American Inventors You’ve Never Heard Of

Edison did it. Eastman did it. And so did Steve Jobs.

They invented products that changed our lives.

But for every well-known inventor there are many other, less recognizable individuals whose innovative products have greatly impacted our world.

Fifteen of those trailblazing men and women — both past and present — were recently honored for their unique contributions in a special ceremony at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, which is nestled in a corner of the vast atrium of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office building in Alexandria, Virginia.

Augmented reality

Stan Honey was honored for inventing a graphics systems that makes it easier for television viewers around the world to see key moments during live sporting events… such as sailing, car racing and American football.

“What we do is we superimpose graphic elements like yellow lines into the real world, correctly positioned so that they can reveal something that’s important to a game that is otherwise hard to see,” he said.

The graphics make those yellow lines look like they’re actually on the field, Honey explained, but “they’re keyed underneath the athletes… so it looks like it’s on the grass, but in fact if you were in the stadium of course, it’s not actually there!”

In sports like football, Honey pointed out, the graphics are used “for the ‘first down’ line.” In baseball, to show “where the balls go through the strike zone or miss the strike zone,” and in sailing they’re used “to show who’s ahead, who’s behind, where the laylines are, what the wind direction is.”  

“Any sport that has something that’s really important and hard to see can benefit from graphics that are inserted into the real world,” he added.

WATCH: Julie Taboh’s video report

Lasting beauty

“Curiosity and exploration are the essential starting points of innovation,” says inductee Sumita Mitra. She credits her life-long love of learning to her parents and teachers; “They taught me how to learn… and if you know how to learn, you can learn anything.”

Mitra put her learning skills to full use when she discovered that using nanoparticles can strengthen dental composites while helping teeth maintain their natural look. She was looking for “beauty that lasts,” she said, and decided “nanoparticle technology would be the right ticket to create something to meet these objectives.”

Rini Paiva, who oversees the selection committee at the National Inventors Hall of Fame, noted that more than 600 million restorations take place every year using Mitra’s technology.

Gallery of icons

The annual selection process is very competitive, say Paiva, “because there are a lot of terrific inventors out there and our job is really to look for the ones who have had the most impact on our world.”

Each year, as a select group of inventors are inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, they’re presented with hexagonal-shaped plaques inscribed with their name, invention and patent number. Those simple but symbolic awards become part of a permanent collection that now stands at more than 560.

Five of the 2018 inductees were recognized for their contributions posthumously, their awards accepted by their respective representatives.

Temperature controls

Mary Engle Pennington, who died at the age of 80 in 1952, was a pioneer in the safe preservation, handling, storage and transportation of perishable foods, which impacted the health and well-being of generations of Americans. She was recognized for her numerous accomplishments, including her discovery of a way to refrigerate train cars, allowing perishable foods to be safely moved from one place to another.

In 1895, Warren Johnson introduced the first multi-zone automatic temperature control system commercially feasible for widespread application. The Johnson System of Temperature Regulation was used in commercial buildings, offices, and schools, and also installed in the U.S. Capitol Building, the Smithsonian, the New York Stock Exchange, West Point Military Academy, and the home of Andrew Carnegie. In 2008, it was designated an ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

Johnson’s innovations and the company he co-founded, Johnson Controls, helped launch the multi-billion-dollar building controls industry.

The real deal

Established in 1973 in partnership with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum provides numerous displays and interactive exhibits on patents and the patent process, and the inductees and their patented inventions.  

There’s a model of Thomas Edison’s light bulb, George Eastman’s hand-held cameras, and replicas of Ford Mustangs from 1965 and 2015 — split down the middle to show how the iconic car has changed over 50 years.

Visitors can also learn about trademarks, (think NIKE’s Swoosh logo), how to detect the real from the fake, (counterfeit designer handbags and accessories were hard to tell apart from the genuine article), and match characters, colors, and even sounds, to their respective brands.

Future inventors

Rini Paiva notes that while the museum is dedicated to honoring the greatest innovative minds from the past and present, it is also committed to its educational intiatives through its partnership with 1,300 schools and districts nationwide.

“Our museum does share the stories of the inductees in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, but beyond that it really shows people what we can do through our education programs, really in encouraging young people to pursue STEM fields, and also in the power of intellectual property.”

Education merges with the symbolic presence of some of the world’s most innovative minds whose examples of American ingenuity serve to inform and inspire others who may follow in their paths.

From: MeNeedIt

Wild Animals in the Halls of the US Capitol

Wild animal sounds were heard recently in the halls of the U.S. Capitol. But these were not the calls of escaped animals. They were the sounds of endangered animals serving as the animal world’s ambassadors to commemorate “Endangered Species Day.” Their presence in the Capitol was intended to encourage legislators to support efforts to protect endangered and rare animals. But as Veronica Balderas Iglesias reports, conservation and animal welfare appears to be a touchy subject on Capitol Hill.

From: MeNeedIt

‘Women on Wheels’ in Pakistan’s Punjab Province Aimed at Expanding Workforce

As part of a wave of women’s empowerment programs, the government of Pakistan’s Punjab province is running a campaign called “Women on Wheels”, a 2-year-old program that trains women to ride motorcycles as a way to raise awareness of gender-based violence and street harassment. VOA’s Mariama Diallo reports on the excitement and independence the campaign has brought to participants.

From: MeNeedIt

Worlds Away from Windsor, People Celebrate Harry and Meghan’s Big Day

From the windswept Falkland Islands, battered by the South Atlantic and home to colonies of penguins, to the heat of Kenya, India and Australia, people around the world celebrated Britain’s glittering royal wedding Saturday.

The scenes of pageantry and romance in Windsor, where Prince Harry married his American bride Meghan Markle, were beamed to locations across continents where people dressed up, raised their glasses and enjoyed the fun of a uniquely British event.

“We are very fond of our royal family and it’s lovely to celebrate an event like this,” said Falkland Islander Leona Roberts, a member of the local assembly and one of the organizers of a wedding party in the tiny capital, Port Stanley.

Children dressed up as princes and princesses for the party, where they received special gifts.

Argentina disputes Britain’s sovereignty over the Falklands, which lie 300 miles (500 km) from the Argentine coast, and the two countries fought a war in 1982 over the islands. Many islanders are fiercely patriotic about Britain.

“As a Falkland Islander, I definitely feel a bond with the royal family as a symbol of Britishness. I am a staunch royalist,” said Arlette Betts, at her home on the waterfront in Port Stanley, home to most of the archipelago’s 4,000 inhabitants.

On the other side of the world, in India, a group of Mumbai’s famed dabbawalas, or lunch delivery men, chose a traditional sari dress and kurta jacket as wedding gifts for Harry and his bride, while at the Gurukul School of Art children painted posters of the royal couple and Queen Elizabeth.

In Australia, where the British monarch remains the head of state, some pubs held wedding parties, while a cinema chain screened the wedding live across its network. Viewers dressed in finery, with prizes for the most creative outfits.

At the Royal Hotel in Sydney, guests celebrated with a fancy banquet and burst into a spontaneous chorus of “Stand by Me” when a gospel choir sang the Ben E. King hit during the ceremony in Windsor.

“I just think the monarchy as such brings everyone together,” said retiree Bernie Dennis, one of those attending the banquet. “It’s like a family wedding.”

In Melbourne, fashion designer Nadia Foti attended an “English high tea” where guests wore plastic crowns and enjoyed traditional British treats such as scones and the popular summer drink Pimm’s.

“It’s exciting for the fashion and the spectacular,” said Foti. “It’s a joyous occasion and I’ve made a plum cake to celebrate in classic English style.”

There were lavish celebrations at the Windsor Golf and Country Club on the outskirts of Nairobi, where guests had shelled out 1 million shillings ($10,000) to view the wedding on a giant screen, enjoy a seven-course banquet and fly to Mount Kenya by helicopter for breakfast the following morning.

Trainee lawyer Odette Ndaruzi, who is preparing for her own wedding later in the year, said she wanted to pick up some tips.

“I’m excited to see how the maidens in England are dressed, the jewelry and colors they are wearing,” she said.

The event drew criticism from some Kenyan media, however, due to the hefty price tag in a country where millions live in slums.

But perhaps the greatest interest in the royal wedding, outside of Britain, was in the bride’s home country, the United States.

In New York, revelers headed to Harry’s Bar to watch the ceremony on TV, surrounded by U.S. and British flags. Many posed for photos alongside cardboard cutouts of the bride and groom.

In Los Angeles, a lively crowd at the English-style Cat and Fiddle pub in Hollywood enjoyed pints of beer, royal-themed cocktails and British staples like sausage rolls and scones.

Popular tipples included the “Bloody Harry,” billed as a modern take on the Bloody Mary, but with added ginger as a cheeky nod to the prince’s red hair.

From: MeNeedIt

A Royal Reception Feast for 600: Langoustines, Quail Eggs and Rhubarb Tartlets

Guests of Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan, were set to tuck into dishes including Scottish langoustines, grilled asparagus and rhubarb crumble tartlets at a lunchtime reception for the newlyweds.

Some of the 600 or so guests arrived hours before the beginning of the ceremony at noon, and were likely to be eager to sample the sumptuous foods on offer.

Canapes being served include poached free-range chicken in a lightly spiced yogurt with roasted apricot, croquettes of confit Windsor lamb and garden-pea panna cotta with quail eggs and lemon verbena.

There were also bowl foods such as pea and mint risotto with pea shoots, truffle oil and parmesan crisps, and 10-hour slow roasted Windsor pork belly, all washed down with champagne, wines and a range of soft drinks.

The wedding cake included elderflower syrup, made at the Queen’s residence in Sandringham from the estate’s own trees, with an Amalfi lemon curd filling and elderflower buttercream.

From: MeNeedIt

Harry, Meghan Become Husband, Wife in British Royal Ceremony

The big day finally arrived for Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, as the couple married Saturday in the town of Windsor, outside London.

Prince Charles, Prince Harry’s father, walked the bride down the aisle.

The American former actress confirmed earlier that her father would not attend the ceremony, owing to ill health, after days of speculation over whether he would make the journey across the Atlantic.

Throngs of people descended on the historic town as well-wishers tried to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. Thousands of police officers mounted one of the biggest security operations in recent years, paid for by the public — a bill resented by some opposed to the monarchy.

Supporters argued the wedding was likely to attract big spending by visitors and those watching in bars and big screens across the country.

The ceremony began at midday in the stunning 14th century Saint George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry was baptized in 1984.

In Photos: The Royal Wedding

Some 600 guests were invited, mainly those who have a direct relationship with the couple.

In addition, more than 2,500 members of the public were invited onto the castle grounds — the prime spot to watch the guests come and go.

“To me, that was surprising, and it was very touching. Because for as much as they don’t like the media intrusion, the royals, they’ve invited media in, they’ve invited the public in, and they’re wanting to share their special day,” said Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills of the British Monarchist Society and Foundation.

Four members of the Mumbai city-based charity the Myna Mahila Foundation were invited. The non-governmental organization provides sanitary products in the slums of the Indian capital and was visited by Meghan Markle last year. It’s one of seven charities that the couple have asked guests to make donations to instead of providing wedding gifts. The charity’s founder, Myne Mahila, says the invitation came as a huge shock.

“We are representing not just ‘Myna,’ but also the women across the urban slums in the city and India as well. I think there is a lot on the plate and a lot of pressure,” she said.

More than 100,000 people were expected to line the streets of Windsor. Many arrived early to bag the best spots for a look. Donna Werner is a self-confessed royal “superfan” who flew over from her home in the U.S. state of Connecticut and camped out for four nights on a Windsor sidewalk.

In Photos: Crowds, Stars Gather for Royal Wedding

“Every little girl has read fairy tales from her childhood on by her mother and she always dreams of becoming a princess and living in a castle. And I mean, this is it. This is a real-life fairy tale,” she said.

In a break with U.S. tradition, Meghan Markle did not have a maid of honor. All of the six bridesmaids and four page boys were children of friends of the couple. Harry’s nephew, Prince George, was a pageboy, and niece, Princess Charlotte, a bridesmaid.  

In the kitchens of Windsor Castle, 30 chefs prepared a banquet for the reception guests.

“The couple … tasted everything, they’ve been involved in every detail,” says royal head chef Mark Flanagan.

That could mean some stateside surprises among the British fare.

“Are we going to see hot dogs and these sorts of American things? I’m sure there will be a nod to the American culture where food is concerned,” said Mace-Archer-Mills.

As well as the home crowds, millions were expected to watch on television around the globe, with the promise of British pomp mixed with plenty of Hollywood glamour.

Fern Robinson contributed to this report.


From: MeNeedIt

Congo: 3 New Ebola Cases Confirmed in City

Three new cases of the often lethal Ebola virus have been confirmed in a city of more than 1 million people, Congo’s health minister announced, as the spread of the hemorrhagic fever in an urban area raised alarm.

The statement late Friday said the confirmed cases are in Mbandaka city, where a single case was confirmed earlier in the week.

There are now 17 confirmed Ebola cases in this outbreak, including one death, plus 21 probable cases and five suspected ones.

The World Health Organization on Friday decided not to declare the outbreak a global health emergency, but it called the risk of spread within Congo “very high” and warned nine neighboring countries that the risk to them was high. WHO said there should be no international travel or trade restrictions.

The outbreak is a test of a new experimental Ebola vaccine that proved effective in the West Africa outbreak a few years ago. Vaccinations are expected to start early in the week, with more than 4,000 doses already in Congo and more on the way.

A major challenge will be keeping the vaccines cold in the vast, impoverished country where infrastructure is poor.

While Congo has contained several Ebola outbreaks in the past, all of them were based in remote rural areas. The virus has twice made it to Congo’s capital of 10 million people, Kinshasa, in the past but was rapidly stopped.

Health officials are trying to track down more than 500 people who have been in contact with those feared infected, a task that became more urgent with the spread to Mbandaka, which lies on the Congo River, a busy traffic corridor, and is an hour’s flight from the capital.

The outbreak was declared more than a week ago in Congo’s remote northwest. Its spread has some Congolese worried.

“Even if it’s not happening here yet I have to reduce contact with people. May God protect us in any case,” Grace Ekofo, a 23-year-old student in Kinshasa, told The Associated Press.

A teacher in Mbandaka, 53-year-old Jean Mopono, said they were trying to implement preventative measures by teaching students not to greet each other by shaking hands or kissing.

“We pray that this epidemic does not take place here,” Mopono said.

The WHO, which was accused of bungling its response to the West Africa outbreak, the biggest Ebola outbreak in history with more than 11,000 deaths, appears to be moving swiftly to contain this latest epidemic, experts said.

There is “strong reason to believe this situation can be brought under control,” said Dr. Robert Steffen, who chaired the WHO expert meeting on Friday. But without a vigorous response, “the situation is likely to deteriorate significantly.”

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the disease was first identified. The virus is initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys. It is spread via contact with bodily fluids of those infected.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the strain.

From: MeNeedIt