The Contributions of Alabama Inventors
Some of Alabama’s most famous inventors are not from the state, but they still had significant impact on the world. For example, Jimmy Wales, born in Huntsville in 1966, developed the Super Soaker while testing an unrelated invention. Ever since its creation in 1989, it has been one of the top-selling toys. Wales attended Auburn University and the University of Alabama, where he developed an idea for knowledge-sharing, which became Wikipedia.
Lonnie George Johnson
In his early years, Lonnie G. Johnson was a talented teen inventor. His father taught him how to fix household items. He even competed in a science competition, where his remote-controlled robot won first place. Johnson continued to refine his talents as a student, attending Tuskegee University on a math scholarship. While there, he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, and an honorary Ph.D. in nuclear engineering. Today, Johnson lives with his wife and children in Atlanta.
After graduating from Williamson High School, Johnson went on to attend Tuskegee University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1973 and his master’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1976. He began his career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1979, where he worked on the Galileo mission to Jupiter, as well as the Cassini project to Saturn. His career is now well-known for the creation of the Super Soaker water gun.
Johnson was born in Mobile, Alabama. He was inspired by the works of the late George Washington Carver. Using scrap metals, he built a robotic device called Linex. He won the state science fair with this creation in 1968, earning a math scholarship to Tuskegee University. Lonnie George Johnson, Contributions of Alabama inventors
Robert Sylvester Munger
Birmingham native Robert Sylvester Munger was a philanthropist, donating his money and time to many local causes. His family was very religious, and he was a member of the Methodist church in Birmingham, particularly at the new First Methodist. He also helped establish the Highlands Methodist and Walker Memorial Methodist in Birmingham. Munger’s family donated $250,00 to BSC in 1925, and the school’s main auditorium and administrative offices are named after him. Munger married Mary Collett in 1878, and the couple had nine children.
After graduating from the University of Alabama in 1878, Munger moved to Birmingham and founded the Munger Improved Cotton Machine Company. He patented the duplex cotton press on July 12, 1892, and a pneumatic system improvement in November. He also patented the baling machine and cotton elevator in 1894. In 1893, he attended the World Cotton Centennial in New Orleans, and his patented improvements became widely accepted by the cotton industry.
In addition to his contributions to Alabama history, Robert Munger became a leading promoter of automobiles. He showcased his 1902 and 1903 Wintons, and later bought a Panhard et Levassor 50HP automobile in London. His personal life included his work as a trustee of Birmingham College, and helped guide the merger of Birmingham College with Southern University. In addition to the philanthropy awards he received, his contribution to Alabama’s economy included his induction into the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame. Robert S. Munger was married to Mary Collett and had nine children.
Andrew Jackson Beard
Andrew Jackson Beard was a self-taught African American entrepreneur who developed several patented inventions. His first invention was a plow, which he patented in 1879. In 1884, he sold his patent rights for $4,000, and later patented two more plows. The profits from these inventions helped him start a real estate business. By 1894, he had made enough money to purchase a farm.
After a long life of slavery, Andrew Jackson Beard became a successful entrepreneur and inventor. His contributions to the world were numerous and included a rotary steam engine and a flour mill. In addition to his innovations, Beard worked for the railroad and became a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He died in 1921, and his name is included on the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Born as a slave in Jefferson County, AL, Beard became free at the age of fifteen. He later emancipated, became a farmer and built a flour mill. After receiving his first patent in 1881, he started to focus on farming. After a couple years, he developed an improved version of the plow and patented it for $4,000. His next patent, U.S. Patent No. 240642, was for an improved version of the plow. The income from these inventions allowed him to invest in his real estate business and buy more land.
The railway industry is dangerous for employees. During routine procedures, railroad workers can suffer severe injuries. In many cases, they may lose fingers or limbs. In Beard’s time on the railroad, he suffered injuries that affected his health. The injuries that railroad workers suffered made him a better engineer, and he applied his mechanical skills to improve safety and reduce risks for everyone. His invention, known as the Jenny coupler, was a major improvement.
If you are interested in the history of the invention of vinyl, you’ll be pleased to know that two of the state’s best-known inventions came from Alabama. The first was the invention of plasticized polyvinyl chloride, which was subsequently used to make vinyl records. Another great invention came from a Demopolis, Alabama, chemical engineer named Waldo Semon. The two Alabama inventors were both inducted into the Invention Hall of Fame.
Born in Demopolis, Alabama, Semon attended the University of Washington. He graduated in 1922 and was awarded his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1923. After earning his PhD, he joined the manufacturing company B.F. Goodrich. Semon remained with the company until his retirement in 1963. He also served as a research professor at Kent State University and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1995.
He received 116 patents for his inventions, including synthetic rubber Ameripol. In his later years, he was also responsible for the invention of synthetic bubble gum, which looked like a chewable gum and allowed the user to blow large bubbles. In addition, Semon was a research professor at Kent State University in Ohio. He died on May 26, 1999, in Hudson, Ohio.
George F. Kirchoff
A native of Demopolis, Alabama, George F. Kirchoff studied engineering at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. Upon graduating, he joined the U.S. Navy and attended flight school. He and his wife, Gene Golson, had three children. After leaving the Navy, Kirchoff began working in the aerospace industry. He worked on many new products and invented many important safety devices, such as the airbag safety system.
In the early 1920s, George F. Kirchoff, Jr., a rocket engineer, decided to apply his expertise to automobile safety. Early designs of airbags were prone to failure due to the lack of a reliable detection system and a mechanism to rapidly inflate them. Kirchoff invented a mechanism to quickly inflate an airbag and received several patents for its various parts. Airbags became widely available in automobiles by the mid-1970s and today are standard equipment.
In 1847, Kirchoff graduated from the university. He then traveled to Germany, where he worked as a Privatdozent, a position that was unpaid. Economic conditions in Germany were delicate, but Kirchhoff’s privileged position meant that he was largely untouched by the turmoil going on in his homeland. His chosen career allowed him to conduct his research in a less costly and more efficient way. His contribution to the field of electrostatics was enormous.
Born to a black slave mother in Mobile, Alabama, John Parker was sold into slavery when he was eight years old. As a young man, he was taught to read and write and apprenticed as a molder at an iron foundry. His work at the foundry required him to be irritable twice a day, but he saved up enough money to purchase his freedom. He eventually became the first African-American inventor and is remembered as one of the most important contributions of Alabama inventors.
After escaping slavery in 1848, Parker returned to his home state and volunteered for abolitionist activities. He joined the Underground Railroad, rescuing over a thousand slaves. After this, he moved to Ohio, where he worked as a scout for both sides of the Ohio River. He also served in the army as a recruiter for the 27th regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops.
The contributions of African Americans to America were immense. From the invention of rotary steam engines to the creation of the automobile, African-American inventors made a profound impact on the United States. One such inventor was Andrew Jackson Beard, who was born into slavery and gained freedom at the age of fifteen. By the time of his inventions, he had created two kinds of plows and the flour mill.
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