Philo Taylor Farnsworth (1906-1971) was an American inventor. Farnsworth invented many important components of the television, including power, focusing systems, synchronizing the signal, contrast, controls, and scanning. He also invented a radar system, a cold cathode ray tube, a new type of baby incubator, and the first electronic microscope. Farnsworth held over 300 patents.
The Ferris Wheel is a large amusement-park ride that is made of a giant, vertical, metal wheel that slowly turns around. The wheel is equipped with hanging compartments for people, who ride around in a circle, going far above the ground. The Ferris Wheel was invented by the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania bridge-builder George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. (1859-1896) . The first Ferris wheel was opened on June 21, 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair. This Ferris wheel was 250 feet tall (the diameter of the wheel) - this is about the height of a 25 story building! It had 36 wooden cars that could each seat 40 people, and hold another 20 standing people plus a conductor. Each car was 27 feet long, 13 feet wide, and 9 feet tall. A total of 2000 people could ride the wheel at one time. The wheel was powered by two 1,000 horsepower engines and weighed over 4,000 tons. It cost 50 cents per ride. This same Ferris wheel was later used at the St. Louis exposition in 1904, but was scrapped in 1906. Ferris wheels are now common at amusement parks around the world - most are much smaller than the original.
Gunpowder was invented in China, probably during the 1000’s. Gunpowder is composed of about 75 percent saltpeter (potassium nitrate), 15 percent powdered charcoal, and 10 percent sulphur. The Chinese used gunpower to make fireworks and signals, and later to make weapons of war.
The Earth is divided into 24 time zones so that everyone in the world can be on roughly similar schedules (like noon being roughly when the sun is highest in the sky). The idea to divide the Earth into time zones was proposed by the Canadian railway planner and engineer Sir Sandford Fleming in the late 1870s.
Henry Ford (1863-1947) was an American engineer and industrialist who used the first conveyor belt-based assembly-lines in his car factory, revolutionizing factory production. Ford manufactured affordable cars and paid high wages to his factory workers, allowing workers to buy the cars they made. After early work as a machinist, Ford built a gasoline engine in 1893. In 1896, Ford built a “horseless carriage,” which he called the “Quadricycle,” which means “four wheels” (others, including Charles Edgar and J. Frank Duryea, Elwood Haynes, Hiram Percy Maxim, and Charles Brady King had built earlier “horseless carriage”). In 1899, Ford formed the Detroit Automobile Company (which was later called the Henry Ford Company and then the Cadillac Motor Car Company). Ford introduced the Model T in October 1908; it was a great success (every Model T was painted black). Ford introduced conveyor belt-based assembly-line factory production and a $5 daily wage in 1913-14 in Ford’s Highland Park, Michigan plant (primitive assembly line production had been started in 1901 by Ransome Eli. Olds, another early car-maker). This type of production greatly reduced the amount of time taken to put each car together (93 minutes for a Model T) from its parts, reducing production costs.
Jean Bernard Léon Foucault (1819-1868) was a French physicist who invented the gyroscope (1852) and the Foucault pendulum (1851). A gyroscope is essentially a spinning wheel set in a movable frame. When the wheel spins, it retains its spatial orientation, and it resists external forces applied to it. Gyroscopes are used in navigation instruments (for ships, planes, and rockets). Foucault was the first person to demonstrate how a pendulum could track the rotation of the Earth (the Foucault pendulum) in 1851. He also showed that light travels more slowly in water than in air (1850) and improved the mirrors of reflecting telescopes (1858).
Lewis E. Waterman was an American inventor and insurance salesman who developed a relatively leak-proof fountain pen; he patented his new invention in 1884 and revolutionized writing. Before his fountain pen, pen tips had to be tipped into ink after every few words. Waterman put an ink reservoir in the pen above the pen’s metal nib (point). This reservoir would hold enough ink for a few pages of writing. There were many problems in developing the fountain pen, especially the difficulty of controlling the flow of the ink. Putting a sealed reservoir above the nib wouldn’t let the ink flow, but if it wasn’t sealed, all the ink would flow at once. Waterman used capillary action to replace the ink in the rubber sac with air so that the ink flowed smoothly but did not flow all at once. Also, the metals in the ink dissolved the steel pen nib, so Waterman used an iridium-plated gold nib. Waterman was also the first person to place a clip on the cap of the pen.
Samuel Fox (1815 - 1887), an English inventor and manufacturer, invented the steel ribbed umbrella in 1852 (the ribs of the umbrella hold the fabric in place - wood or whale bone had been used as ribs before Fox’s invention). Fox started the “English Steels Company,” which manufactured his new umbrella.
Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706-April 17, 1790) was an American statesman, writer, printer, and inventor. Franklin experimented extensively with electricity. In 1752, his experiments with a kite in a thunderstorm (never do this, many people have died trying it!) led to the development of the lightning rod. Franklin started the first circulating library in the colonies in 1731. He also invented bifocal glasses and the Franklin stove. The idea of daylight savings time was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784.
Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (also written Fröbel) (1782-1852) was a German educator and educational reformer who invented the kindergarten (which means “garden of children”). He opened the first kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg (near Keilhau) in 1837. Froebel founded a kindergarten training school at Liebenstein, Germany in 1849. After some conflicts and mistaken charges of treason, the German government banned the establishment of kindergartens in 1851. In 1860, the government repealed the ban, and kindergartens re-opened (unfortunately, this was after Froebel’s death). Froebel’s kindergartens included pleasant surroundings, self-motivated activity, play, music, and the physical training of the child.