the market, in 1983, the DynaTac 8000X was the first mobile phone available for purchase by consumers. Despite only having a battery life of 30 minutes of talk time, and 8 hours of standby, it was priced at $3,995. The DynaTac 8000X was based directly off of t he model that was revealed by Martin Cooper ten years prior.
2. The Pencil w/Attached Eraser
The Inventor: Hymen Lipman
The Story: Hymen Lipman, born in 1817, is credited for registering a patent for the first pencil with an eraser attached at the end of it. He registered this patent on March 30, 1858. Not too much is known about Hymen Lipman, other than the fact that he sold his patent to Joseph Reckendorfer for $100,000 in 1862. Reckendorfer went on to sue a pencil manufacturer for copyright infringement. However, in 1875, the Supreme Court of the United States stated that Reckendorfer’s lawsuit should be dismissed because his patent is invalid. The Supreme Court went on to say that because his invention was just a combination of two things that already existed with no new use, his patent is invalid. He bought a $100,000 patent for something that was legally useless!
1. The World Wide Web
The Inventor: Tim Berners-Lee
The Story: Although he is known by many people in the technology world, Tim Berners-Lee is unknown by the public, despite creating something that is used billions of times per day, by billions of people, all around the world. While the Internet already existed, Tim Berners-Lee wanted to fuse hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) with other technology to create a network to connect people around the world. Essentially, Tim Berners-Lee took a bunch of individual technologies and put them together to create something that perhaps, has made the most influence on society since the wheel.
The first website built was put online on August 6, 1991. The website provided an explanation of what the World Wide Web was, and how someone could go about using a browser and set up their own web server.
Berners-Lee founded the W3C at MIT, and was comprised of various companies that wanted to create standards to improve the quality of websites, and content on the World Wide Web. Amazingly, Tim Berners-Lee made his idea absolutely free to use, and transform into something new. No royalties have been paid to him for his creation of the Internet. Ever.