USPTO series gives fascinating insight into influential inventors’ roles in shaping our world

The USPTO’s recent weekly online series “History’s Hand: Inventor’s Mind” demonstrated how inventors can use the lessons of the past to prosper today.

The series, conducted every Wednesday in June by the Eastern Regional Outreach Office of the USPTO and USPTO historian Adam Bisno, examined a different subject each week. Topics ran the gamut, from invention’s early role in building economies to the ongoing telecommunications revolution.

Each segment was introduced by Elizabeth Dougherty, Eastern Regional outreach director.

Bisno, the USPTO’s first official historian, moderated the program and assembled an impressive roster of speakers:

  • Arthur Daemmrich, the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson director of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian Institution. In “Licensing the First U.S. Patent: Samuel Hopkins, Eli Cogswell, and the Inventor-Entrepreneur,” Daemmrich’s themes included the evolution of organized inventing and early changes to the U.S. patent system. He also detailed how Hopkins (awarded the first U.S. patent, in 1790) was a classic inventor/entrepreneur.
  • Paul Israel, director of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University. In “Innovate Like Edison,” Israel discussed the collaborative nature of Thomas Edison’s laboratory as the engine of his success, as well as other principles and practices that guided his thinking and strategies.
  • Adam Mossoff, professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University. “Lessons From the Birth of the Telecommunications Revolution: Samuel Morse’s Electro-Magnetic Telegraph” covered the revolutionary single-wire process that laid the foundation for today’s instant communication innovation.
  • Zorina Khan, professor of economics at Bowdoin College in Maine. “Five Myths About Patents and American Economic Progress” was a real eye-opener in terms of debunking popular notions that may surprise would-be and current inventors.
  • W. Bernard Carlson, Joseph L. Vaughan professor of humanities, chair of the Engineering and Society Department, professor of history, and director of the Engineering Business Programs at the University of Virginia. “Invention as a Team Effort: Nikola Tesla, His Backer, His Lawyer, and His Boyfriend” was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Tesla’s life and the collaborative process that made him successful.

Did you know that Thomas Edison was not just a storied inventor but also an expert at studying market conditions to gauge the public’s need for a product or service?

Did you know that Tesla and Edison’s relationship was not as adversarial as is often reported? “The whole public popular story of Edison and Tesla is complete mythology,” Rutgers’ Israel said. “They actually had a much better relationship than that.”

Recordings for this compelling series will be available at at a later date.