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Thomas Alva Edison.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared Feb. 11, Thomas Edison’s birthday, ¬†National Inventors’ Day.

So said the Gipper: “Individual ingenuity and perseverance, spurred by the incentives of the patent system, begin the process that results in improved standards of living, increased public and private productivity, creation of new industries, improved public services, and enhanced competitiveness of American products in world markets…¬†Key to our future success will be the dedication and creativity of inventors.”

We’ll leave discussion of the virtues of U.S. patent system for another day, but it would be interesting to hear from folks about their favorite inventors–foreign and domestic, living and dead. Edison is an easy one. There are certainly lesser known inventors out there worth celebrating. Any suggestions?

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


  • http://twitter.com/batfandotcom Ben Rollier (@batfandotcom)

    Um . . yeah. While we’re on the subject of Thomas Edison. How about celebrating Nikola Tesla?

  • Alan S. Blue

    Alexander Graham Bell, Orivlle and Wilbur Wright, Samuel Colt, Charles Goodyear, Eli Whitney, William E. Boeing.

    Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robseth Rob Markowitz

    Edison, NJ should be renamed to Tesla, NJ

  • asciimation

    Charles Babbage. As well as his fantastic calculating machines I always find it amusing he also invented the railway cow catcher!

    John Harrison who invented the marine chronometer (and who had a hell of a job claiming the Longitude prize he deserved).

    I don’t think Steve Jobs was an inventor at all. Woz certainly, but Jobs was more businessman than inventor from what I have seen.

    Edison too falls somewhat into that category although I think he did have some inventions that were his own and not just those of people who worked for him (err, but not sure what)?

    Simon

  • David

    Lesser-known inventors? How about Red Green?

    • 00james

      Red Green is not an inventor, he is a deity.

  • asciimation

    I thought of another good one, Beatrice Shilling. She solved the problem of the early WW2 Spitfires (which used carburettors instead of fuel injection like the Jerries used) having their engines cut out when doing negative G maneuvers. She invented a diaphragm with a hole in it that sat inside the carb and stopped the fuel sloshing about. It was known as Tilly Shilling’s Orifice.

    She had electrical and mechanical engineer degrees and raced a Norton motorcycle around Brooklands!

    Simon

  • 00james

    Huh. I always thought of Edison as a thief and a charlatan. But then you DID say it was Reagan who created the holiday.