Celebrating Innovation

As mentioned last week, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has just inducted their 2014 class.  Here is the second batch of inductees (if you missed the first, you may find them in last week’s blog).

William Bowerman – William Bowerman was born in Portland, Oregon, in February of 1911.  Upon graduating from high school, he went to the University of Oregon where he played football and track.  In an effort to increase his speed, he began working with the school’s track coach at the time, Bill Hayward.  This would prove to be a pivotal moment in his life, as he became fast enough to join the track team.  Eventually this would lead him down the road to coaching track, ultimately returning to his alma mater to do so.  He was highly successful in this pursuit, but that is not what got him in the inventors Hall of Fame.  Instead, it was his dedication to trying anything he could to improve his team members scores, including designing a new type of athletic shoe.  It was lightweight and had a waffle design on the bottom to increase traction.  At the time it was unknown how well this would be received, but Bowerman partnered up with Phil Knight, redesigned the shoe’s logo and began selling them.  They proved to be an immediate hit, and the brand that would be called Nike is now a household name, and the logo (for which the designer was originally paid $35 – interesting story) is known worldwide.  For his contributions to the modern athletic show (patent #3793750), Bowerman is now a member of the Hall of Fame for both running and inventing.

Otis Boykin – born in Dallas, TX, in 1920, Otis Boykin showed from fairly early in his life that he was an intelligent individual.  Upon graduating as valedictorian from his high school class in 1938, Boykin went to Fisk University in Nashville, TN, and in his spare time he worked at the university’s aerospace lab.   He then went to the Illinois Institute of Technology, but ended up dropping out in order to focus on his career.  This proved to be a wise decision, because in his lifetime, Boykin was the inventor of over twenty-five different electronic devices.  Included among these is patent number 2891227, which is the reason that Boykin is being honored.  This invention, a type of electrical resistor, is the technological basis of many of our electronic devices today.  For instance, variants of his idea are used in things such as radios, TV’s, computers, and guided missile systems.  Because his versions were cheaper, more reliable, and could withstand extreme changes in heat and pressure, they were in demand from both consumer goods producers and governments.  This is not all that Boykin invented, though.  Some of the more famous things that he developed include a control unit for pacemakers, a burglar-proof cash register, and a chemical air filter.  All in all his inventions can be seen throughout modern life.

David Crosthwait – like Boykin, David Crosthwait was an African American inventor from the South whose early interest in science paid off.  Born in Nashville, TN, in 1898, he received both a Bachelor’s of Science and Masters of Engineering from Purdue University.  He then entered the industrial world, working for a company in Iowa as a research engineer.  It was here that he began to focus on designing methods of heating systems for buildings in an attempt to make them more effective.  The end result would be a series of inventions, such as improved versions of boilers, thermostat controls and the differential vacuum pump (patent # 1727965) that all led to improved heating and ventilation for buildings, and his selection as a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.  In his lifetime, his systems became the model for building heating and ventilation systems, and he was commissioned to work on notable projects such as the Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center.  He even wrote instructional manuals for heating and cooling systems.  During his lifetime he received numerous awards for his work, and was the holder of 39 patents in the United States and 80 in foreign nations.