Inventors’ Wall of Fame
Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Born in England; Sir Isaac Newton was one of the foremost scientific
intellects of all time. He was a physicist, mathematician,
astronomer, philosopher and alchemist. Tradition has it that he
discovered the force of gravity while sitting under an apple tree.
He recognized that objects always fall down, toward the earth.
Newton made an astounding number of scientific discoveries and
advancements including his Three Laws of Motion.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
This British naturalist is famous for his theories of evolution and
natural selection. Charles Darwin believed that life on Earth developed
gradually, or evolved, from a few common ancestors, over millions of
years. He traveled the world, as a naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Beagle.
On this expedition, he visited South America and the Galapagos Islands.
He studied the plants and animals living there and collected specimens
George Washington Carver (1864-1943)
As an Agricultural Chemist George Washington Carver discovered three
hundred uses for peanuts as well as hundreds of uses for soybeans,
pecans and sweet potatoes. Carver worked for the good of his countrymen
and cared little for his own fame and fortune. He only ever issued three
patents, but spent his efforts suggesting new ways to economically
improve southern farms. As a child on the Moses farm, he earned the
nickname “The Plant Doctor”.
Dr. Marie Curie was a Polish physicist and chemist. She had a very good
memory as a child and dreamed of being a scientist like her father.
Marie married Pierre Curie and together they discovered the radioactive
elements radium and polonium that they extracted chemically from
pitchblende ore. They discovered that the harmful properties of x-rays
could kill tumors, and were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901
and a second in 1911. Marie Curie died of leukemia caused by her
repeated exposure to radioactive metal but was probably the most famous
woman in the world because of her discoveries.
Archimedes was an outstanding mathematician and was fascinated with
geometry. Archimedes was the son of Phidias, an astronomer. He was from
Syracuse, Sicily but it is reported by some authors that he visited
Egypt and invented a device now known as Archimedes' screw. This is a
pump, still used in many parts of the world. Archimedes invented many
machines of war for King Hieron, a friend and possible relation that
greatly helped Rome to defend it against sieges. Though his mechanical
inventions brought him fame, his pursuit was pure mathematics. He
believed that his most significant accomplishments were those concerning
a cylinder circumscribing a sphere and had them inscribed on his tomb.
H. Goddard (1882-1945)
Robert Hutchings Goddard was a pioneer of the space age. His father was
a Boston machine shop owner. Robert H. Goddard developed the fundamental
mathematics of rocket propulsion. He also envisioned the possibility of
sending a rocket to the moon. He backed up his theories with experiments
that included: The first liquid-fueled rocket and the first rocket with
a barometer and camera for gathering scientific data.
Nicolaus Copernicus (Nicolai Kopernik) was born in Torun, Poland. He
first guessed that the Sun, not the Earth is at rest in the center of
the Universe, with the planets and stars revolving around it in circular
orbits. Copernicus wrote the theory entitled On the Revolutions of the
Heavenly Spheres, published in 1543.
Louis Pasteur, born in Dole, France, lost three of his five children to
Typhoid fever. He then fought to convince surgeons that germs exist and
carry diseases, an idea that was controversial at the time. He found
cures for chicken cholera, anthrax and rabies but is best known for his
pasteurization process that kills germs and prevents the spread of
disease. Pasteur also introduced the existence of viruses, too small to
be seen with the microscopes of the time.
Alva Edison (1847-1931)
Known as “The Genius of Menlo Park”, Thomas Edison had many important
and useful inventions. He was not always viewed as a genius however.
While in school, a schoolmaster told his mother that he believed that
Thomas was “addled”. His mother disagreed and began to each him at home.
Edison later gave credit to his mother for believing in him. Later in
life, Edison invented the phonograph, Kinetophone, and a practical
incandescent electric light. With a lifetime dedicated to invention,
Thomas A. Edison earned 1,093 U.S. patents.
This English physician developed the theory of blood circulation and
explained how the heart works. People used to believe air was found in
the arteries, but William Harvey disproved this. Harvey was a successful
doctor and eventually was promoted to Royal Physician. He wrote a book
with his published theories called “On the Motion of the Heart and Blood
Benjamin Franklin was a scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat,
philosopher, printer, musician and economist. He was very practical, and
loved to experiment with ideas to make life easier. He invented
bifocals, swim fins, watertight bulkheads for ships, the glass
harmonica, an odometer and the Franklin stove.
Ben was fascinated by electricity. He started doing experiments with
static electricity and then came up with a device he called an
electrical battery. At first, he couldn’t think of a practical use for
electricity. After being shocked painfully and knocked senseless a few
times, he said that the only use of electricity was that “it may help
make a vain man humble.” But he kept experimenting, and invented things
to make his friends laugh. Once he made a charged metal spider that
leaped around like a real one. Another time, he electrified the iron
fence around his house to make sparks that amused visitors. Franklin and
his friends used electricity to cook with and made the first fried
turkey. Finally, one cloudy day, he flew a kite with a wire at the top
and a key at the end of the string. When the kite string began to
stiffen, he put his knuckle to the key and was able to draw sparks, thus
proving that lightning was electricity. (He was lucky to survive.
Another person in Europe tried to copy the experiment, and was
electrocuted.) After that, he invented a lightning rod to tame the
lightning, which had been such a mystery to people for so many years.
Ben Franklin also shaped all the founding documents of America,
including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Throughout his life, he trusted common people more than the wealthy
upper class and was a champion for democracy.
Ride (1951- )
Sally Ride was the first American Woman in space. After earning her
degree in physics, she trained for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. In 1983
she served on the Challenger. “The thing that I remember the most about
the flight is that it was fun!” Sally Ride retired from NASA but founded
an organization that helps girls study math and science called Imaginary
Jaques Cousteau was born in France. He was interested in water, machines
and filmmaking from an early age. Cousteau became an officer in the
French Navy but still found time for his underwater explorations. He
perfected the aqualung, a device that allowed a diver to stay underwater
for several hours. He produced many films and books to fund his voyages
on the Calypso and to increase public awareness.
Albert Einstein was born in Germany and began his school career in
Munich. He became a professor of Mathematics and Physics. Albert
Einstein looked like your typical mad scientist, but he was a devoted
thinker. He revolutionized our concepts of space and time and developed
the theories used to build models of the universe. Einstein wrote three
papers of tremendous significance. One gave a mathematical description
of the random motions of tiny particles. A second described the
photoelectric effect, in which electrons are emitted when light falls on
certain metals. (Many people are surprised to learn that he won the
Nobel Prize for this description and not for his theories of
relativity.) The third paper of the year was on special relativity, in
which he described the physics of objects moving at constant velocities
and discovered the equivalence of mass and energy as related by the
equation E=mc2. He is most famous for his theory of general relativity.
Gregor Johan Mendel was bon in Hizendorf, Austria. He trained to be a
teacher but had little success. Mendel discovered groundbreaking
theories of heredity that became the basis for the studies of modern
genetics. He studied seven basic characteristics of pea pod plants. He
then traced these characteristics to discover three basic laws governing
the passage of traits. He also found proof of the existence of genes and
is now considered the father of genetics.
Jane Goodall (1934-)
Jane Goodall is known as the great conservationist and is the ultimate
authority on chimpanzees. She actually lived in the jungles of the Gombe
Game Reserve in Africa, closely observing the chimpanzees, and has been
there for the past quarter of a century. Jane Goodall was awarded the J.
Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize for “Helping millions of people
understand the importance of wildlife conservation to life on this
Louis Leakey was born in Kenya and grew up with children from the Kikuyu
tribe. Some say he was born to be an archeologist. He believed that
early man began in Africa and found many artifacts and studied the Homo
sapiens skeleton. He discovered the first Proconsul skull, the missing
link between monkey and ape. He and his wife Mary returned to the
Olduvai site and found a new skeleton called “Zinj”, that brought him
James Watson (1928- ))
and Francis Crick (1916-2004)
James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins jointly received the
Nobel Prize for their discovery of the structure of deoxyribonucleic
acid (DNA). DNA contains the patterns for constructing proteins in the
body and is the molecule that is the basis for heredity. They determined
that the structure of DNA consists of double helixes, or two chains
twisted around each other. These breakthrough discoveries caused much
advancement in science and medicine, and the understanding of genetics.
Steven Wozniak (1950- )
Steven Wozniak was an inventor even as a child. From an early age, his
hobby was constructing electronic devices. He and his friends started
the Homebrew Computer Club. Together with Steve Jobs and Mike Makkula,
Wozniak designed the commercial model computer and in 1977, the Apple II
made its debut. At the age of 30, he was worth millions and became the
Silicon Valley Legend.
Charles Goodyear (1800-1860)
Goodyear was born in New Haven, Connecticut. At the time, natural India
rubber melted in hot weather and cracked in cold weather. Goodyear
worked to improve India rubber so that it was more useful. By accident,
he dropped some rubber mixed with sulfur on a hot stove. His discovery
was the vulcanization of rubber that strengthened it so that it would be
more useful industrially. If you think of Goodyear tires, or the
Goodyear blimp, you can imagine how important and useful this discovery
Dmitri Ivanovitch Mendeleyev
Dimitri Mendeleyev was born in Siberia. He is best known for developing
the periodic law of the properties of elements. This law states that
when the elements are arranged according to atomic weight, they show a
regular pattern of properties or periodicity. Mendeleyev classified the
elements according to their chemical properties in his book Principles
of Chemistry and published the first version of what became known as the
Jonas Salk (1914-1995)
Jonas Salk was born in New York City. He attended New York University
and researched influenza, the flu virus. He discovered that the virus
could be weakened so that it could not infect the patient. He developed
a flu vaccine to prevent an outbreak during WWII and he applied this to
his work on polo. He then developed a polio vaccine, made from a
“killed” poliovirus that had the potential, when injected, to give
someone just enough of the disease so that his or her body would build
up an immunity or resistance to that disease. Polio has been virtually
eliminated in countries where Salk’s vaccine has remained in use.