Ruth Graves Wakefield (1905-1977) invented chocolate chips (and chocolate chip cookies) in 1930. Wakefield ran the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Her new cookie invention was called the “Toll House Cookie.” Her original cookies used broken-up bars of semi-sweet chocolate. Her cookbook, “Toll House Tried and True Recipes,” was published in 1940.
Madam C. J. Walker (December 23, 1867 - May 25, 1919) was an inventor, businesswoman and self-made millionaire. Sarah Breedlove McWilliams C. J. Walker was an African-American who developed many beauty and hair care products that were extremely popular. Madam Walker started her cosmetics business in 1905. Her first product was a scalp treatment that used petrolatum and sulphur. She added Madam to her name and began selling her new “Walker System” door-to-door. Walker soon added new cosmetic products to her line. The products were very successful and she soon had many saleswomen, called “Walker Agents,” who sold her products door to door and to beauty salons.
Lewis E. Waterman was an American inventor and insurance salesman who developed a relatively leak-proof fountain pen; he patented his new invention in 1884 and revolutionized writing. Before his fountain pen, pen tips had to be tipped into ink after every few words. Waterman put an ink reservoir in the pen above the pen’s metal nib (point). This reservoir would hold enough ink for a few pages of writing. There were many problems in developing the fountain pen, especially the difficulty of controlling the flow of the ink. Putting a sealed reservoir above the nib wouldn’t let the ink flow, but if it wasn’t sealed, all the ink would flow at once. Waterman used capillary action to replace the ink in the rubber sac with air so that the ink flowed smoothly but did not flow all at once. Also, the metals in the ink dissolved the steel pen nib, so Waterman used an iridium-plated gold nib. Waterman was also the first person to place a clip on the cap of the pen.
The first practical radar system was invented in 1935 by the Scotish physicist Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt (April 13, 1892-December 5, 1973). He developed radar to help track storms in order to keep aircraft safe. His invention eventually helped the allies win World War 2 against the Germans.
Radar is short for RAdio Detection And Ranging. Radar is used to locate distant objects by sending out radio waves and analyzing the echos that return. Radar can determine where a distant object is, how big it is, what shape it has, how fast it’s moving and in which direction it’s going. Radar is now used to watch developing weather patterns, to monitor air traffic, to track ships at sea, and to detect missiles.
James Watt (1736-1819) was a Scottish inventor and engineer. In 1765, Watt revolutionized the steam engine, redesigning it so that it was much more efficient and four times as powerful as the old Newcomen steam engines. Watt’s engines did not waste steam (heat), and had a separate condenser. Watt partnered with the businessman and factory owner Matthew Boulton in 1772, helping to promote Watt’s ideas commercially. Watt also invented a method for converting the up-and-down piston movement into rotary motion (the “sun-and-planet” gear), allowing a greater number of applications for the engine. Watt produced this rotary-motion steam engine in 1781; it was used for many applications, including draining mines, powering looms in textile factories, powering bellows, paper mills, etc. It helped power the Industrial Revolution. Watt coined the term “horsepower,” which he used to convey the power of his engines; Watt calculated how many horses it would take to do the work of each engine. One horsepower equals 33,000 foot-pounds of work per minute; it is the power required to lift a total of 33,000 pounds one foot in one minute. Parliament granted Watt a patent on his steam engine in 1755, making Watt a very wealthy man. In 1882 (long after Watt’s death), the British Association named the unit of electrical power the “watt.”
Liquid Paper is a quick-drying, paper-colored (white) liquid that is painted onto paper to correct printed material. Liquid Paper was invented in 1951 by Bessie Nesmith (1922-1980). It was based on white tempera paint (Nesmith was also an artist). Nesmith was a secretary in Texas, USA, before the time of word processors. She began selling her vastly popular invention, and soon ran the very successful Liquid Paper company. Her son, Michael Nesmith, was a member of the rock group called the Monkees.
Eli Whitney (1765-1825) was an American inventor and engineer. Whitney invented the cotton gin and the idea of interchangeable parts. He patented the cotton gin, which revolutionized the cotton industry on March 14, 1794. The cotton gin is a machine that cleans cotton, removing its many seeds. Previously, this tedious job had been done by hand, using two combs. The cotton gin made much of the southern United States very rich, but cotton plantation owners rarely paid Whitney for the use of his invention, and Whitney went out of business. He never patented his later inventions (like his milling machine). Whitney also helped modernize the musket industry (and mass production in general) by introducing the idea of interchangeable parts in a manufacturing system.
The windshield wiper was invented by Mary Anderson in 1903 to help streetcars operate safely in the rain. In 1905 she patented her invention, which allowed the car operator to control the external, swinging arm wipers from within the car. Windshield wipers became standard equipment on cars a decade later. Anderson was from Alabama, USA.
Tim Berners-Lee (1955, London, England - ) invented the World Wide Web. His first version of the Web was a program named “Enquire,” short for “Enquire Within Upon Everything”. At the time, Berners-Lee was working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory located in Geneva, Switzerland. He invented the system as a way of sharing scientific data (and other information) around the world, using the Internet, a world-wide network of computers, and hypertext documents. He wrote the language HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language), the basic language for the Web, and devised URL’s (universal resource locators) to designate the location of each web page. HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) was his set of rules for linking to pages on the Web. After he wrote the first browser in 1990, the World Wide Web was up and going. Its growth was (and still is) phenomenal, and has changed the world, making information more accessible than ever before in history. Berners-Lee is now a Principal Research Scientist at the Laboratory for Computer Science at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusett, USA) and the Director of the W3 Consortium.
The first working airplane was invented, designed, made, and flown by the Wright brothers, Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) and Orville Wright (1871-1948). Their “Wright Flyer” was a fabric-covered biplane with a wooden frame. The power to the two propellers was supplied by a 12-horsepower water-cooled engine. On December 17, 1903, the “Flyer” flew for 12 seconds and for a distance of 120 feet (37 m). The flight took place at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA.
For a cloze activity on the Wright brothers, click here.
Lincoln Logs are a popular children’s toy building set that consists of interlocking notched logs. Children can easily make log cabins and other structures from the tiny wooden logs.
Lincoln Logs were invented in 1916 by John Lloyd Wright (1892-1972), an architect and one of the five children of the world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. John patented his toy in 1920, and sold the logs through his toy company, the Red Square Toy Company. Playskool bought the rights to Lincoln Logs in 1943.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu (Shanghai, China, May 31, 1912 - New York, USA, February 16, 1997) was a nuclear physicist who studied beta-decay (a weak interaction in which one of the neutrons in the nucleus of an atom decays into a proton and an electron; the proton enters the nucleus, forming an isotope, and the electron is emitted as a beta-particle). In 1956, Madam Wu did experiments showing that parity is not conserved in weak interactions (demonstrating parity violation in the nuclear beta decay in cobalt 60). Her experiments supported T. D. Lee and C. N. Yang’s revolutionary idea that parity was not conserved in weak interactions (parity conservation had been a basic assumption in physics). Madam Wu worked on the Manhattan Project (a secret US project during World War 2 to develop an atomic bomb in order to defeat Hitler), developing a process for separating the uranium isotopes U235 and U238 by gaseous diffusion. She also helped develop more sensitive Geiger counters (devices that detect radiation). Madam Wu also studied the molecular changes in hemoglobin associated with sickle-cell anemia.
The crossword puzzle, a word game, was invented by Arthur Wynne in 1913. Arthur Wynne was a journalist born in Liverpool, England. Wynne wrote weekly puzzle for the US newspaper called the New York World. The first crossword puzzle by Wynne was a diamond-shaped puzzle that was published in the Sunday New York World on December 21, 1913. The first British crossword puzzle appeared on February 1922; it was published in Pearson’s Magazine.