Tag Archives: Inventions

Who invented the dishwasher?

Most of the inventions in history were either by accident or triggered by necessity. There is even a saying that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. The story behind origin of the modern day dishwasher justifies that saying. The appliance, which became a blessing for many households, was invented by a wealthy American woman who was at her wit’s end due to her servants’ carelessness.
The woman was Josephine Cochrane, who lived in Illinois. She had a group of clumsy servants who habitually broke her expensive porcelain dishes while washing them, much to their employer’s ire. Many of the dishes were rather costly, and had been even imported from foreign countries. Some took a considerable amount to repair while others were in helpless condition.
One day in 1886, Josephine happened to hear the familiar sound of something shattering on the floor. When she rushed to the kitchen, she was confronted with the sight of her broken chinaware and her maid standing, sheepish and guilty. It was then Josephine decided that she couldn’t allow this to go on. She decided to do something about washing the dishes.
She collected her dishes and went into the woodshed near her home. She was accompanied by a mechanic named George Butters. The first thing she did while there was to pick up a strong wire. She made separate compartments with it to hold the cup, saucer and plate each and fastened them around a wheel inside a drum. The next step was to make an arrangement to spray hot, soapy water onto the dishes, washing them. Fortunately, the device worked as she had expected.
This device was showed to Josephine’s friends and they were very impressed with the appliance. Some of them had the device made for them. In 1893, she showcased her dishwasher in the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and won the top award there. The news attracted a wide attention and a number of hotels and restaurants in the locality gave her contracts to make dishwashers for them.
Josephine was the first to make a dishwashing appliance. In 1850, an American named Joel Houghton and in 1865, L A Alexander had acquired patents for similar devices. However, they were rather crude and inconsistent. In 1897, Josephine took a patent for her invention and set up a business to manufacture the dishwasher in large scale. Butters was the first employee to be hired for the company named Garis-Cochrane Manufacturing Company. The venture turned out to be very successful. Later the company also started making smaller models targeted at home use. However, it took some time to draw attention, since most of the American ladies were not interested in trying a time-saving device.
Later many other companies came up with various models of the device. Halfway through the 20th century, the sale of dishwashers climbed up substantially, especially in America and Europe. Today it is one of the most common home appliances in various parts of the world.

Additional reading:
Dishwasher (Wikipedia)

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What is a Swiss Army knife? Who invented it?

Most people may have seen or heard about the Swiss Army knife. Born in a small canton of Switzerland, this versatile, multi-purpose tool has become a legend over a century. Since its invention, the Swiss Army knife has found itself useful in various situations and tasks, from saving people from disasters to repairing space shuttles. Thanks to its adaptability and portability,
the device is a common presence in expeditions to Mount Everest and the rain forests of Amazon.
The Swiss Army knife is a contraption that contains an assortment of blades, screwdrivers, scissors and other gadgets. The idea of the product is to store a large number of tools with a minimal space. All of these tools are stored in spring-loaded compartments with a single handle. Various versions of the device contain many other accessories including spoons, forks, compasses, torchlight and magnifying glasses and in the case of most advanced models, even emergency surgical equipment. Some of the latest versions even contains digital altimeter, mp3 player and laser pointers.
The history of the Swiss Army knife begins in 1891 when a Swiss entrepreneur named Karl Elsener acquired a contract to supply pocket knives to the Swiss Army, updating an old version of the device. He had established a cutlery factory in 1884 which he named Victoria in 1909, after his expired mother. The company was renamed Victorinox in 1921. It was in 1894 Elsener became successful in adding many features to the device. In 1897, he was granted a patent for the product, named The Officer’s and Sports Knife. It got its current name from the American soldiers.
Two years later since they began to provide the knives to army, Elsener’s company had got itself a rival, a firm promoted by a businessman named Theodore Wenger. Both of the companies were based in places with difference in ethnicity and culture, and to avoid the allegations of favoritism, the Army split the contract between the two in 1908. By mutual consent, the Victorinox knives were advertised as ‘The Original Swiss Army Knife’ while the Wenger ones were labeled ‘The Genuine Swiss Army Knife’. In 2005, the two companies merged, agreeing to manufacture the knife under only a single brand, that of Victorinox. The shell of the device is generally of the color red, and bears the logo of Victorinox; a cross surrounded by a shield with bilateral symmetry. The Wenger logo had been a cross surrounded by a rounded square with quadrilateral symmetry.
At present there are numerous varieties of the Swiss Army knife. Millions of the product are sold in various parts of the world. Over the years, the Swiss Army knife has become an icon of Switzerland. There is even a custom of American Presidents to give Swiss Army Knives as presents to their guests at the White House, such is the status of the marvelous product. The word itself has become a metaphor for successful multi-tasking. The New York Museum of Modern Art and the State Museum for Applied Arts, Munich have chosen the Swiss Army knife to their collection of Excellence in Design.

Additional reading:
Swiss Army knife (Wikipedia)
History – Victorinox Swiss Army 

Who is known as the father of typewriter?

Christopher Latham Sholes
Typewriter was a revolutionary invention that changed the dynamics of the world of letters. We owe the invention of modern day typewriter to a multi-faceted genius named Christopher Latham Sholes. Born in 1819 in Milwaukee of USA, Sholes was a publisher, a politician and a philosopher. He is known as the ‘father of typewriter’. The earlier forms of typewriter had originated as early as 1714. It was invented by Henry Mill. But it was Sholes who made a practical one and commercialized the product.
Sholes had been working as an editor of a newspaper when he set out to make a new device that would automatically number the pages in the books. He was joined by a fellow publisher, Samuel W. Soule. They developed a numbering machine in 1866 and took patent for it. Later they were joined by Carlos Glidden, a lawyer interested in inventions. It was Glidden who suggested the idea of a machine that could print not just numbers but also letters. It was then they also came across an article published by the popular magazine Scientific American, about ‘Pterotype’, a prototype typewriter invented by John Pratt. Realizing they could improvise the Pterotype, they set out the experiments. The word typewriting was first used in that article as well.

John Pratt’s Pterotype
After many experiments, Sholes and his colleagues developed a simple device with a piece containing printer’s types mounted on a little rod, designed to strike upward onto a flat plate which would hold the carbon papers sandwiched between sheets of writing paper, to enable the printing of multiple copies. The strike on the types would produce the imprints. Pressing the keys would swing the type bar up to the cylindrical plate with a ribbon for inking.
Sholes typewriter, 1873

They got the patent for the device in 1868, and found an investor in a man named James Densmore. Despite the exit of his two colleagues from the business, Sholes continued to work on improvising his machine with Densmore. They consulted a stenographer named James O. Clephane who made many suggestions of improvement for the device. In 1873, they approached the industrial giant Remington Arms Company, makers of arms and farm tools, with their products. The New York based firm bought the patent and took up the manufacture of the typewriter. In a short period of time, they acquired a large market worldwide. The first Remington typewriters were manufactured in 1874. Later many versions and models got to market, and dominated it.

Even though, Sholes sold his patent, he continued experiments on typewriters and went on to develop the QWERTY keyboard, which is still in use day. The typewriters became a blessing for many authors and those who work in writing jobs. Mark Twain, the legendary writer who created the unforgettable characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, is credited as the first author to use a typewriter.

Additional reading:
Typewriter (Wikipedia)

Who was the inventor of fax machine? Who established the first commercial fax service?

It will be curious to know that many of the inventions and technologies which became common recently are actually older than we think; like the fax machine. A fax machine is a device used to transmit a printed material over a long distance. The full name of the device is the ‘Telefascimile’ machine. A fascimile is an ‘exact copy’. Despite the domination of internet-based technologies, the fax system is still popular in various parts of the world.
The transmission of images using the telephone lines only picked up steam in the 1980s, but the technology behind it dates back as far as to the first half of 18th century. The first model of fax machine took birth in 1843, as the result of experiments by Scottish mechanic Alexander Bain. The device consisted of two pens connected to two
pendulums. The pendulums were joined to a wire which could reproduce writing on an electrically conductive surface. Bain took a patent for his device in the name Electric Printing Telegraph.
The first successful fax message was sent almost two decades later. The man behind it was an Italian priest named Giovanni Caselli. Caselli was a man crazy about science and was in constant pursuit of science books and journals. He even converted his residence to a laboratory and bought all kind of scientific equipment, and people almost regarded him an eccentric. It was that time Samuel Morse’s Telegraph creating news. Caselli studied about the device and found many drawbacks for the device. Only messages could be sent through the telegraph and it was unable to transmit the documents in their original form. So he decided to build a device which could transmit documents in original form. He conducted experiments for a long time and it took seven years to fulfil his dream. He developed a device he named Pantelegraph. The word was a combination of Pantograph’ (a tool that copies drawing) and ‘telegraph’. His machine was based on Bain’s invention, and included an apparatus to help the two devices work
Caselli succeeded in sending a copy of a document or letter over long distances with his invention. The machine reproduced handwritten messages, documents and pictures. It could send many messages through one wire at a time while the telegraph was able to carry only a single message.
After a number of test transmissions, the French government decided to use the system in 1865 and they successfully sent messages from Paris to Lyon through a fax line. The machine transmitted 40 documents in an hour. It was the first commercial telefax service in history. Impressed with the success, the French government set up several fax lines in the country and later it went on to spread into all corners of the world.
The fax system saw several advancements in coming years. Elisha Grey’s Telautograph (1888), Ernest Hummel’s Telediagraph (1895), Arthur Korn’s Bildtelegraph (1900) and Rudolf Hel’s Hellschreiber (1929) are major landmarks in the history of Fax service. And it took a new leap in 1964, when Xerox Corporation introduced the first commercial model of the modern day fax machine, which was easier to handle.

Additional reading:
Fax (Wikipedia)

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What is an Ophthalmoscope? Who invented it?

The Ophthalmoscope, also known as Funduscope, is a device that brought an explosive change in the treatment of eye diseases. It is used to find various eye diseases such as Glaucoma. Before the device, the physicians had been relying on primarily magnifying glasses to study the eyes. It was more or less unreliable, as the doctors could only see the outer side of the eye and it was difficult to do the diagnosis. Eye is a very complex organ containing many microscopic blood vessels, lens and retina. And, unlike many of the other organs, eye couldn’t be cut open to examine either. The invention of Ophthalmoscope was therefore a major turning point in the field.
An Ophthalmoscope helps a physician to take a detailed observation of the interior parts of the eye and find any ailments and signs of diseases. The basic structure of Ophthalmoscope is almost common in all versions. There will be a small lamp that directs a beam of light with the help of a mirrored prism. The observer need to look through a tiny hole in the prism and a magnified image of the eye could be seen. A series of revolving lenses help to focus on the image.
The idea behind Ophthalmoscope was first suggested by English physician Dr. William Cumming in 1846 in an essay. According to some historians, the first Ophthalmoscope was the contribution of English mathematician Charles Babbage in 1847. It is claimed that Babbage, also known as the father of computer, gave his device to a doctor to check but it didn’t see the light ever since. But the invention of a practical Ophthalmoscope is widely attributed to a German physician named Hermann von Helmholtz. He developed his own version of the Ophthalmoscope in 1851, without any knowledge of Babbage’s achievement.
Helmholtz reached his invention after many experiments on magnifying glasses. His device used a mirror to direct a light beam to eye and using lenses, a much larger image of the eye could be obtained. The apparatus helped one to see the small veins and other minute parts of the eye.
Later, Swedish ophthalmologist Allvar Gull-strand developed an improved version of the device. In 1915, Francis A. Welch and William Noah Allyn invented the world’s first hand-held direct illuminating ophthalmoscope which is often regarded as the model for the current Ophthalmoscopes. They established a company, Welch Allyn, which is one of the largest manufacturers of the device now.
At present, Ophthalmoscope is used to determine even high Blood pressure and Diabetes. The practice of using the device to determine the eye diseases is called Ophthalmoscopy or Funduscopy.

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Who is the inventor of band-aid that is used to cover wounds?

Founded during the year 1886, American company Johnson & Johnson was making surgical dressing materials for hospitals at the time. These did not include band-aid which is stuck on wounds; nor was the company doing research in that direction.

Band-aid was invented by one of the employees of the company, named Earle Dickson, almost by accident. Meaning, it randomly occurred to him to invent band-aid. It so happened that Dickson’s wife Josephine would often get wounded doing household chores and every time Dickson would have to cover the wound with cotton bandage that would loosen and fall off in some time. Assuming that this situation could be improved with sticking plaster, Dickson took a thick cloth, smeared an adhesive named crinoline on it and stuck plastic covering to it. Then cut it in shape of stripe and started using it for his wife’s wounds. This was convenient as whenever his wife got a wound, he would cut the rolled bandage in stripe and use it on the wound, and it would stay stuck on the wound for days.
Johnson & Johnson bought rights of Earle Dickson’s invention. Instead of a roll of bandage they started marketing it in the form of spare stripes in 1924 and named the product band-aid. At first it did sell much, but gradually it earned popularity around the world.

Which is the greatest invention that has changed our lives in a big way?

There is no contest. It’s the wheel. From prehistoric carts to roller-coasters and rockets, the wheel is one of those inventions that is never going to be obsolete. The reason? The wheel is the mathematically optimal shape for minimizing the amount of contact with other surfaces, leading to minimal friction and thus minimal energy loss. This characteristic also makes it ideal for smooth, repetitive action without grinding it down. Exactly when and who first spotted these advantages, that no one is sure of, but it seems that the wheel was a much later invention than people generally think. Caveman would not have been able to make one, let alone work out what to do with it.
The earliest evidence archeologists have been able to find of vehicles with wheels is from Mesopotamia (Iraq) which may date as far back as 6,000 years ago. The oldest pyramid, whose construction begun about 1,400 years later, may also have benefited from the use of logs to roll the colossal stones from quarries many kilometers away.
For carts, working wheels in the early days were made of joined wooden planks cut into circular shapes. (See image above.) The first spoked wheels, introduced in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC, brought in a revolution in lightness and efficiency.
When scientists at AT&T laboratory wanted to demonstrate some of the world’s first mechanical devices in 1989, what did they choose to make? Three tiny toothed wheels, obviously!

Additional reading:
Wheel (Wikipedia)

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What is the story behind Sony Walkman invention?

Before the mp3 players were introduced in 1998, it was believed that the Sony Walkman would last for ever and would never be replaced by any other technology. With more than 100 million Walkmans sold across the world, its growing popularity was so much that in 1986 the Oxford English Dictionary had to add the word ‘Walkman’ as a noun. In spite of having taken the market by storm, the mp3 players took over the popularity of Walkman. Sony, however, had invented the Walkman in 1979 accidentally luck by chance.
First Sony Walkman
Sony had never initiated the project of inventing a Walkman. As a matter of fact, there were two different teams working on two different projects at Sony Corporation. Both the teams were oblivious to what the either one of them was doing. One team was into manufacturing of stereo cassette player while the other one was targeting to make any headphone set as light as 50 grams. (See photo above.) When the chairman of the company, Akio Morita, received the project report of both the teams, he suggested the researchers to check with the compatibility of both gadgets. He hoped of the stereo cassette player and the headphone being compatible which in turn would help the company launch a new and innovative product. Fortunately it did, and the result was Walkman.

Additional reading:
Walkman (Wikipedia)
Akio Morita (Wikipedia)

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Who is the inventor of fountain pen? (Lewis Waterman)

Fountain pens ruled the world of writing for half a century or so, until the ball point pen was invented by László Bíró, a newspaper editor in Hungary.
The inventor of fountain pen is Lewis Waterman — an American insurance agent. As always, necessity led to the invention of the fountain pen and the necessity here was to prevent the insurance policy forms and the shirt pockets from being smudged due to leaky pens. Lewis Waterman (photo, above) found that the variations in the air pressure was the root cause of the problem. A higher pressure within the ink chamber of the pen would cause the ink to leak and lower air pressure would not enable the ink to flow smoothly. Keeping this scientific reason in mind, Waterman redesigned the nib of the pen with cuts (known as ink duct) to maintain air pressure. The world’s first leak-proof pen was presented by Lewis Waterman on February 12, 1884 after which the name Waterman became synonymous with fountain pens.

Additional reading:
Lewis Waterman (Wikipedia)
Fountain pen (Wikipedia)

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What was the idea behind the invention of pagers?

Pagers bridged the communication gap between the landline phones and cellphones until the evolution of mobile technology. Though vocal conversation was not possible via pagers (see image, left) yet the exchange of messages via text proved it an effective communication tool. The advent of mobile phones, however, wiped away the pagers from the communications world.
Millions of restaurants across the USA were the sole reason behind the invention of pager. The huge weekend rush of food lovers at restaurants would make it difficult for them to find a table to dine. Moreover, the long waiting period would not only make it tiresome but would also not give freedom to the customers to move around and utilize their time to run errands with the fear that in case they miss out on their number being called they would have to wait for another long period. Keeping this in mind, the telecommunication research team came up with an innovative device. The pagers would be distributed to each waiting customer and as soon as their turn would come they would be communicated via the pager even if they were at a distance from the eatery, thus saving their time as well as maintaining the crowd systematically. At the end of the day, these pagers would be collectively recharged in a customized multiple charger to ready them to beep the next day.

Additional reading:
Pager (Wikipedia)

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