Invented by Benjamin Franklin. When placed at the apex of a barn, church steeple, or other structure, it conducts lightning bolts harmlessly into the ground.
David Bushnell created a "Turtle," which submerges by taking water into its tanks and reverses the process to rise. It moves by means of a hand crank propeller. The "Turtle" was used in an attack on Lord Howe's Flagship "Eagle," but attempts to attach a mine to the Eagle's hull failed.
First U.S. Patent
The United States issued its first patent to William Pollard of Philadelphia. His machine roves and spins cotton.
Eli Whitney patented his machine to comb and deseed bolls of cotton. His invention made possible a revolution in the cotton industry and the rise of cotton as the main cash crop in the South, Instead of buying his machine though, farmers built their own versions.
Eli Whitney patented his machine to comb and deseed bolls of cotton. His invention made possible a revolution in the cotton industry and the rise of "King Cotton" as the main cash crop in the South, but never make him rich. Instead of buying his machine, farmers built bogus versions of their own.
Eli Whitney was contracted to manufacture 10,000 muskets for the U.S. Army. At the time, an entire musket would be made by a single person, without standardized measurements. Whitney divided the labor into several discrete steps and standardized parts to make them interchangeable.
Steam Powered Pumping Station
The Fairmount Water Works harnessed steam power to provide water for the city of Philadelphia.
Oliver Evans' "Orukter Amphibolos" dredges the waters near the Philadelphia docks. Its steam-powered engine drove either wooden wheels or a paddle wheel. Evans demonstrated his machine in Philadelphia's Center Square, where he passed the hat for money.
Coffee drinkers the world over no longer have to chew their brew. Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, invents a coffee pot with a metal sieve to strain away the grounds.
Robert Fulton, former miniaturist and landscape painter, opened American rivers to two-way travel. His steamboat the "Clermont" traveled 150 miles upstream between New York and Albany at an average speed of 5 mph.
Steam power enhanced military power. Robert Fulton's "Demolos" sailed. At 140 ft. in length, it carried a thirty 32-pound cannon.
Farmers had furrowed the rocky soil of New England with wooden-tipped ploughs. John Jethro Woods of Poplar Ridge, New York, created a plough with a replaceable cast-iron tip, making farming in America easier.
Overland travel in the 1800s was slow and arduous. Engineers proposed a plan to supplement natural water systems by digging a 363 mile canal to connect the Hudson River with Lake Erie. The "Seneca Chief" made the inaugural run through the Erie Canal in 1825.
The McCormick Reaper, cut grain much faster than a man with a scythe, failed to catch on. McCormick sold the first unit around 1840; by 1844, only 50 had sold. After taking his operation to Chicago, McCormick prospered. By 1871 his company was selling 10,000 reapers per year.
Walter Hunt invents the first lock-stitch sewing machine, but loses interest and does not patent his invention. Later, Elias Howe secured patent on an original lock-stitch machine, but failed to manufacture and sell it. Still later, Isaac Singer infringed on Howe's patent to make his own machine, which made Singer rich. Hunt also invented the safety pin, which he sold outright for $400.
John A. and Hiram Abial Pitts invented a machine that automatically threshes and separates grain from chaff, freeing farmers from a slow and laborious process.
To finance the development of his "six shooter," Samuel Colt traveled the lecture circuit, giving demonstrations of laughing gas. Colt's new weapon failed to catch on, and he went bankrupt in 1842 at age 28. He reorganized and sold his first major order to the War Department during the Mexican War in 1846, and went on to become rich.
Thomas Davenport of Brandon, Vermont, is one of the first to find a practical application for the electric motor. He used a motor he built to power shop machinery and also built the first electric model railroad car.
Crawford Williamson Long, of Jefferson, Georgia, performed the first operation using an ether-based anesthesia, when he removed a tumor from the neck of Mr. James Venable. Long did not reveal his discovery until 1849.
Samuel F.B. Morse demonstrated his telegraph by sending a message to Baltimore from the chambers of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The message, "What hath God wrought?," marked the beginning of a new era in communication.
Cladius Ash helped Americans get a better grip on what they're eating. He created a new type of artificial dental wear featuring individual porcelain teeth mounted with steel springs.
Cylinder Printing Press
Richard M. Hoe created a revolution in printing by rolling a cylinder over stationary plates of inked type and using the cylinder to make an impression on paper. This eliminated the need for making impressions directly from the type plates themselves, which were heavy and difficult to maneuver
Elisha Graves Otis dramatically demonstrated his passenger elevator at the Crystal Palace Exposition in New York by cutting the elevator's cables as it ascends a 300 foot tower. Otis' unique safety braking system prevented the elevator from falling; his business prospects rose.
Edwin T. Holmes of Boston began to sell electric burglar alarms. Later, his workshop was used by Alexander Graham Bell as the young Bell pursues his invention of the telephone. Holmes will be the first person to have a home telephone.
The first well was run headed by Col. Edwin L. Drake in Titusville, Pennsylvania. It was drilled by Seneca Oil Company. Before drilling, oil was only obtained where it seeped from the ground. Previously, it had been used mostly as a lubricant and lamp fuel,
Samuel van Syckel built a five-mile, pump-operated pipeline in Pithole, Pennsylvania, The pipeline made oil transport infinitely easier.
Lucien B. Smith of Kent, Ohio, invented a product that closed in cattle onto individual plots of privately owned land. Barbed wired was used because there were few trees in the midwest, if any, so fences were not practical. I.L. Ellwood and Company's Glidden Steel Barb Wire dominated the market.
Baseball was widely played before the Civil War, but emerged more after Recontruction ended. A league of professional players was formed in the 1870s and in 1888 an all-star team toured the world.
Alfred Ely Beach built a pneumatic subway in New York under Broadway. There was a single subway car with chairs and chandeliers, which was driven by a 100 horsepower blower along a 300 foot long tunnel. Beach worked in secret to hide his operation from Boss Tweed, who opposed it.
Christopher Latham Sholes invented his own version of the typewriter inspired by a Scientific American article featuring a British attempt at a typing machine. He sold an improved prototype to Remington and Sons, gunsmiths, of Ilion, New York, who began to mass produce the machines.
Structural Steel Bridge
Captain James Buchanan Eads finished the bridge across the Mississippi River near St. Louis. Using steel supplied by Andrew Carnegie, Eads incorporated a triple arch design, with spans measuring 502, 520, and 502 feet. Because of his work, Eads was the first American engineer to be awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts in London.
Thomas Edison discoverd a way to make duplicate copies of documents while he used paraffin in an attempt to invent and improve telegraphy tape,
Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone, built with the assistance of young self-trained engineer Thomas A. Watson. Elisha Gray, who developed a similar device at about the same time, unsuccessfully challenged Bell's patent. The telephone allowed people in two different places communicate instantly and effectively.
Thomas Edison perfected a system of sound recording and transmission while working with a team of engineers at his lab in New Jersey. The first recording replayed is a voice saying "Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow."
Incandescent Light Bulb
Thomas Edison perfected an incandescent light bulb in New Jersey, which used electricity to produce light. He was backed by $30,000 in research funds provided by investors such as J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts.
Walter C. Camp helped develop play from scrimmage and restrictions to 11 players per side in1880. This allowed teams to develop and use strategy and preconceived plays, and also led to the formation of offensive and defensive lines. Downs and yards-to-go were created in 1882. Rugby's scoring did not translate well into the Americanized game, so Camp developed the scoring system that forms the basis for today's game.
R.G. Rhodes improved on the ear trumpet with a primitive version of a hearing aid. The device was a thin sheet of hard rubber or cardboard placed against ones teeth which conducts vibrations to the auditory nerve.
Dr. Schuyler Skaats Wheeler developed a two-bladed desk fan that was produced by the Crocker and Curtis electric motor company.
L.N. Thompson, founder of Coney Island's Luna Park, invited the first passengers to board his new thrill ride, the roller coaster. Thompson called his new attraction the Switchback.
After the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago had become a magnet for daring experiments in architecture. William Le Baron Jenney completed the 10-story Home Insurance Company Building, the first to use steel-girder construction; more than twenty skyscrapers were built in Chicago over the next 9 years.
A combined reaper-thresher was drawn by 20-40 horses and it both reaped and bagged grain. This led to increased production and often led to the economic depression of the time.
In July, 1886, the first commercially used Linotype was installed in the printing office of the New York Tribune. The name of the machine comes from the fact that it produces an entire line of metal type at once, hence a line-o-type.
George Eastman introduced a hand-held box camera for portable use in Rochester, New York. The camera was pre-loaded with 100 exposure film; after shooting the photographer returned the whole camera to the manufacturer for development and a reload.
Mrs. WA Cockran of Shelbyville, Indiana, produced a practicable dishwashing machine after ten years work and numerous prototypes,.
James Naismith, a YMCA instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts, designed basketball as an active indoor sport that could be played during the winter months.
Jesse W. Reno introduced a new novelty ride at Coney Island. His moving stairway elevates passengers on a conveyor belt at an angle of 25 degrees. The device was shown at the Paris Exposition of 1900, where it was called the escalator.
In Springfield, Massachusetts, brothers Frank and Charles Duryea fabricated the first gasoline-powered automobile built in the United States. It made its first successful run on the streets of Springfield in September, 1893.
At the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Whitcomb L. Judson introduced his clasp locker, a hook-and-eye device which was opened and closed by a sliding clasp. Improvements in the device by other inventors continued; workers at B.F. Goodrich coined the name "zipper" in 1923.
James Boyle made public courtesy much more convenient for the modern gentleman. His new hat tipped automatically.
Improving on Bushnell's 1776 version, the J.P. Holland torpedo boat company launched the first practical submarine, commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The test was successful. Holland got orders for six more.
King Camp Gillette, a former traveling hardware salesman of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, took the risk out of shaving with a straight edge razor by introducing his new double-edged safety razor. By the end of 1904, he sold 90,000 razors and 12,400,000 blades.
Working as an engineer at the Buffalo Forge Company, Willis H. Carrier designed the first system to control temperature and humidity. He went on to found his own company, the Carrier Corporation, which produced air-conditioning equipment.
At Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright broke the powered flight barrier with their gasoline-powered "Flyer I." The first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight in history was made by Wilbur and lasted a mere 12 seconds. On a flight later that day, Orville remained aloft 59 seconds and travel 852 feet.
Car maker Henry Ford introduced his Model T automobile. By 1927, when it was discontinued, 15.5 million Models T's had been sold in the U.S. Ford owes much of his success to his improved assembly line process, which by 1913 produced a complete Model T every 93 minutes.
Charles F. Kettering, who developed the electric cash register while working at National Cash Register, sold his electric automobile starters to the Cadillac company. This device increased the popularity of the gasoline-powered car, which no longer needed to be started with a hand crank.
After 36 years' of labor, the bankruptcy of thousands of investors, and the deaths of more than 25,000 men, the Panama Canal was finished. The canal cuts the sailing distance from the East Coast to the West Coast by more than 8,000 miles.
World War 1
U.S. troops arrived on the battlefields of Europe, where new technologies created one of the bloodiest conflict in history. Armored tanks, machine guns, poisonous gas, submarines and airplanes forced military commanders to rethink traditional strategies of war.
Alexander Grahams Bell's "Hydrodome IV" set a world record of 70 mph for water travel. The boat weighed over 10,000 pounds and used underwater fins to raise the hull of the boat and decrease drag between the hull and the water.
The first regular commercial radio broadcasts began when AM station KDKA of Pittsburgh delivered results of the Harding-Cox election to its listeners. Radio experienced immediate success; by the end of 1922, 563 other licensed stations joined KDKA.
Robert H. Goddard, Professor of Physics at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, made the first successful launch of a liquid-fueled rocket at his aunt Effie's farm in Auburn, Massachusetts. The rocket reached 41 ft. in altitude.
Philo Farnsworth demonstrated the first television for potential investors by broadcasting the image of a dollar sign. Farnsworth received backing and applied for a patent, but ongoing patent battles with RCA prevented Farnsworth from earning his share of the million-dollar industry his invention created.
Working at the research facilities at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. William Bennett Kouwenhoven developed a device for jump-starting the heart with a burst of electricity.
Skiers no longer had to climb hills to enjoy their sport. Engineers from the Union Pacific Railroad built a chair lift for the Dollar Mountain resort in Sun Valley, Idaho. Dollar Mountain followed with an order for six more.
A team of researchers working under Wallace H. Carothers at E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company invented a plastic that can be drawn into strong, silk-like fibers. Nylon soon became popular as a fabric for hosiery as well as industrial applications such as cordage.
John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry of Iowa State College completed the prototype of the first digital computer. It could store data and perform addition and subtractions using binary code. The next generation of the machine was abandoned before it was completed due to the onset of World War II.
Karl K. Pabst of the Bantam Car. Co., Butler, Pennsylvania, produced a four-wheel drive vehicle that became famous as the jeep. Given its name by its military designation, G.P., or general purpose, the jeep was used for numerous transport applications throughout World War II, and became a popular domestic vehicle after the war.
A team led by J.R. Oppenheimer, Arthur H. Compton, Enrico Fermi and Léo Szilard detonated the first atomic bomb at the Los Alamos Lab near Santa Fé, New Mexico. Following the tests, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan -- one at Hiroshima, one at Nagasaki.
Leo Fender launched the guitars that built rock and roll when he debuted his Broadcaster solid-bodied electric guitar. Later renamed the Telecaster, the guitar became a favorite with guitar slingers worldwide.
Dr. John H. Gibbon performed the first successful open heart surgery in which the blood was artificially circulated and oxygenated by a heart-lung machine. This new technology, which allowed the surgeon to operate on a dry and motionless heart, greatly increased surgical treatment options for heart defects and disease.
The Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine, revolutionized naval warfare. Conventional submarines needed two engines: a diesel engine to travel on the surface and an electric engine to travel submerged, where oxygen for a diesel engine is not available. The Nautilus, the first nuclear sub, could travel many thousands of miles below the surface with a single fuel charge.
Dr. Albert Sabin developseda polio vaccine using strains of polio too weak to cause infection but strong enough to activate the human immune system. His invention put an end to the polio epidemics that had crippled thousands of children worldwide.
Three months after the Soviet Union began the Space Age by launching Sputnik, the U.S. responds by sending the Explorer I satellite into orbit. Explorer I's mission is to detect radiation; it discovers one of the Van Allen radiation belts.
Working at Hughes Research Laboratories, physicist Theodore H. Maiman created the first laser. The core of his laser consisted of a man-made ruby -- a material that had been judged unsuitable by other scientists, who rejected crystal cores in favor of various gases.
IBM rolled out the OS/360, the first mass-produced computer operating system. Using the OS/360, all computers in the IBM 360 family could run any software program. IBM was already a giant in the computer industry, controlling 70% of the market worldwide.
Digital Equipment introduced the PDP-8, the world's first computer to use integrated circuit technology. Because of its relatively small size and its low $18,000 price tag, Digital sold several hundred units.
Millions watch worldwide as the landing module of NASA's Apollo 11 spacecraft touches down on the moon's surface and Neil Armstrong becomes the first human to set foot on the moon. President John F. Kennedy, who vowed to the world that the United States would put a human on the moon before 1970, has not lived to witness the moment.
Corning Glass announced it had created a glass fiber so clear that it could communicate pulses of light. GTE and AT&T soon began experiments to transmit sound and image data using fiber optics, which transformed the communications industry.
Pong, one of the first mass-produced video games, became the rage. Noland Bushnell, the 28 year-old inventor of Pong, went on to found Atari.
The first shipments of bar-coded products arrived in American stores. Scanners at checkout stations read the codes using laser technology. The hand-punched keyboard cash register took one step closer to obsolescence.
Old high school friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen formed a partnership known as Microsoft to write computer software. They sold their first software to Ed Roberts at MIT, which had produced the Altair 8800, the first microprocessor-based computer. Gates soon dropped out of Harvard.
Cray Research, Inc. introduced its first supercomputer, the Cray-1, which could perform operations at a rate of 240,000,000 calculations per second. Supercomputers designed by Seymour Cray continued to dominate the market; the Cray 2, marketed in 1985, was capable of 1,200,000,000 calculations per second.
For the first time, NASA successfully launched and landed its reusable spacecraft, the Space Shuttle. The shuttle could be used for a number of applications, including launch, retrieval, and repair of satellites and as a laboratory for physical experiments. While extremely successful, the shuttle program suffered a disaster in 1986 when the shuttle Challenger exploded after takeoff, killing all on board.
Dr. Robert Jarvik implanted a permanent artificial heart, the Jarvik 7, into Dr. Barney Clark. The heart, powered by an external compressor, kept Clark alive for 112 days.
In January "Time" named its 1982 "man" of the year -- the personal computer. PC's had taken the world by storm, dramatically changing the way people communicated. IBM dominated the personal computer market, benefiting both from the production of its own machines as well as "clones" produced by other companies.
The space shuttle Discovery deployed the Hubble Space telescope 350 miles above the Earth. Although initial flaws limited its capabilities, the Hubble is responsible for numerous discoveries and advances in the understanding of space.