In Memory: Remembering Hall of Fame Inventors One Final Time

On Tuesday, May 11, 2015, I attended the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame 43rd Annual Induction Ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery, which is also the former home of the United States Patent Office.  Mid way through the ceremony the celebration paused for the sad annual ritual of remembering Hall of Fame inductees who have passed away since last year’s ceremony.  We too would like to take a moment to recognize these giants of innovation. With this in mind, and in an attempt to recognize these groundbreaking innovators, below we highlight their inventions that lIed to their Hall of Fame Inductions.


baer_ralphRalph H. Baer – 2010 Inductee – Video Games – US Patent No. 3,728,480

In the 1960s, Ralph Baer worked for defense contractor Sanders Associates. Although his primary focus was to develop military systems, Mr. Baer was a pioneer in the field of interactive video games. Sanders thought that his gaming ideas could make money so he developed a number of games that became part of his \”Brown Box,\” a multi-game console, including ping-pong, handball, soccer, volleyball, target shooting, checkers, and golf.  He also invented what became known as the Magnavox Odyssey Home Video Game System. Sanders then licensed the technology to Magnavox, which introduced the Odyssey system to the market place in 1972.  Mr. Baer continued to work on interactive games during his years at Sanders, in addition to continuing his work on military electronics. A well-known game he developed was Simon, a single-chip, microprocessor controlled memory game introduced in 1978.  Born in Germany on March 8, 1922, Mr. Baer passed away on December 6, 2014. We paid tribute to Baer shortly after his passing with The Evolution of Video Game Consoles.


djerassi_carlDr. Carl Djerassi – 1978 Inductee – Oral Contraceptives – US Patent No. 2,744,122

Dr. Djerassi is recognized for his breakthroughs in chemistry and for his effective translation of theory into practice.  His research is in such diverse fields as chemistry of steroids; structure of alkaloids, antibiotics and terpenoids; synthesis of drugs; optical rotatory dispersion studies, organic mass spectrometry, and magnetic circular diehroism of organic compounds.  His achievements include establishing physical methods for determining organic molecular structure and the synthesis of many steroids. His work led to oral contraceptives, antihistamines, and anti-inflammatory agents.  Born in Vienna Austria on October 29, 1923, Dr. Djerassi passed away on January 30, 2015.


easton_rogerRoger Easton – 2010 Inductee – TIMATION Satellite Navigation System – US Patent No. 3,789,409

Mr. Easton developed TIMATION, an acronym of TIMe navigATION proposed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), for the Naval Air Systems Command. The current Global Positioning System (GPS) we use today is based on Mr. Easton’s Timation system of which the principles of operation are fundamentally identical. During his time at the Naval research Laboratory, Mr. Easton also worked on Project Vanguard, where designed a satellite that would be sent into orbit and on Minitrack, where he helped design a system that would track all earth-orbiting satellites.  Born in April 30, 1921 in Craftsbury, Vermont, Mr. Easton passed away on May 8, 2014.


kwolek_stephanieStephanie Kwolek – 1995 Inductee – Kevlar Fiber – US Patent No. 3,819,587

While working at E.I. du Pont in Buffalo NY, Stephanie Kwolek carried out experiments to make stronger and stiffer fibers, she discovered an amazing branch of polymer science liquid crystalline polymers. The most famous product of her discovery was Kevlar®, a polymer fiber five times stronger than the same weight of steel. Ms. Kwolek’s breakthrough research in para-aramid fibers has saved thousands of police officers. Her Kevlar fibers can be found in mooring ropes, fiber-optic cables, aircraft parts, canoes, motorcycle safety equipment, and lightweight bullet-resistant vests.  Born on July 31, 1923 in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, Ms. Kwolek passed away on June 18, 2014.


Joseph LechleiderJoseph Lechleider – 2013 Inductee – DSL – Digital Subscriber Line- US Patent No. 5,181,198

Joe Lechleider of Bellcore, was the first to present, through mathematical analysis, the basis for transmitting data, other than voice information over copper wire and was able to demonstrate the feasibility of sending broadband signals over copper as well.  As a result, Mr. Lechleider’s work turned the existing copper wire phone network into a high-speed broadband delivery instrument. The telephone industry wanted to compete with cable TV by having a technology that could transmit larger amounts of data to provide video-on-demand to residential. It was Mr. Lechleider who suggested that larger amounts and higher rates of data could be sent in one direction and smaller amounts in the other. This technology known as asymmetric DSL, or ADSL is the standard used in much of the world’s DSL connections to date. Born on February 22, 1923 in Brooklyn, NY, Mr. Lechleider passed away on April 18, 2014


manchester_kenDr. Ken Manchester – 2009 Inductee – Ion Implantation – US Patent No. 3,895.966

Ken Manchester was a pioneer in the development of ion implantation, a process in which silicon is bombarded with ionized atoms to change the electrical conductivity of certain areas. This method, called “doping,” can produce very precise electrical junctions. Junctions form transistors; many transistors packaged on a chip form an integrated circuit. In 1965, Manchester and his colleagues built one of the first transistors fabricated entirely with ion implantation. While that device was an experiment, within a few years Manchester and his coworker John Macdougall had constructed functioning integrated circuits using their laboratory-constructed ion implantation machine. Before long, they would be helping to design the first ion implantation apparatus for producing integrated circuits on a commercial scale. Born in Winona Minnesota on March 22, 1925, Dr. Manchester passed away on November 10, 2014.


Stookey_ind_bookDr. S. Donald Stookey – 2010 Inductee – Glass Ceramics – US Patent No. 2,920,971

In 1953, Dr. Donald Stookey discovered that when he overheated the glass it became harder, stronger, and higher in electrical resistivity. This new crystalline material, called glass ceramic opened a new field of high temperature chemistry in glass. His invention, glass ceramics, is a material that led to important advances in glass technology and bas the basis for the popular CorningWare line of consumer dishes. Among Stookey’s contributions at Corning Glass Works was Fotoform glass, which could be photochemically etched into precise and detailed structures. In addition to consumer products, glass ceramics have been used to make products such as nose cones for guided missiles and smooth-top cooking surfaces for stoves.  Born in Hay Springs Nebraska on May 23, 1915, Dr. Manchester passed away on November 10, 2014.


townes_charlesCharles Townes – 1976 Inductee – Maser; Laser – US Patent No. 2,879,439; 2,929,922

Charles Townes  joined the technical staff of Bell Telephone Laboratories Inc. and worked on radar bombing systems during World War II. In 1948 he joined the faculty of Columbia University and three years later had the idea that culminated in construction of the Maser, a device that amplifies electromagnetic waves, creating a means for the sensitive reception of communications and precise navigation. This invention ultimately provided the basic components that led to the invention (and patent)of the Laser. From 1959 to 1961 Mr. Townes served as vice president and director of research of the Institute for Defense Analysis in Washington, D.C. He was a professor of physics at MIT and later was appointed as Provost. Mr. Townes was awarded the 1964 Noel Prize for Physics for his advances in the field of quantum electronics. Born in Greenville, South Carolina on July 28, 1915, Mr. Townes passed away on January 27, 2015.


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Join the Discussion

4 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Frank demarfio]
    Frank demarfio
    May 21, 2015 07:21 pm

    Great minds good people helping our mixed up world I will say greatness to you all and thank you

  • [Avatar for Paul Cole]
    Paul Cole
    May 17, 2015 05:09 pm

    Many thanks for publicizing the biographical details of these distinguished inventors, now unfortunately no longer with us.

    If encouragement can be gathered from these otherwise sad events it is that all but one of these inventors reached the age of 90 and two of them nearly reached the age of 100.

  • [Avatar for cdw]
    May 17, 2015 09:02 am

    Dear Mr. Michael L. Weiner,


    Beware the barbarians at the gate, the breech has begun,


  • [Avatar for Michael L. Weiner]
    Michael L. Weiner
    May 17, 2015 06:33 am

    I, too, attended the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame Ceremonies several years in a row, with former inductees, now deceased, including Wilson Greatbatch and James Fergason.

    What should also be mourned is the effective death of the small independent inventors, as a class, and the rights they once held.

    When freedom to be small, and dream big, was destroyed by some hired guns, and marginal triers of fact, who saw inventor’s rights as second class citizen’s in America.

    When power and wealth is more important than innovation, we have crossed a once cherished line in the sand.

    One is supposed to lead to the other.

    American Innovation, RIP.

    Let us also mourn integrity both among those who serve before the PTO, and the Barbarians who broke down the Gates of Justice, where an invention was once as valuable as a mortgage, or a loading dock.