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Slide Show: From the LP to the Internet, 17 Inventions Rad Enough to Get Their Creators Inducted into the Valhalla of Innovators

Vaccines, air bags, contact lenses and the technology that made the personal computer revolution possible are just a few of the items whose inventors are being honored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame [click here to view the slideshow]

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The Magnetic Disk.

There's a huge difference between sequential and random-access storage—just ask all the computer science graduate students who grew up in the era of punch cards. In the 1950s, by coating disks with a magnetic material and giving them the ability to spin under a read/write head that did not actually touch them, IBM scientists John Lynott and William Goddard were able to create a drive capable of storing five megabytes of information on 50 24-inch platters.....[ More ]

Soft Contact Lenses.

In his own kitchen, using little more than a phonograph needle and an erector set, Otto Wichterle of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (now the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic) spun the first soft contact lens from a synthetic fiber he had invented.....[ More ]

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.

Autoimmune diseases occur when a person's own immune system attacks the very body it should be defending, potentially leading to a laundry list of symptoms, most of which are due to inflammation. ....[ More ]

Ethernet.

If you're reading this on a computer, then it is a near certainty that the device you're gazing at has an Ethernet port on one of its faces. The networking standard that we now take for granted, which allows high-speed connections to networks in our workplaces, homes and hotel rooms, wasn't always a sure thing.....[ More ]

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Paul Lauterbur, then at the State University of New York at Stony Brook took a relatively obscure technique chemists use to determine the structure of molecules, known as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and turned it into the noninvasive three-dimensional imaging technique whose ability to image soft tissue in great detail has made it nearly ubiquitous for diagnosing everything from cancer to congenital defects.....[ More ]

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scanner.

Some inventions require a unique mind—one equipped not merely to understand a thing in detail, but to weld it to a seemingly unrelated field. So it was that Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI Ltd., a true synthesizer, combined an old technology, x-rays, with a new one—the computer.....[ More ]

DNA Sequencer.

So far, scientists have sequenced the genetic code, or genome, of nearly 200 different organisms—including chimps, humans, chickens, honeybees and a wide array of microorganisms. None of it would have been possible without the work of Leroy Hood, then at Caltech, who invented the automated DNA sequencer that reads the individual letters of a creature's DNA.....[ More ]

Vaccines.

Maurice Hilleman has saved more lives than any other scientist on Earth. While at Merck he led teams that developed more than three dozen vaccines. Eight of the 14 vaccines routinely recommended for children were created under his watch, including the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (otherwise known as MMR).....[ More ]

The Long-Playing (LP) Record.

Standards come and standards go—the CD dominated for 15 years before giving way to the MP3, whereas the eight-track tape lasted less than a decade. So for a medium invented in the last century to remain the standard for 40 years, and to still be in use today, it must be something special.....[ More ]

The First Reliable Cure for High Blood Pressure.

It all started with a pit viper. Workers in Brazilian banana plantations were known to collapse after being bitten by this snake, but no one quite knew why. Researchers eventually solved the mystery—it turned out the venom inhibited an enzyme that is key to regulating blood pressure.....[ More ]

Roundup.

To hear researchers talk, green chemistry—or the attempt to create eco-friendly products by eco-friendly means—is a recent development. But in 1970 research chemist John Franz of Monsanto discovered the glyphosate class of herbicides.....[ More ]

Bioluminescence.

Most of us have seen fireflies and jellyfish glow, but until NASA biochemist Emmett Chappelle came along, no one had thought about how to exploit the light that organisms naturally give off. Without settling on any one technique, Chappelle used bioluminescence to instantly detect the presence of bacteria in water or urine, give the Viking landers the ability to detect life on the Red Planet by combining Martian soil with chemicals derived from fireflies, and measure via satellite imagery crop growth rates by the characteristics of the light those crops give off. ....[ More ]

The Air Bag.

The technology required to create an air bag—sensors, precisely timed electronics, controlled explosive devices—is exactly the sort of thing the military uses to make bombs. So it should be no surprise that Allen Breed of Breed Corp., the inventor of the air bag, was merely translating his experience as a military contractor to the civilian realm when he came up with the first primitive form of vehicular self-awareness; one that would allow a car to know it was in the middle of a crash, and to act.....[ More ]

Packet Switching and the Distributed Network (The Internet).

The Cold War was on, and the U.S. government needed a way to communicate in the aftermath of a potentially devastating nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. In response, Paul Baran, a researcher at Rand, and Donald Davies, who worked for the military’s Advanced Projects Research Agency invented the Internet.....[ More ]

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