Fun Facts

Did You Know?

— that a workman who left the soap mixing machine on too long was responsible for making Ivory Soap? He was so embarrassed by his mistake that he threw the mess in a stream. Imagine his dismay when the evidence of his error floated to the surface! Result: Ivory soap, the soap that floats.

— that the Band-Aid® Bandage was invented by a Johnson & Johnson employee whose wife had cut herself? Earl Dickson’s wife was rather accident prone, so he set out to develop a bandage that she could apply without help. He placed a small piece of gauze in the center of a small piece of surgical tape, and what we know today as the Band-Aid bandage was born!

— that the inventor of the World Wide Web, British-born Tim Berners-Lee, never made money on his invention, which revolutionized the computer world? In 1989 he envisioned a way to link documents on the Internet using “hypertext” so “surfers” could jump from one document to another through highlighted words. Berners-Lee decided not to patent his technology since he feared that, if he did patent it, use of the Web would be too expensive and would therefore not become used worldwide. He therefore passed up a fortune so the world could learn and communicate.

— that Robert Adler has the dubious distinction of being the Father of the Couch Potato? Back in 1955 Adler was employed by what was then Zenith Radio Corp., where he was charged to invent something that would allow viewers to turn down the TV volume without leaving their chairs. After a series of flops (such as a wired contraption that people tripped over), Adler hit on the idea of using sound waves. Thus the Remote Control was born . . . and some viewers haven’t moved since!

— that in 1879 Auguste Bartholdi received a design patent for the Statue of Liberty?

— that Galileo invented the thermometer in 1593?

— that the first ballpoint pen was invented by Hungarian journalist Lasalo Biro and his chemist brother, Georg, in 1938?

— that power steering was invented by independent inventor Francis W. Davis? As chief engineer in the 1920s of the truck division of the Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company, he saw how hard it was to steer heavy vehicles. So that he would be able to keep the profits from his future invention, Davis left his job, rented a small engineering shop in Waltham, Mass., and developed a hydraulic power steering system that led to power steering.

— that it was melting ice cream that inspired the invention of the outboard motor? It was a lovely August day and Ole Evinrude was rowing his boat to his favorite island picnic spot. As he rowed, he watched his ice cream melt and wished he had a faster way to get to the island. At that moment the idea for the outboard motor was born!

— that two musicians were responsible for the invention of color print film? Fascinated by photography, Leopold Godowsky and Leopold Mannes worked together to produce an easy-to-use, practical color film. They worked full time as music teachers and gave concerts while experimenting during their off hours in Mannes’ kitchen. Their success earned them full-time, well-paying jobs at Kodak and their efforts resulted in Kodachrome film, which was introduced in 1935.

— that the telescope was accidentally discovered in 1698 when Dutch eye glass maker Hans Lippershey looked through two lenses – one held in front of the other – and realized that the image was magnified?

— that one person who claimed to be the inventor of the television is Russian emigre Vladimir Zworykin? In 1929 David Sarnoff, founder of RCA, asked Zworykin what it would take to develop TV for commercial use. He said: a year and a half and $100,000. In reality, it took 20 years and $50 million! Before his death in 1982 at the age of 92, Zworykin said of his invention: “The technique is wonderful. It is beyond my expectations. But the programs! I would never let my children even come close to this thing.”

— that the formulas for Cola-Cola and Silly Putty have never been patented? These trade secrets are shared only with selected trustworthy company employees, and while there have been many attempts to duplicate these products, so far, no one has been successful.

— that Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals because he hated wearing two pairs of glasses?

— that several people are credited with the invention of the flush toilet? Most people have heard of Thomas Crapper (1837-1910), the sanitary engineer who invented the valve-and-siphon arrangement that made the modern toilet possible. Another claimant to “the throne” was British inventor Alexander Cumming who patented a toilet in 1775. Then there’s a nameless Minoan (a native of ancient Crete) who lived 4,000 years ago who supposedly was ahead of his time and created the first flush toilet!

— that after Parker Brothers executives turned down the game of Monopoly because it had “52 fundamental errors” (including taking too long to play), a copy of the game wound up in the home of the company president who stayed up until 1 a.m. to finish playing it? He was so impressed by the game that the next day he wrote to inventor Charles Darrow and offered to buy it!

— that the first rickshaw was invented in 1869 by an American Baptist minister, the Rev. E. Jonathan Scobie, to transport his invalid wife around the streets of Yokohama?

— that to encourage use of his new invention, the shopping cart, market owner Sylvan Goldman hired fake shoppers to push the carts around his store in Oklahoma City? Seems his customers were reluctant to give up their hand-carried baskets.

— that the trademarked name “Baby Ruth” was inspired by President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth, and not by Babe Ruth?

— that J.B. Dunlop, one inventor of the pneumatic tire, was a veterinary surgeon?

— that Thomas Edison’s patent application on his phonograph was approved by the Patent Office in just seven weeks? In contrast, if took Gordon Gould, the inventor of the laser, 30 years to obtain his patent – finally awarded in 1988!

— that the first Apple computer was born in Steve Jobs’ parents’ garage? College students Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak worked furiously in that garage assembling computers for fellow students and were totally unprepared for their first commercial order for 50 computers. To raise the needed $1300 for parts, Jobs sold his old VW bus and Wozniak sold his Hewlett Packard calculator. The next year – 1977 – Apple sales hit $800,000 and went on to become a Fortune 500 company in a record five years!

— that “patent leather” got its name because the process of applying the polished black finish to leather was once patented?