New Jersey Inventors
Hall Of Fame

2000 Award Winners

Hall of Fame

Albert Ballman (1927- ),Robert Laudise (1930 - 1998), Bell Laboratories/Lucent Technologies of Murray Hill, NJ 
In the 1960’s when increasing quantities of quartz crystals were being used in electrical devices, Ballman and Laudise’s invention, "Synthetic Quartz Growth," provided a method for producing faster-growing, higher quality, electronic-grade, synthetic quartz crystals. The crystals produced by their process are used to perform electrical functions that previously could only be achieved with natural quartz.

Further, their work underlies the hydrothermal method for growing the quartz crystals used as frequency filters in telephony as well as timing devices in watches and in the clocks ofcomputers and other electronic devices. In addition, an entire generation of telecommunication switching and communications switching systems was based on Ballman and Laudise’s technology.

Previous to their invention, breakthroughs in speeding up growth of synthetic crystals had been made. But the crystals produced were often of poor quality, with imperfections that tended to interfere with their use in electronic systems. Ballman and Laudise found that by growing the quartz crystal in a hydrothermal solution containing lithium crystals, the imperfections could be considerably reduced, thereby greatly enhancing the crystal’s suitability for electronic systems. Their invention received a patent in 1967.

Holder of a BS degree in Chemistry from Rutgers University, Albert Ballman worked in the field of crystal growth at Bell Labs locations in Holmdel and Murray Hill, NJ, for 36 years prior to retiring in 19 86. During his years at Bell Labs, he received 32 patents and published over 100 papers dealing with crystal growth. Ballman is a member of the American Crystal Growth Association.

Holder of 13 patents, author of the classic book, "The Growth of Single Crystals," and publisher of over 200 articles on crystal growth, Robert Laudise was Adjunct Chemical Director at Bell Labs, responsible for all chemical projects prior to his death in 1998. He was also an Adjunct Professor of Material Science at MIT and Adjunct Professor of Ceramics at Rutgers University. In addition, he received numerous awards and recognition for his work in crystal growth.

Laudise received a BS in Chemistry from Union College, Union, NJ, and a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of several technical organizations. In 1989, the International Organization for Crystal Growth designated their prize for experimental crystal growth the Laudise Prize.

Lee de Forest (1873-1961)
Of Lee de Forest’s over 300 American and foreign patents in radio, telegraphy and motion pictures, easily the best known is the "Triode Audion Tube," which for the first time allowed the transmission and amplification of voice and other sound via electromagnetic or radio waves. With the audion, modern radio was born.

In the early 1900’s, the great requirement for further development of radio was an efficient and delicate detector of electromagnetic radiation. It was John A. Fleming’s invention of the so-called electronic valve that provided the clue de Forest needed. The most serious difficulty of the Fleming valve was that it was relatively insensitive to changes in the intensity of electromagnetic radiation. Moreover, the Fleming valve could act only as a rectifier and not an amplifier.

The simple but revolutionary, innovation that Lee de Forest incorporated in his audion tube was a third electrode inserted between the cathode and the anode, making the tube much more sensitive to electromagnetic radiation. Also important, it acted as an amplifier. Using his audion tube, De Forest was able to broadcast experimentally both speech and music.

The promise of the audion enabled de Forest to raise capital to form a company and begin the process of transmitting and receiving voice. He toured Europe the summer of 1908 demonstrating and installing radiotelephones and obtaining contracts. Then on January 20, 1910, in New York City, he demonstrated his new technology by broadcasting live opera featuring Enrico Caruso. The age of radio had begun.

De Forest’s invention also made possible long-distance telephone. He discovered that if one triode was connected to the input of another and a chain was formed, the triodes could be used to amplify and repeat weak voice frequency signals. This made intercontinental telephony possible. Realizing the implications of de Forest’s discovery, American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) acquired the rights to the Audion.

De Forest next turned his attention to the development of talking pictures. By the early 1920’s, he succeeded in devising an electrical-optical method of recording sound waves on film so that they could be rebroadcast in synchronization with pictures. On April 12, 1923, de Forest presented the first commercial talking picture at the Rivoli Theater in New York City. Although at first most major film studios ignored the invention, by 1926, Warner Brothers, Fox and other film companies began to use it and the era of sound motion pictures was launched.

Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Lee de Forest early on displayed an inventive nature, making an improved typebar movement for his typewriter, an improved compass joint, and other inventions; A graduate of Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School, de Forest specialized in theoretical mathematics, physics and electricity. De Forest died in 1961 in the town his "talking motion pictures" invention helped to turn into the film capital of the world, Hollywood, CA.

Martin Goetz (1930-    )
Martin A. Goetz is internationally recognized as the holder of the first software patent in 1968 and as the "Father of the Software Industry" for his development and marketing of the first commercial software product, Autoflow, which was patented in 1970. These patents established the concept of proprietary software, a concept that has permitted the growth of the multi-million dollar software industry, among the fastest growing segments of the U.S. economy. Prior to 1970, all computer software was considered a service, bundled with computer hardware and given away free.

Autoflow allowed companies for the first time to produce flow charts directly from computer source code. Before Autoflow, flow charts were produced manually, required a great deal of time and effort, and were often inaccurate and rarely kept up-to-date. It also made programmers more productive since it could be used as a tool in documenting and debugging computer applications. 

Autoflow was a spur to the growth of the computer software industry in another way. It was licensed around the world, proving that software could be priced separately from hardware. Goetz played a leading role in the unbundling of software by the leading computer manufacturer of the day, IBM, which helped pave the way for firms like Microsoft.

Autoflow was the first software product of Applied Data Research (ADR), Princeton, NJ, the pioneering software firm co-founded by Goetz in 1959 that became a $200-million company traded on the New York Stock Exchange prior to its acquisition by Ameritech. During his 28 years with ADR, Goetz served as Senior Vice president, President of ADR’s Software Products Division and in 1984 became President.

A native of New York City, Goetz earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Business Administration at The City College of New York. Goetz began his career as a programmer for Sperry Rand in 1954 and joined IBM in 1958 prior to co-founding ADR.

After leaving ADR, Goetz became an independent consultant as well as business "angel." He currently is an active investor in software and Internet companies and is an advisor to many of the companies that he invests in.

Simon Lake (1866-1945), Pleasantville
Simon Lake, distinguished marine engineer, played a major role in the development of the modern submarine. He is credited with the development of the basic submarine technologies essential for safe and successful operation of such boats. These include the even-keel hydroplanes, ballast tanks, divers’ compartments, periscope, twin-hull design, and much more. His advancements were adopted worldwide by the early 1900’s. Lake’s 1893 submarine design offers such novel features as a pressurized air compartment through which the crew could, by donning diving suits, readily leave and enter the vessel while submerged.

Born in Pleasantville, NJ, Lake was the son of Christopher J. Lake, owner of a foundry and machine shop, whose father was the Honorable Simon Lake, a founder of Atlantic City and Ocean City, NJ. Simon Lake and his brothers built the first highway and bridge to Atlantic City and were instrumental in having the first railroads established in both cities. An earlier ancestor, John Lake, founded Gravesend, now South Brooklyn, NY. And on his mother’s side, Lake is descended from Jeremy Adams, a founder of Hartford, CN.

Educated in the High School of Toms River, NJ; Clinton Liberal Institute, Fort Plain, NY, and in the Mechanical Course at Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA, Lake entered his father’s foundry and machine shop and later became his partner. Prior to work on submarines, Simon Lake invented a steering gear, drudge and other vessel appliances used by fishing and oyster vessels in the Chesapeake and Delaware bays.

Inspired by Jules Verne’s, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Lake designed and submitted plans to the Navy in 1892, and by 1894, had built his first experimental submarine, "The Argonaut, Jr." It was successfully demonstrated at Atlantic Highlands near Sandy Hook, NJ. The success led to the formation of the Lake Submarine Company of New Jersey in 1895, which built the Argonaut, the first submarine to operate successfully in the open sea in 1898. Jules Verne sent a congratulatory note to Lake. Eventually, the inventor formed the New Jersey-based Lake Torpedo Boat Company, which built numerous submarines for the United States and foreign countries. Simon Lake served as president and general manager until 1916, and then became vice-president and consulting engineer.

Lake was also president of The Housatonic Shipbuilding Company, which built vessels for the United States Shipping Board; president of the Merchant Submarine Company, and The Lake Heat Engine Company, which built two very successful experimental diesel internal combustion engines. He was also treasurer of The Argonaut Salvage Corporation, organized to build and equip submarine vessels to use Mr. Lake’s inventions for location and recovery of sunken vessels and cargoes.

Arthur Nobile (1920-    ),Newark
In 1974, the Franklin Pierce Law Center concluded that Arthur Nobile’s patent for invention, medical use and production of the steroids prednisone and prednisolone, two highly effective antiarthritis drugs still used extensively today, was one of the most significant advances of the preceding 25 years. These drugs have saved many lives, alleviated much suffering and become essential for treating autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, a skin TB, and as a component of multi-drug cancer regimes. The discovery of the two drugs also heralded a new area of chemical synthesis, creating a multi-billion dollar industry based on the use of microbes to manufacture drugs.

All this was made possible by Nobile, a researcher working mostly alone. Born in Newark in 1920, Nobile studied at the University of California (USC)-San Diego, Washington State University, USC-Davis and USC-Berkeley ultimately graduating from USC with an AB degree in Bacteriology in 1950. That same year he went to work for Schering Corporation (now Schering-Plough) in Bloomfield, NJ. 

At the time, the steroid cortisone was the primary treatment for rheumatoid arthritis but had unpleasant side effects including water retention, high blood pressure and muscle weakness. While microorganisms like bacteria could transform steroids into new and possibly more active compounds, chemists were generally skeptical of microbial transformations and didn’t expect laboratory processes based on bacteria to ever reach full industrial production. It was late 1950 or early 1951 when Nobile succeeded in using bacteria to oxidize cortisone to prednisone and hydrocortisone to prednisolone. He found that his crude extracts were more than four times more effective than natural cortisones against arthritis in mice. 

Nobile had to struggle for recognition of his achievement, but eventually won the backing of Schering and the company moved from laboratory production to full-scale operation. By May, 1964, Nobile had earned a patent for invention, medical use and production of the two drugs, and Schering introduced prednisone and prednisolone, marketed under the trade names, Meticorten and Meticortelone, respectively.

Nobile had fought and defeated the conventional wisdom of the day by proving that natural compounds can be improved upon through molecular biology. Even today, all important modifications of the cortisone molecule for medical purposes use the same method discovered by Nobile. His work also had fundamental implications for microbial transformation chemistry and led to the development of many life-saving drugs. Modifications of the prednisolone molecule, for example, have resulted in compounds to treat asthma and psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, cerebral oedema caused by cancer, and skin disorders.

Alan White (1923-    ), Bell Laboratories/Lucent Technologies of Murray Hill, NJ
Alan D. White helped develop and patented the Helium-Neon (HeNe) Gas Laser, the first visible light laser. It is the ubiquitous red laser used in supermarket scanners, in transits at construction sites, in interferometers for measuring distances, in auto body repair shops to straighten frames, in security systems, holography and gyros that guide satellites, rockets, missiles and planes. 

The HeNe laser is also widely employed in laboratory and industrial settings, where for example, it is used to align other lasers and instruments, for testing optical quality, for demonstrating diffraction, counting and measuring the size of particles such as cells (cytometry), and for many other scientific purposes.

White’s HeNe laser came at a time when the first lasers had just been invented in the late 1950’s. A laser, actually an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation," occurs when constituent atoms of a gas are excited and kept in that state for a period of time. The excited gas emits radiation in the invisible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. In 1962, White, working with his colleague, J. Dane Rigden at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ, was able to get a mixture of helium and neon to radiate in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum by building a laser cavity that was optimum for creating a red laser. With a few other adjustments, they were able to make the light more monochromatic or "more red."

In addition to the Helium-Neon Gas Laser, White has 17 other patents. The HeNe laser resulted in several patents regarding the frequency and mode stabilization of lasers. Among other inventions, White also designed and developed both lenses and light sources for deep Ultraviolet Light Lithography, a technology used today to make semiconductor integrated circuits used to power computers and other digital equipment. He also participated in development of hollow cathode gas diodes for telephone switching applications, work that culminated in the successful field trial of gas discharge switches in the first Electronic Switching System (ESSä ) at Morris, Il, in 1960.

Born in Rahway, NJ, White served overseas in the U.S. Army during World War II. Under the GI Bill, he received a BS degree from Rutgers University and an MS degree from Syracuse University, both in Physics. Initially employed at the Federal Telecommunications Laboratories in Nutley, NJ, White joined Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1953 and retired in 1983. Upon retirement, White formed A.D. White Associates to do consulting in lasers and optics.

White is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and in 1984, along with Rigden, received the IEEE’s David Sarnoff Award. ESS is a trademark of Lucent Technologies.

Inventors of the Year

Bishnu Atal, Murray Hill (1933-     ), AT&T, Florham Park
Bishnu S. Atal, one of AT&T’s premier scientists and Technology Director at AT&T’s Shannon Labs, Florham Park, is a leader in the creation of digital cellular technology, a foundation of the mobile communications industry. Atal’s research work is documented in over 90 technical papers and he holds more than 16 U.S. and numerous international patents in speech processing.

His patented invention, a "Speech Coding Method for Reducing the Bit Rate Needed for Transmission of High-Quality Speech on Digital Networks," enabled digital speech coding, a key building block of digital communication. It not only allowed digital speech that is of much higher quality, it dramatically expanded the benefits of cellular phone technology to millions of users. 

Simply described, Atal’s invention reduced the bandwidth required to send high-quality speech signals on narrow-band channels. By reducing the size of the bandwidth, Atal’s invention effectively expanded by many times the carrying capacity of the limited area of the electromagnetic spectrum used by the growing number of cellular users. Without his invention, many millions of users would be denied the benefits of using cellular technologies because the bandwidth would not have the capacity to handle them.

The impact of Atal’s invention in permitting widespread use of quality digital systems has been obvious for U.S. residents over the last two years as the systems have become widely used. But the impact of digital cellular technology on emerging nations has been far greater. Since they lack the wired fiber optic infrastructure of the U.S. and other developed nations, mobile digital cellular communications, which is essentially wireless, has been the answer to quickly joining the Information Age.. Digital cellular systems are rapidly becoming the information highway in countries like China and Brazil.

Atal was ahead of his time when he developed his ideas in the early 1980’s, since semiconductor technologies of sufficient processing power simply were not available to implement his ideas. By the late 1980’s, the technology caught up and Atal’s patented technology began to be widely accepted as an elegant solution that was fundamental to digital cellular technology. Eventually, his ideas gained universal support and were adopted by a number of standards bodies. They had become essential to implement high-quality digital cellular systems.

Atal, who is engaged in research in speech coding and automatic speech recognition at AT&T Labs in Florham Park, joined the company in January, 1997. He had previously been Head of the Acoustics and Audio Communication, Research Department at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill. He was made a Bell Laboratories Fellow in 1994 and an AT&T Fellow in 1997.

Born in India, Atal received his BS degree in Physics from the University of Lucknow, India, in 1952 ; a Diploma in Electrical Communication Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India, in 1955, and a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York City in 1968. From 1957 to 1960, he was a lecturer in Acoustics at the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Atal is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Atal has won a number of professional awards, including the AT&T Strategic Patent Award, the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award of the R & D Council of New Jersey, and several IEEE awards for his pioneering work.

Gerard P. Canevari (1924 - ),Robert J. Fiocco (1938 - ), Richard R. Lessard (1943 - )
Exxon Research and Engineering
Gerald P. Canevari, Robert J. Fiocco and Richard R. Lessard developed an oil dispersant for heavier and/or more weathered oils than previously considered dispersible. The product, marketed by NAICO Exxon under the name, COREXIT 9500, earned two patents in 1997-98. The key to its effectiveness is the selection of solvents which can remain in the oil film and resist extraction by seawater long enough to be effective. In addition, the product has an almost immediate effect in dispersing light oils. This invention represented a major breakthrough since prior to its development, most dispersants were considered relatively ineffective against heavy or weathered oils. The invention received the Thomas Alva Edison patent award from the New Jersey Research and Development Council.

Canevari has 35 US patents in his over 30 years of intensive study and research at Exxon. He pioneered the first low-toxicity oil spill dispersant and developed the very efficient self-mix dispersants, permitting aerial application for handling oil spills dispersed over wide areas. Canevari also developed oil collection chemicals and oil spill emulsion breakers, in addition to a highly effective flocculent to clarify oily water. One of his inventions, a low-toxicity, highly effective shoreline cleaner was developed for use on the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Canevari holds a BA and a Masters in Science from Stevens Institute of Technology and has studied at the Center of Advanced Engineering Study, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been awarded a National Inventors Hall of Fame Medallion; the Annual Honor Scroll Award of the American Institute of Chemists, New Jersey Division, and is a member of the Tau Beta Pi honorary engineering society.

Fiocco is a Senior Engineering Associate at Exxon, where he has worked since 1963. He holds 17 U.S. Patents and has published more than 22 technical publications. Prior to joining Exxon, Fiocco was a graduate teaching assistant at Stevens Institute of Technology. He was also a Research Engineer at Johnson & Johnson Corporation. In 1991, Fiocco was awarded the Stevens Alumni Award of the Stevens Institute of Technology. He is a past member of Stevens’ Board of Trustees and Past President of the Stevens Alumni Association. He is also a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Lessard, team leader for the development of COREXIT 9500, is head of the Marine Terminal Engineering and Oil Spill Technology Section at Exxon Research and Engineering, Florham Park, and also coordinates Exxon’s worldwide oil spill response technology programs. As a recognized expert, he has presented seminars to government agencies in over 20 countries around the world. In addition to dispersants, Lessard also oversees research studies on shoreline cleaning, oil solidifiers, and the cleaning of sensitive habitats. He has coordinated many laboratory studies, conducts oil spill response training courses for the oil industry, and is a dispersant advisor on all of Exxon’s regional oil spill response teams.

Lessard has held many public service positions: He chaired the Marine Preservation Association’s Research and Development Staff which designed and guided the US Marine Spill Response Corporation Research and Development program; he is an executive committee member of ASTM F-20, which is responsible for developing Oil Spill Response Standards, and has served as chairman of the American Petroleum Institute’s Marine Research Work Group. Most recently, Lessard was named chairman of the 2001 International Oil Spill Conference – the world’s pre-eminent prevention and response conference.

A native of Massachusetts, Lessard has a Masters and PhD degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Maine. He also holds a BS degree from Lowell Technological Institute, now the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Alfonso DiMino, (1920-    ), ADM Tronics, Inc., Northvale
Alfonso Di Mino is a diversified inventor and entrepreneur with 50 patents in non-invasive medical devices, dermatological formulations, microchip manufacturing and printing and copying technology. After earning a doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Palermo, Italy, he emigrated to the United States in 1950, where he worked as a handyman for a carbon paper manufacturer in Brooklyn at $1.10 an hour. Di Mino presented an idea to the company president for a more efficient machine to make carbon paper; and within a year, he was appointed research director for the company earning $30,000 annually (the average salary in the 1950’s was $2,992).

His firm, ADM Tronics, Northvale, NJ, was launched in 1969 as a producer of specialized water-based chemical compounds, adhesives and packaging, and those products remain its core business. One of ADM’s earliest products was a water-based adhesive that replaced the dangerous chemical compounds used to bond layers of plastic film for food packaging. Another product was a water-based surgical adhesive initially popular for prosthetic devices that now has a larger application among theatrical makeup artists. 

Non-invasive medical devices are the latest products of ADM Tronics. The Aurex – 3 is an electronic therapy system for treating tinnitus disorders. Tinnitus is a debilitating hearing condition characterized by a constant ringing, buzzing or other noise in the ear. The Aurex – 3 consists of a small, self-contained control unit and hand-held applicator in a carrying case. The applicator has a probe that uses audio and vibratory frequencies to treat the cochlea of the ear. Once the probe is placed against a bone behind the ear, the patient simply "self-tunes" the control unit to match the frequency of the tinnitus, thereby canceling the frequency of the noise and relieving the condition.

An electromagnetic frequency device, marketed under the name Sonotron, combines pulsed radio and sound waves to provide relief in certain arthritic and repetitive stress conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Di Mino originally developed the technology in the late 1970’s for an industrial application involving specialized electronic circuits. He found that the device produced heat from the discharge. As an arthritis sufferer himself, Di Mino tried it and found that it greatly reduced pain. Another invention was added to a long list of Di Mino inventions.

Barin Haskell, (1941-    ), AT&T, Florham Park
Publisher of over 60 papers on digital-image processing, author of some of the best known books on digital-image processing and holder of over 50 patents that are granted or pending, Barin G. Haskell’s inventions in technologies that support video-data compression are at the foundation of modern digital-image processing. His inventions have helped bring to reality an array of advanced video and image services to customers and businesses worldwide. These services include high quality FAX, video teleconferencing, video-on-demand, and video over the Internet, notably, the use of high quality graphics and movies over satellites, cable and the Internet. Other applications of the technology include distance education, consumer products such as DVD, the evolving digital high-definition television system and general computer-based multimedia applications.

While Haskell has created a prolific and influential body of inventions over the last 30 years, his most significant contributions include "Predictive Video Using Measured Subject Velocity," patented in 1972, and "Variable Frame Rate Recording System Using Speed Measurement," patented in 1973. These two inventions are at the core of all modern video compression standards: ITU H.261 and H.263, as well as MPEG-1 and MPEG-2. 

Another key Haskell invention developed in the early 1970’s, "Buffer and Channel Sharing by Several Interframe Picturephone Coders," forms the basis of the technology known today as statistical multiplexing. Used for both satellite and cable television, statistical multiplexing allows, for example, a few satellite transponders to carry hundreds of TV channels, thus enormously reducing the cost of transmitting a multitude of TV channels. An improved technique for implementing statistical multiplexing also developed by Haskell, "Buffer Control for Variable Bit-Rate Channel," was patented in 1992.

Haskell also invented "Conditional Motion Compensated Interpolation of Digital Motion Video," a coding system for interpolated pictures patented in 1990 that is a breakthrough technique used in the MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 standards.

Haskell was co-winner of Japan’s prestigious Computers and Communications prize for his research in video data compression. In 1998 he was named Outstanding Alumnus of the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of California, Berkeley. Haskell is also a Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as well as being Phi Beta Kappa and a member of Sigma Xi, two major honorary engineering societies. As an expert in the field of image and video coding both locally in New Jersey and nationally, Haskell has been very actively involved in the establishment of international video communications standards

A native of Lewiston, MA, Haskell holds a BS, MS, and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, and an Associate degree in Arts, Engineering, from Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA.

Special Award

Stephan Schaffan Jr.,  (1918-1993), Atlas Model Railroad Co. Inc., Hillside
Model railroading took a turn for the better with the invention of the first practical rail joiner by Stephan Schaffan, Jr. The vision of the late Schaffan launched a model railroad manufacturer in 1949, from a tool-and-die company operating out of a Newark garage, to the Atlas Model Railroad Co. Inc., recognized as one of the pioneer businesses in the model railroad field for over a half century.

Schaffan built model airplanes as a hobby and frequented a local hobby shop. Being an enterprising young man, he would often ask the owner if there was anything he could do to earn some extra spending money. One day the store owner threw some model railroad track parts his way (back then everything was built from scratch) and said, "Here, see if you can improve this." 

Steve subsequently created the first "switch kit" which sold so well that the entire family worked on them in the basement at night, while doing business as usual in the machine shop during the day.

This first venture led Schaffan to improve on the connections required to hold two sections of track together. At that time modelers had to solder track rails together, a long and tedious process required when building a model railroad layout. Schaffan's invention of the first practical rail joiner was certainly a blessing to the model railroading community. The detachable connector in conjunction with the switch kits they were producing led Schaffan and his father to open their first factory at 413 Florence Avenue in Hillside, New Jersey.

Today, Atlas sells approximately 5 million pieces of HO and N-scale model track each year. The company also sells model trains, buildings, electrical components and miniature people and animals to populate railroad layouts. In 1998 Atlas launched a sister company to manufacture and sell tracks O-gauge track, freight cars and building kits.

During his lifetime as an innovator in the model railroad hobby, Schaffan is credited with other inventions including the patented Super-Flex Track, Snap-Switches and Custom-Line turnouts. With a global customer base estimated at 600,000 model railroaders throughout the world, Atlas continues to grow. The company's manufacturing site in Hillside has more than 100 die and molding machines running daily to produce all of Atlas' tracks, structures and electrical components.

Schaffan, who died in 1983, was honored posthumously for his inventions by the Model Railroad Industry Association and was inducted into the Model Railroad Industry Hall of Fame in 1985. His daughter Diane Schafan-Haedrich, is president of the company and her husband, Thomas Haedrich is chief operating officer.