American inventors have given the world products that have changed the way we live. Think of Thomas Edison’s lightbulb, Marie Van Brittan Brown’s home security system, or Steve Job’s iPhone.
But for every well-known inventor there are many others, less recognizable men and women whose creative products have had an equally important effect on our day-to-day lives.
Fifteen of those men and women -- both past and present -- were recently honored for their inventions at a special ceremony at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum. The museum is hidden in a corner of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office building in Alexandria, Virginia.
Stan Honey was honored for inventing a graphics system that makes it easier for television viewers around the world to see decisive moments during live sporting events, such as car racing and American football.
“What we do is we superimpose graphic elements like yellow lines into the real world..." This leads the observer to notice important elements that are difficult to see, otherwise.
The graphics make the yellow lines look like they are really on the grass, Honey explained, but in fact they are only on the television.
Honey suggested the technology could improve almost any sports watching experience.
Work to smile about
Honoree Sumita Mitra discovered that nanoparticles can be used to create better filler material for damaged or missing teeth. Mitra says she was looking for “beauty that lasts.” Her filler is extremely strong, remains smooth and does not change color.
Rini Paiva heads the committee that decides on admissions to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. She said Mitra’s invention is used in hundreds of millions of teeth repairs every year.
Mitra credits her parents and teachers with her success. She says they gave her a life-long love of learning.
“They taught me how to learn… and if you know how to learn, you can learn anything,” Mitra said.
Two inventors have been admitted into the Hall of Fame for their work in temperature control.
Inventor Mary Engle Pennington established a way to store and transport food around the country so it remained healthful to eat. Pennington died in 1952 at the age of 80, but her refrigerated train cars and other inventions related to food preservation live on.
Warren Johnson created an automatic temperature control system for buildings. It was used in school and office spaces, including the U.S. Capitol Building, the Smithsonian Institute and the New York Stock Exchange.
Johnson's company helped start the multi-billion-dollar building controls industry.
Rini Paiva says acceptance into the Hall of Fame is a very competitive process because there are a lot of good inventors. The organization tries to find those who have substantively changed the world for the better.
Each year a new inventor enters the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Each receives a special sign identifying the inventor, invention and patent number. The Hall of Fame has more than 560 members, living and dead.
Rini Paiva says the National Inventors Hall of Fame also supports educational projects through its partnership with 1,300 schools nationwide.
While the museum shares the stories of its honorees, it also, in Paiva’s words, “shows people what we can do through our education programs.” The museum works to help young people enter professions linked to science, technology, engineering and math.
I’m Susan Shand
VOA’s Julie Taboh reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
graphics – n. pictures or images on the screen of a computer, television
superimpose – v. to place or lay (something) over something else
preservation – n. the act of keeping something in its original state or in good condition
automatic – adj. happening or done without deliberate thought or effort
nanoparticle – n. a small object that behaves as a whole unit with respect to its transport and properties