Many of us know the famous saying, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration,” which was once uttered by well-known inventor Thomas Edison. However, few understand the hard work, determination and, of course, perspiration that goes into bringing an inspiration to life. That is why, during the month of May, we celebrate these genius inventors who put all they had into creating inventions that many of us utilize every single day.
Originally celebrated in August, National Inventors Month was started in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA (UIA-USA), the Academy of Applied Science and the “Inventors Digest.” Its goal remains to promote a positive image of inventors, celebrate the inventors and their inventions and encourage others to experiment and create their own inventions. In 2011, the celebration moved to May to coincide with the annual National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) ceremony, a ceremony that has inducted more than 600 individuals since 1973. Each of these inductees are featured at the NIHF Museum, located just outside of Washington D.C., in the museum’s Gallery of Icons™, as well as interactive exhibits.
National Inventors Hall of Fame’s Inventors
With over 600 inductees, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has many famous people’s portraits gracing its museum’s walls. Some of NIHF’s most famous inventors to be inducted include:
- Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) – Inventor of the telephone and the telegraph
- Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) – Inventor of the electric lamp and the phonograph
- Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1934) – Inventor of the electromagnetic motor
- Henry Ford (1863-1947) – Inventor of the assembly line
- George Washington Carver (1864-1943) – Inventor of peanut products
- Wilbur Wright (1867 – 1912) – Inventor of the airplane
- Orville Wright (1871 – 1948) – Inventor of the airplane
- Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011) – Inventor of the iPod User Interface®
However, all inventors should be celebrated during National Inventors Month, including those who may not be as well known, especially female inventors. Some others to highlight include:
- Hedy Lamarr (1914 – 2000) – Inventor of a frequency hopping communication system
- Patsy O. Sherman (1930 – 2008) – Inventor of Scotchgard™ textile protector
- Polly Smith (1949 – present) – Inventor of the sports bra
- Margaret Wu (1950 – present) – Inventor of synthetic lubricants
Robert F. Smith’s Support for Future Inventors
One inventor who has yet to make the National Inventors Hall of Fame is engineer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert F. Smith. After graduating from Cornell University in 1985 with a degree in chemical engineering, Smith went on to work for Kraft General Foods. While working there, he was granted two patents in the United States and an additional two more in Europe.
Since then, Smith has switched his focus to investment, especially in software, data and technology-based companies. However, he still continues to support the next generation of potential inventors. For example, Smith and Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is founding director and President, helped finance the engineering school at Smith’s alma mater, Cornell University, providing a combined gift of $50 million to support future inventors and entrepreneurs.
Smith also personally donated $50 million to Student Freedom Initiative, in addition to the Fund II Foundation’s $50 million gift. This program offers an income-contingent funding alternative, in addition to internships, mentorships and more, which is available to juniors and seniors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities majoring in approved STEM fields. The funding alternative, known as a Student Freedom Agreement, is intended to help alleviate the burden of student debt, allowing students to pursue their career goals, such as inventing.
Furthermore, Smith through investment firm Vista Equity Partners, of which he is the Founder, Chairman and CEO, contributes to Code.org, a program that helps students around the country learn coding and computer science. Vista, along with some of their partner companies, is providing a long-term commitment to Code.org to help support its efforts of training students, who have potential to be great inventors in the future.
To learn more about the National Inventors Hall of Fame or National Inventors Month, visit the NIHF website. You can even nominate an inventor for induction, as long as they hold a U.S. patent for an invention that has contributed significantly to its industry.