Top Ten Unsung Heroes of Invention

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We remember Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell and, of course, Eli Whitney (most of us still have no idea what the hell a cotton gin is, but we will always remember good ol’ Eli was the dude who made it).  But if you look around you, almost everything you see was invented by someone.  So why don’t we remember them?!  They made some really cool stuff!  So I’d like to take this opportunity to tip my cap to ten of the overlooked greats.

10. Conrad Gaiser

One of the things that really makes my skin crawl is peeling apart laundry that is stuck together by static electricity.  That snappy, rippy, feeling really skeeves me out.  And that is why I love my buddy, Conrad.  He got sick of watching his lovely wife, Audrey (okay, not sure what she looks like, but I’m guessing Conrad thought she was pretty foxy and that he’s the kind of guy who used the word “foxy”), run up and down four flights of stairs to add fabric softener to the laundry.  So Connie (Audrey and I call him Connie – you probably shouldn’t, he doesn’t know you that well) invented the dryer sheets. Besides taking care of all that static – let’s talk about the smell!  Who doesn’t love walking by a house that’s doing laundry and smelling the dryer exhaust coming out on a spring day?!!  I mean it’s the one time a person can do something like that – if they stop in front of your house and sniff your drying laundry when it’s hung up outside, it’s creepy.  If they do it when the exhaust is blowing that dryer sheet smell in the air, it’s totally understandable.

9. Henry J. Brownstein

Ladies, this one is kind of for guys only.  Boys, you may not know Henry, but you know his work.  You’d think with a name like “Brownstein” he’d stay as far away from bathroom notoriety as possible – but, oh no, not our Henry.  He perfected the modern day urinal cake!  Ladies, if you’re not familiar with this little doodad, it is a minty fresh smelling circle of solid disinfectant that sits in the bottom of men’s room urinals that A) helps to keep things sanitary and B) helps us pretend we are playing a fun little carnival game whenever we have to go wee wee.  Henry was not the man who invented the original – that genius is still shrouded in mystery – but he is the one who perfected today’s design.  I also have no idea who came up with the idea of adorning them with images of politicians, team logos, or even your own personal photographs, but they definitely get an honorable mention, too.  Got a urinal?  Interested?  Go to PeePeeFace.Com.

8.  Whitcomb L. Judson

First of all, let’s pause and give this guy kudos for having the best name on this list! Seriously epic name, dude!  Whitcomb L. Judson (because with a name like that, I feel obligated to use it in its entirety every time) has been all over everyone’s crotch because Whitcomb L. Judson is the inventor of the zipper.  Where would we be without Whitcomb L. Judson?  We would all be stuck wearing sweatpants and other elastic waistbanded trousers and knickers every day and, as a boy who did that a few times in middle school, I can tell you that leads to a few different awkward situations that I (and Whitcomb L. Judson) would prefer not to get into right now.  So thank you Whitcomb L. Judson for helping keep our clothes fastened securely.  Whitcomb L. Judson.

7. Julius Sämann

Julius saves us when we least know he’s there, but when his influence is ab-scent you wish you had his little invention with you. Whenever you bring chili dogs home for dinner or whenever one of your passengers had too many chili dogs before they got into your car, Mr. Sämann has your back…and your rearview mirror.  This magnificent mind of our time put a whole bunch of good smelling juju in an adorable little tree shaped piece of hangable cardboard!  So, next time the Marlboro Man asks you for a ride or Fido gets a little carsick on the way to the vet – thank your lucky stars that Julius created a whole forest full of nice stinking evergreens to combine these noxious odors with more pleasant olfactory experiences.

6. Forest P. Gill

While Julius Sämann helps take care of odors in your car from passengers’ behinds, Forest P. Gill helps to beautify the behind of your car!  Forest P. Gill (whose name is way too close to Forest Gump for me not to giggle) is the inventor of the bumper sticker.  As I have said before, I am not a big fan of driving – but I do love me a good bumper sticker.  Classics like “Unless you’re a hemorrhoid, get off my ass” and “My other ride is your mom” probably aren’t what Mr. Gump…er…Gill had in mind but I’m sure even he would be surprised how many people out there want us to believe that they’ve run a marathon or vacationed in the Outer Banks (you know you can just buy those bumper stickers without doing those things, right?) but I believe there would be a special place in his heart for a bumper adorned with “Life is like a box of chocolates…” (I usually like to finish that phrase with “it’s usually full of nuts”).

5. Peter Talbot

Anyone who is a fan of A Christmas Story or Home Improvement or pushing the limits of your home’s fusebox knows the greatness of Peter Talbot’s legacy.  The almighty power strip. When shortsighted contractors thought that you only needed to plug in eight electronic devices in your living room, Pete said, “No way, José!”  How Peter knew your contractor’s name was José, I have no idea, but I looked it up and he’s right – weird.  Mr. Talbot made it so each of your outlets can be turned into an INFINITE supply of power!  Plug a power strip into a power strip that’s already plugged into a power strip and there is no end for the amount of electronic goodness you can get flashing and humming…except an electrical fire…that does put a damper on things.

4.  Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, & Jawed Karim

We would never have been blessed with the majesty of the cat video, or the inspirational wisdom of the double rainbow guy, or the dulcet tones of the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Dat” autotune remix if it weren’t for Chad, Steve, and Jawed.  They sat down one day and said something brilliant (I have no idea how this came to pass, I’m sure it’s a safe bet one of them said something really smart at some point) and YouTube was born.  Sure, they’re to blame for “Fred,” Justin Bieber, and that weird guy under his sheets crying about Britney Spears – but they also introduced us to a man in a leather kilt with flame-throwing bagpipes and a large Pacific Islander being used as a one-man drum corp, so they’re all good in my book.

3.  No Clue

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I researched for longer than I’d like to admit and could find nothing about the origin of the French Fried Onions, but, come on, whoever is responsible for this is a national hero! Although, if they were to be a national hero, we would have to change the name to Freedom Fried Onions, wouldn’t we?

2.  Miles Gilbert “Tim” Horton

Okay, so the guy doesn’t make the top ten list for role models given the whole drunk driving, high-speed crash way he left this planet, but I cannot speak ill of the dead when they are responsible for one of the tastiest cups of coffee ever to grace God’s green earth! If you are not from Canada or the Northeastern United States, you may not be familiar with this NHL Hall of Famer turned coffee/doughnut connoisseur.  We who do live around these parts are pretty sure the coffee is laced with some sort of highly addictive narcotic that keeps us needing to visit one of the 4.7 billion franchises (I’ve counted) multiple times a day – but we won’t complain because it’s RIDICULOUSLY good.  We are also grateful that he had the nickname “Tim” so we wouldn’t have to ask people if they want to meet us at Miles Gilbert Hortons for a cup of coffee.

1.  Raffaele Esposito

Though, like Henry Brownstein, he is most likely not the inventor of the original – he is credited for making his version the most popular.  Back in 1889, Raffaele, a restaurant owner, wanted to impress Queen Margherita of Savoy who was visiting his hometown of Naples, Italy.  So he took his specialty flatbread and topped it with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil – and the pizza was born.  C’mon folks – what could top pizza?  Why don’t we scrap Columbus Day and give it to this guy?

***Got something you think should be on the list?  Let me know!!!***

“The digital camera is a great invention because it allows us to reminisce. Instantly.” ~ Demetri Martin

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