Discovery Place Science
From simple machines to rocket ships, humans have engineered unique ways to simplify labor and expand our abilities since the discovery of fire.
Some creators laid the foundation for others, such as Leonardo DaVinci’s late-15th-century flying apparatus design, which ultimately led to the Wright Brothers’ first flight in the early 20th century.
Others harnessed their ingenuity to delve further into the depths of space and sea and are paving the way for humankind’s return to the Moon.
Sprinkled throughout history, there are a few inventions that leave us scratching our heads. Today we’ll explore the strange, the accidents and one of America’s leading female inventors in honor of National Inventors’ Day on February 11, 2023.
A Strange Invention
First up to the plate is the Tomatan, a truly perplexing innovation. Invented by Nobumichi Tosa for the Kagome Juice Company, the Tomatan was designed to give athletes a boost in nutrients to combat fatigue while running a marathon.
The Tomatan is a robot that weighs just shy of 18 pounds that the user wears like a backpack. With the click of a button, the robot’s mechanical arms feed the user tomatoes while they run.
An Accidental Invention
Next up is an invention that came to life serendipitously. Naval engineer Richard James was working on developing a system to protect fragile equipment during tumultuous treks across the ocean.
The springs he created were designed to help absorb shock and stabilize the contents resting on them. However, one day James accidentally knocked one of these springs over and instead of falling to the ground, it did what we now recognize as the famous Slinky walk-down.
After co-founding James Industries with his wife, Slinkies hit the shelves in 1945 and have continued to mesmerize us since. They have also been used in therapy as fidget toys for anxiety as well as antennas by soldiers during the Vietnam War.
One inventor who truly deserves recognition is a woman by the name of Beulah Louise Henry, who was not only a leading inventor but a North Carolina native! Henry attended Elizabeth College in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she submitted her first of 49 patents.
Among Henry’s 110 inventions were the vacuum ice freezer, the first bobbin-free sewing machine, the double chain stitch sewing machine, the hair curler and the can opener.
Henry was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006 for her many innovations and is recognized as one of the most successful female inventors of all time.
Without Henry, we’d still be opening our canned goods like barbarians. So, next time you use a can opener, remember to thank the woman who made it a little bit easier.
Every Great Invention Has to Start Somewhere
No matter how silly you think an idea might be, you never know where it might lead! Many inventions that started off as failures ended up changing the world. Just look at the automobile!
When Gustave Trouvé introduced his patent for the first automobile in 1895, many people laughed at him and said the invention was entirely unfeasible. If every inventor gave up after one failed or mocked idea, who knows where we might have ended up? What idea will you come up with today?