Cruise control on cars was invented in 1948 by the blind inventor and mechanical engineer Ralph Teetor. He came up with the idea due to being frustrated by his driver’s habit of speeding up and slowing down as he talked.
The chemical reaction in glow sticks was discovered by Dr. Edwin Chandross in 1962, but he had no idea the “chemiluminescent” objects were popular at music shows until a Vice interview in 2013. “Is that so?” he said. “Maybe my granddaughter will think I’m cool now.”
King Gillette, inventor of the safety razor, was a socialist who wrote a book describing his vision of the U.S. population living in a single utopian metropolis/building powered by Niagara Falls. Only 1 in 7 people would need to work, and it would be free of money and thus free of crime.
Melting ice cream inspired the invention of the outboard motor. It was a lovely August day and Ole Evinrude was rowing his boat to his favorite island picnic spot. As he rowed, he watched his ice cream melt and wished he had a faster way to get to the island. At that moment the idea was born.
Walter Shaw, the inventor of three-way calling and call waiting, went on to create the “black box” for the Italian Mafia, which allowed them to make untraceable long-distance calls.
James Murray Spangler (1848–1915), a salesman and janitor, invented the first commercially successful portable electric vacuum cleaner that revolutionized household carpet cleaning. His device was the first to use both a cloth filter bag and cleaning attachments. His invention was patented 1908.
Alexander Cumming was an inventor and the first person to patent a flush toilet in 1775. Cumming included an s-trap in the design to prevent sewer gasses from entering the building through the toilet. Modern toilets still incorporate this design.
In 1963 Robert Kearns invented the intermittent windshield wiper, presented it to Ford Motor Co. and was hired. Ford fired him and took his technology. He sued Ford for patent infringement and after 12 yrs. of litigation, at times without a lawyer, the court awarded Kearns 10.3 M dollars.
Unlike his famous father, Thomas Edison Jr. was a terrible inventor. Eventually, he resorted to selling snake oil like the “Edison Magno-Electric Vitalizer”, embarrassing his father so much that he was given an allowance of 900 dollars a week to stop marketing his own “inventions”.
The US House of Representatives recognized that Alexander Graham Bell was not the original inventor of the telephone, in H. Res 269. They gave that recognition to Antonio Meucci. In 1887, the SCOTUS found the case viable and remanded a trial, but it was dismissed shortly after Meucci’s death.