19th-century inventor Charles Cros petitioned the French government to build a giant set of mirrors that could be used to communicate with aliens by scorching messages onto the surfaces of Venus and Mars. His request was declined.
In the late 18th century, Jacques Barbeu Du Bourg, Benjamin Franklin’s French translator, invented le parapluie-paratonnerre, the lightning rod umbrella, which is said to have become fashionable among Parisian gentlemen.
The man who patented the ouija board has a ouija board headstone.
Willem Kolff created the first dialysis machine in the Netherlands during WWII. Lacking materials, he used sausage casings, tin cans, a washing machine, and salt water. He also saved more than 800 people from the Nazis by hiding them in his hospital. And he later invented the artificial heart.
Caroline Shawk, the inventor of modern butter sculpture, couldn’t afford marble, so she started making butter sculptures to raise money at local fairs. Her butter sculpture became a runaway hit at Centennial exhibition, which allowed her to open her own studio and work with marble.
The process of dry cleaning was invented in 1821 by an African American business owner named Thomas Jennings. He was one of the first African Americans to be granted a patent. He had to use the proceeds from his invention to buy his wife and children out of slavery.
Charles Darwin was one of the first people to come up with the idea of putting wheels on his office chair, so that he could work faster.
One evening, while rushing for dinner after a long day at the lab, Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist at Johns Hopkins, forgot to wash his hands that had traces of benzoic sulfimide. This compound made his dinner taste sweet, and that’s how he discovered the artificial sweetener Saccharin.
The conservationist, John Muir, was an avid inventor. He hooked up an alarm clock to his custom bed that would throw him onto the floor to ensure he got up on time.
Even though Benjamin Franklin is credited with many popular inventions, he never patented or copyrighted any of them. He believed that they should be given freely and that claiming ownership would only cause trouble and “sour one’s Temper and disturb one’s Quiet.”