Who Invented The Smoke Alarm

smokeDetectorYou may get annoyed at them when they pick up the slightest disturbance in the air and sound like a constant siren, but you own a smoke alarm because if a bad fire-based situation arises in your house, you know that the circular plastic beeper fixed to your wall or ceiling could save your life. The initial cost of a smoke alarm is very cheap, and escalates even more in value for mony if it helps save a life at some stage, so who was it that came up with the idea to create such a functional and standardised product like this?

The history of the smoke detector began with an inventor from America, Francis Thomas Upton, who created the first-ever fire alarm system in 1890, filed as Patent #436,961. There is evidence that a more celebrated colleague of Upson, Thomas Edison had been helping with the development of the device in some form.

Upton had produced a basic version of the smoke detector, and would only be expanded on by a fortunate mistake by Swiss physicist Walter Jaeger, 40 years later. Jager was attempting to develop a sensor for poisonous gas, which did not work as planned, as a meter was supposed to signal when a gas was detected, but did not work, except for when Jager lit a cigarette during his break, and the meter, surprisingly, changed as an effect of the smoke.

These devices had made inroads with the technology involved, but due to high production (and therfore, selling) costs, the product was not made commerciably avaliable until 1965, when Stanley Peterson and Duane Pearsall started developing the first-ever home smoke detectors, making use of batteries, meaning that homeowners could use them without professional assistance. In 1975 Peterson and Pearsall actually began manufacturing and selling smoke detectors, under the name of their company Statitrol Corp.

The devices proved to be a big hit with concerned homeowners, and have developed from larger, metal-based devices, to the efficient, smaller plastic circles that we see today, being sold by many different providers.

A smoke alarm is a common theme for almost all homeowners in a developed society, and it is important to know how to maintain your device. The video below demonstrates how to change the battery of your alarm, and why it is important to do so:

Smoke Detector – Wikipedia

Who Invented The 3DTV

family-3d-movie-at-home3DTV is one of the biggest emerging trends in current society, with the format being snapped up by consumers who want the best available viewing experience. But who was it that first came up with what is considered ‘the next-best-thing to being there’?

Despite what seems to be only a recent breakthrough in 3D technology, and an even more recent release into mainstream society, the 3DTV we know today is what could be seen as a current stage in a process which has been in development since the 19th century.

The 3D movie concept has been developing since 1855, and the invention of a Kinematoscope (Stereo Animation Camera), when it was realised that a precise method of overlaying two slightly different images at a flickering speed could create a ‘3D effect’. The forerunner of this effect was English film-maker William Friese-Greene, and it was dubbed as anaglyphic (the approach that does not need a special TV, and is best known for requiring ‘red-cyan’ glasses to view).

The first movie of this method was produced in 1915, before the first public release of a 3D movie in 1922, and the first colour film in 1935. Since then, the anaglyphic approach has made sporadic forays into the limelight between the 1950’s and now, with home releases for anaglyphic versions of films often being sold in the early 2000’s due to the development of the DVD.

However, various electronics companies and film-makers have been developing the new ‘polarized’ approach (requiring the ‘sunglasses’-style glasses) ever since it took off with 2009 hit film Avatar, and since then, films and TV channels in the format have become standardised, and home use of 3D is higher than ever before.

With the technology to mass produce and sell 3DHDTV’s in place since 2010, it is no surprise that all the major global electronics companies set about developing their own boxes to enter the emerging market. Below is a video of the latest plans for advancement – a 3DTV that does not require glasses. Although Toshiba currently have the shortest estimate for the release of a 3D Plasma TV (for 2015), other companies, such as Intel, are showing their current prototypes, as seen here:

3DTV – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Marshmallow

marshmallow-scrub-1220-pThey are widely regarded as a popular form of candy in a variety of sizes, to suit a variety of purposes such as cooking them on a campfire to supplementing a mug of hot chocolate, and can be equally enjoyed on their own merit, but who first invented the unexplainable form of sweet taste that is the marshmallow?

It is said that original ‘marshmallow candy’ had first come about in ancient Egyptian times. This early effort was made by a form of honey candy that was then thickened and flavoured by sap from a Marsh-Mallow plant (the plants were found in and around salt water basins).

In the 19th century, this form of treat would form a purpose, with the Marsh-Mallow plant’s extracted juices being cooked according to recipe to create a ‘hardened foamy meringue’ that was termed as a ‘medicinal candy’ used in efforts of healing children’s sore throats.

Despite more advanced and stock-friendly mass manufacturing methods and ingredients replacing the plant extraction approach used in creating the snack (which would lose the medicinal effect of its more natural counterpart) come the mid-1800’s, the marshmallow (today made with key ingredients such as corn syrup (or sugar), gelatin (for shape), gum arabic, and flavoring) was becoming popularised as a common snack.

With developments taking the manufacturing process from ‘hand-crafted’ to ‘machine-assisted’, 1948 saw the pinnacle of development in this field, when Alex Doumak, an American man employed in this field, experimented with new methods of marshmallow making. What he discovered was a faster method of creation now known as the ‘extrusion process’, which involves sending a fluffy mixture through long tubes and pipes ready for cutting into equal pieces, the types of marshmallow seen most commonly today.

In 1953, the Just Born candy would be one of the first to really begin mass-producing, marketing and selling marshmallows, with the novelty of chick-shaped marshmallows known as ‘Peeps’.

Since then, other confectionery companies have made and sold marshmallows by the proverbial bucket-load, with the snack fast becoming seen in many shapes, sizes and colours while being applied to numerous sweet-based recipes (such as s’mores).

Marshmallows – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Hybrid Car?

800px-HondaInsightThe hybrid car seems to be a fairly recent innovation, generally combining the environmentally-friendly aspects of electricity as a fuel, and the more reliable performance of petrol. It would be a surprise to many to learn, however, that the idea of combining different fuel methods for a vehicle was not a modern conception, and that the theory applied today (to great relief against environmental and economic issues) dates back before the modern car itself was invented.

The story of the hybrid dates back to 1665, when Ferdinand Verbiest, a priest and astronomer, planned to designing a ‘four-wheeled, self-moving wagon, powered by steam’. This has only been a historical claim, though, and no official records state if it ever got past the planning stage. The first working version was conceived by Frenchman Nicholas Cugnot, in the year 1769, and though his design worked, it was incapable of going faster then 6mph, and there was not enough fuel space for a long journey. The following centry saw two more efforts, this time using new power source electricity, but the designs of both Robert Anderson (1839, lack of battery charge), and Sir David Salomon (1870, speed and range) were flawed.

It would be the mid-20th century when a valid and efficiant product was released, when car company Motorola teamed up with American electrical engineer Victor Wouk to try and find a road product to combat the growing air pollution problem caused by petrol car emissions. In 1974, after a 12-year process a prototype was built, combining the large size of a petrol/gas-powered engine with the low-emission electric-powering method, fitted to what looks like a regular car. Wouk would be credited with the invention of the hybrid car, and would go on in an attempt to sell his concept to manufacturers.

After further developments, the 1990’s saw hybrids become commercially available, and cars such as the Toyota Prius are now synonymous with its popularity today, with many people now looking to ‘go green’, now there is a range of suitable and safe vehicles ready to buy. Below is a video clip demonstrating how hybrid cars function:

Hybrid Cars – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Pretzel

pretzelsPretzels are commonly known as the small and oddly-shaped salted snack similar to potato crisps/chips, but the term does infact extend to include a plethora of baked goods that share the distinctive knot-like appearance. The doughy version is most popular in Germany and the USA, but the whole world is aware of the tasty tied-up snack. But who first came up with it?

There are several claimed origins of pretzels, with 12th-century Germany, and Spain (date unknown) both touted, but the most common answer to the question is that the ‘pretzel’ design was first concieved by an Italian priest, who baked them as rewards for children who learned their prayers (hense the ‘praying hands’ shape). This is the recognised origin of the snack, yet it is German culture which is synonymous with the pretzel, as it was where it was given its recognised name, with the snack developed over time in that country.

Pretzels as they are best known today are as light snacks, and their distinctive shape and variety of flavours (although salted is still the main choice) gives them a strong foothold as a marketable product, and with such demand, it is fortunate that modern technology is on hand to help mass-produce a popular item of food such as this. Below is a video that gives an overview of this process:

Pretzel – Wikipedia

Who Invented Christmas Pudding

christmas_puddingThe Christmas Pudding is a tradition that is strongly followed at many households (with varying levels of detail) worldwide that celebrate the holiday, and is seen by some as the perfect finish to a traditional Chrismas dinner. Nowadays, customers can easily purchase one from a shop or bakery, but despite the lengthy history of this unique food item the creation of a pudding can pass by unnoticed, so who was it that originally invented this dessert, when did they do it, and why?
While the inventor of Christmas Pudding cannot be pin-pointed in the history books, a legend behind the history of it suggests that there was a royal influence to its inception, a medievil English folk tale telling the tale of a king on Christmas Eve in lost in a forest with little supplies or food, who seeked food and shelter from a poor woodman’s cottage. The occupant did not have much food either, though, so the king’s servant was asked to mix together a meal from all the collective ingredients remaining from both people (chopped suet, flour, eggs, apples, dried plums, ale, sugar and brandy), and after being boiled in a cloth, the mixture became a delicious pudding for everyone to share.
The pudding was said to have become widespread in 1714 after King George I had ordered it to become part of the official royal Christmas dinner, despite objections from Puritan Christians, who claimed that this dessert was not in accordance with God’s will due to the rich ingredients. George I carried on regardless, though, and the Christmas Pudding has been a symbol of the holiday season ever since.
The use of plums in the recipe (which is said to have dated back further than the folk tale in various incarnations, including a recipe for a ‘sweet soup’) meant that the dessert was originally known as ‘plum pudding’. Although this tradition has long since disappeared, there are many more that have withstood the development of the pudding to what it has become today (in size and ingredients).
These traditions have included some people using exactly 13 ingredients for the pudding (representing Jesus & his disciples), putting coins (originally silver) in the mixture for the recipient (whoever had a slice with coins in, kept them, representing wealth going into the new year), and allowing each family member to stir the mixture whilst making a secret wish, amongst other religiously-based rituals.

While widely available nowadays from external outlets, those that cook their pudding from scratch might prepare it weeks or months in advance in advance to honour historical methods, as well as to allow the flavour to mature, such as with wine. If they do this, then they may want to get it just right for a fun reason, as Christmas Puddings are also notable for being a ‘flambe’ (flammable) food, with a group of TV chefs showing how this entertaining pre-meal ritual can be achieved:

Who Invented The Pencil Case

tenshi-neko-pencil-case-9-2bigOne of the key features of a well-prepared school-goer is a pencil case, and although the common student item can pretty much be defined as anything used to carry a collection of pencils, pens, and rulers (amongst other stationary), ranging from tin boxes to plastic zip-up bags. But while it is more widespread than that, with technically any bag or holding device able to hold such equipment, such a simple concept for a specific pencil case product had to have been invented by someone, but who was it, and when?

Despite the pencil case having been around for over 200 years, the cases as we know them today were not thought of until 1946. With a history of being made from precious materials (e.g. silver or ivory) and seen as a rich accessory to an expensive pencil or pen, the idea to create a more practical, ‘all-round’ feel for the object, came in 1946, when a patent application from 1944 was granted to American stationary expert Verona Pearl Amoth.

She created this new design of pencil case in order to prevent pencils from making gradual holes in clothing, with the added purpose of protecting the points on the pencils. The patent for an ‘All-Purpose Utility Pencil Case’ was granted, and the product has advanced from a slightly flawed ‘slot’ design to become an even more all-purpose product, and while the older approach (expensive materials for delicate stationary) still exists to an extent, it is the student-friendly product that dominates the market.

Pencil Case – Wikipedia

Who Invented Air Conditioning

800px-2008-07-11_Air_conditioners_at_UNC-CHA product in modern society that is often appreciated but rarely put in the limelight (unless it broken) is air conditioning, which has the ability to beat Mother Nature if in an indoor and controlled environment by making surroundings cooler (or in some cases, warmer). But who was it that first came up with this revolutionary concept of not having to live by the weather forecast?

Despite a history of cooling systems such as the fan being in place since Ancient Chinese times, and a 18th/19th century period of experimentation with speeding up the process of evaporation, the first major breakthrough in the field of air conditioning a we know it did not arrive until 1902. This was when recent Engineering Masters graduate (from Cornell University (USA)), Willis Haviland Carrier, developed an ‘air’ (temperature and humidity) conditioning system for his bosses at a printing plant in Brooklyn, who had seen their paper and machines (which was affected by outside heat and humidity) print uneven and misalignged ink patterns.

420px-Willis_Carrier_1915The new system allowed for more reliable prints, and Carrier would patent his ‘Apparatus for Treating Air’ (US Pat# 808897) (granted in 1906), and would be the first of many awarded to him (although the term ‘air conditioning’ came from textile plant worker Stuart H. Cramer, who added water vapour to the formula for controlled air). It was Carrier, though, whose work in the field would give him the nickname ‘The Father of Cool’.

In 1911, Willis Haviland Carrier (who claimed that he had once worked out the relative formula for ‘temperature and humidity control’ whilst waiting for a train) had released his ‘Rational Psychrometric Formulae’ to the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), allowing for a public and standardised method used in the air conditioning industry even today, which involves the transformation of hot air to water vapour, and the cooling of this vapour to create cooler air coming back out of the system. A video clip demonstrating this method can be seen below:


Industries then pounced on the chance to have such a system in place for their respective production lines, with film, foods (‘refrigeration machine’ (invented in 1921)) tobacco, textiles, and medical supplies, were all amongst products that saw significant quality improvement when produced in a controlled-air environment. This lead to Willis and six partner engineers forming the Carrier Engineering Corporation (in 1915) to develop air-conditioning technology and sell corresponding products. The company has been in a high rate of turnover ever since.

The technology would then move for human-populated environments, rather than just machines, and after rave reviews of the system being placed in a department store in Detroit, human cooling would develop into home use, and since 1928, houses have been able to control their own temperatures, with only world-wide economic problems halting the progress of this now-universal product.

Willis Haviland Carrier would unfortunately pass away in 1950, but the legacy of the ‘Father of Cool’ will live on in a ‘chilling’ manner, albeit positively…

Who Invented Scissors

800px-Fiskars-scissorsScissors are a useful tool when paper needs cutting or when hair needs a trim, but who was it that came up with the idea for this simple, yet versatile cutting device?

The use of ‘modern’ design scissors can be dated back to around the year 100, when ancient Romans used them for clothes-making and barber’s services. The simple design was well received, and can attribute the basic function to Archeimedies’ ‘lever’ concept several centuries before.

Despite this popularity with the Romans, the use of scissors never really took off until the 1500’s in Europe, where the great inventor Leonardo Da Vinci is mistakenly credited with the invention, where he merely seemed to re-introduce them to the world with a more updated design.

Since those times, scissors have now developed to a greater extent, with many different variations on the product now readily avaliable (whilst maintaining the baic concept), including designs made more specifically to a certain function (e.g. kitchen, hairdressing, etc.) to concepts such as children’s safety (plastic and more blunt), left-handed (reversal of blade positions), and stronger versions to cut material such as metal, as well as technologically aided scissors, like mechanical, or laser guided scissors.

The laser guided scissor is an approach that is said to give users more control over their cutting, enabling them to be able to cut in a truly straight line. Below is a video demonstrating this product:

Scissors – Wikipedia

Who Invented Post-It Notes

postitsFor businesses, busy households, and forgetful people, post-it notes can be a vital tool in helping to remember or identify things, and can also be used as a temporary file divider, amongst other applications. The often-bright colours can often draw attention away from their simple design that has become of use to so many over the years, but who came up with this product, and why ?

Despite seeming simple in design, there appears to be a fine art to getting the ‘sticky strip’ to be only on a small portion on the top of the reverse side, while also making it grip its designated surface enough to hang on, but also to not be strong enough to cause any permanent fixtures or damage. They are mass-produced now, meaning that it is a simple creation process, but the original science behind Post-it notes was seen as good enough to induct its creators to the National Inventor Hall of Fame.

These inventors were two reasearchers for stationary and office equipment company 3M during the late 1970’s. Their names were Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry.

In the 1960’s, Silver developed a form of glue that managed to have a low level of adhesion, but could not find any practical use for it, until colleague Fry, who wanted a way to keep track of the pages in his hymn book at church, tried the new glue alongside a paper bookmark after experiments in the company laboratories. The end result had the desired effect, as the new glue-paper could be removed (and reused) many times over before wearing out.

In 1977, their bosses at 3M took on the product to make and sell what they marketed as ‘Post-it’ notes, and after word eventually spread of the new product, it took America, and then the rest of the world, by storm, earning 3M a National Medal of Technology during 1985, and giving Fry and Spencer the recognition they deserved.

Below is a famous commercial that 3M made for their Post-it notes, featuring oversized versions of the product, and a collection of well-organised squirrels:

Post-it notes – Wikipedia