At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) we have the privilege of honoring some of the world’s greatest inventors by celebrating their legacy through both our annual Induction Ceremony and our close collaboration in bringing their lessons and stories into our education programs.
This holiday season, we invite you to learn more about a few of our incredible NIHF Inductees whose inventions have become integral to the winter months!
Mary Anderson – Windshield Wiper
While riding in a New York trolley car one snowy day during the early 1900s, Mary Anderson realized that streetcar drivers often had to open their windows to see during inclement weather. Sometimes, the drivers would have to stop their vehicles and go outside to physically clean off the window. Realizing that there must be a better way, Anderson designed a lever inside the vehicle that controlled a spring-loaded arm with a rubber blade. Her 1903 patent represents the first effective windshield-cleaning device. Today, the modern windshield wiper is a feature required by law on all vehicles to maintain proper road safety.
Samuel Leeds Allen – Flexible Flyer Sled
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Samuel Leeds Allen began his inventing journey on his father’s farm by creating farming equipment from his own designs. This experience allowed him to start his own company for manufacturing and selling his tools across the United States and Europe. To diversify his merchandise and provide work to his employees during the winter months, he designed a sled he named the Flexible Flyer – the first steerable runner sled.
Nick Holonyak Jr. – Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
Found in a seemingly endless amount of applications ranging from traffic lights to consumer electronics, Nick Holonyak’s invention, LEDs, are used in a majority of the string lights and electronic holiday decorations that are strung outside homes and wrapped around Christmas trees. With lower energy consumption and a lifespan up to 25 times longer than that of incandescent lighting, this technology has revolutionized the way we light the spaces we live in.
Richard Gurley Drew – Adhesive Tape
Central to all holiday wrapping activities, we have Richard Gurley Drew to thank for inventing the first modern pressure-sensitive tapes. While working as a lab technician at 3M, he devised a tape of cabinetmaker’s glue and treated crepe paper. While automakers found the tape perfect for masking off areas during auto body painting, the transparent Scotch® cellophane tape he developed in 1930 became an especially popular way for people to repair ripped, torn and even broken items during the Great Depression.
Frank J. Zamboni – Ice Rink Resurfacing Machine
While ice rinks provide hockey players and ice skaters with a smooth surface to enjoy, over time, skate blades create grooves in the ice that can make it unusable. After opening his own ice rink and realizing the time and manual labor required to resurface the ice each day, in 1949 Zamboni developed a prototype of an ice-resurfacing machine that could complete the job in 15 minutes. The design was a success, and mass production of his machine (later named Zamboni® ice resurfacing machine), began in 1954. The invention reached international exposure when it was used in the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Learn More About Our Inspiring Inductees
To explore the stories behind more of the iconic inventions you might use every day, we invite you to visit our blog.