We all know that pulling a fire alarm as a prank shows serious lack of judgment. When it comes a lack of judgment, however, few could surpass the inventor of the Fire Box Trap. Continue reading
Ritalin has only been available since the 1950’s, but people have had difficulty with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) forever. Inventor Hugo Gernsback offered his solution for highly-distractable people when he invented The Isolator in 1925. Continue reading
February 14, 1876 was a big day for Elisha Gray. That was the day he filed his application for a patent for his revolutionary new invention. His device promised to unite the world as never before by allowing a person to speak to and hear another person miles away by sending the voices through a tiny electrical wire. That miraculous device would be called the telephone. Continue reading
There is a perception among many that scientists collect facts in a calm, dispassionate manner and do not give in to bouts of irrational reaction.
That perception is wrong.
A perusal the Minutes of the Paris Academy of Sciences gives a telling account of the demonstration of the first phonograph: “No sooner had the machine emitted a few words, than the Permanent Secretary threw himself upon the [person doing the demonstration], seizing his throat in a grip of iron. ‘You see, gentlemen,’ he exclaimed, ‘what it is!’ But, to the stupefaction of everyone present, the machine continued to utter sounds.”
It has been listed as one of the top causes of marital strife. It has divided families, torn friendships asunder, and generated more letters to advice columnist Ann Landers than any other topic. What could be such a controversial subject? The Presidential election? The latest Supreme Court opinion? The favored team for the World Series?
Try toilet paper orientation.
The controversial subject of “over” or “under” has divided people more than almost any other subject. It has even triggered arguments among the scientists stationed at Amundsen-Scott Research Station at the South Pole. There is even a Wikipedia page devoted to arguments for each opposing view.
For those who subscribe to the originalist philosphy of legal interpretation, this debate can be settled once and for all. When Seth Wheeler filed for a patent for “Improvements in Toilet-Paper Rolls” on December 22, 1891, he included a diagram of how the roll should be oriented on the hanger.
He was clearly an overachiever.
James A. Williams of Fredonia, Texas applied for a patent for a better mousetrap. Not content with something as mild as poison or a spring trap, Williams devised a means by which a Colt 1860 revolver could be linked to a pressure trigger, thus bringing a certain — and noisy — and to the unfortunate mouse at the other end.
Also mindful of other types of pests that might be roaming the neighborhood, Williams noted that the invention could be used “in connection with a door or window, so as to kill any person or thing opening the door or window to which it is attached.”
Despite the gruesomeness of the concept, the US Patent Office approved the application and issued U.S. Patent No. 269,766 to Mr. Williams on December 26, 1882.
The record is silent as to the number of vermin — human or otherwise — faced down his invention.
The next time you use the phrase “the best thing since sliced bread,” you might want to consider how recent of an invention that is.
The first commercially-available device that made it possible to sell pre-sliced loaves in mass quantities was developed by Otto Frederick Rohwedder. His prototype was built in 1912, but it wasn’t until 1925 that it became ready for commercial use.
The first pre-sliced loaf using the Rohwedder method was produced in Chillicothe, Missouri on July 7, 1928 by the Chillicothe Baking Company. Sales of bread throughout the United States are expected to total $23.6 billion in 2016, with packaged bread totaling about $15 billion of those sales.
Consider some of the more significant technological and scientific advancements of that era. Since television was invented in 1926, it might be a pretty incredible invention, but it is not, technically, the best thing since sliced bread.
1900 — First Zeppelin is designed
1903 — Wright Brothers fly first airplane
1907 — First helicopter is flown
1907 — Plastic is invented
1915 — Invention of the military tank
1926 — Invention of the television
1928 — First commercial production of sliced bread
1928 — Discovery of penicillin
1931 — Invention of electron microscope
1933 — FM Radio is patented
1938 — Nuclear fission discovered