New Jersey Inventors
New Jersey inventors are from one of the smallest, yet most inventive states, ranking 4th in total U.S. patents issued. Since 1979, New Jersey inventors have been awarded over 80,000 patents. Many of the things we see and use every day come from New Jersey inventors past and present, male and female.
New Jersey inventors represent a microcosm of the national invention scene. New Jersey is home to many of corporate America’s finest research laboratories. In fact, it is the place where Thomas Edison created the first research laboratory in Menlo Park, followed later by his legendary West Orange Labs, where corporate R&D and manufacturing were joined-at-the-hip under one roof. Arguably, his laboratories may have been his most significant invention. Through them, Edison showed us how to organize our thinking and creativity so that we could profit from our innovative ideas. By codifying the process of invention, the great inventor literally gave us the keys to perpetuating the industrial revolution of that time, yielding copious benefits down to us today, with seemingly no end in sight. There is a fundamental link between the state’s robust economy and its inventive spirit and output.
Thomas Edisonwas the most prolific and broad-based inventor of all time. My boyhood hero became my inspiration for becoming an inventor. I still marvel at his 1093 patents, spread across a wide variety of inventive categories. Edison created products and whole industries that persist to today.
As the man responsible for the invention of the motion picture, recorded sound, power generation and the light bulb, and the creation of the first extensive R&D facility, he has arguably created more value than any other single human in history. It has been said that Edison is responsible for anywhere from 3% to 5% of the world’s GNP, over $500 billion for the U.S. alone. Two scientific discoveries in his laboratories later led directly to radio (“the Etheric Force”) and modern electronics (“Edison Effect”), paving the way for today’s telecommunications boom. His work also extended to other areas like fluoroscopy, mining, improved cement kilns, chemical production, all-cement structures, advanced telegraphy, improved telephony, stock tickers….and many other devices including early office automation products like duplicating machines and dictation recorders.
New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame (NJIHOF)
The New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame (NJIHoF) recognizes and celebrates great New Jersey inventors and the spirit of invention--from the complex to the simple. Let’s take a quick stroll down “Inventors Lane” to get an appreciation for the countless innovative wonders that have come from the minds of the state’s celebrated inventors.
Every time you walk into a store to buy something, you are probably looking at products or services invented, created or produced by New Jersey inventors. When you pick up that soap to get those nasty oily stains out of your synthetic clothes, you can thank Sue Wilson, a retired Colgate-Palmolive project manager. Her research and hard work resulted in such products as Dynamo, Punch and other popular detergents. As you stand in a checkout line, think about N. Joseph Woodland and his work with bar codes and bar code readers. When the clerk scans the products you have selected, know that C. Harry Knowles made that process quick and efficient with laser bar code scanners and readers. You know those tags on clothing that set off door alarms preventing folks from walking out of the store without paying? Philip Anderson of Ramapo College invented those little plastic watchdogs.
Doctors recommend that before bandaging that cut on your finger, you dab on antibiotic cream to guard against infection. For that protection, you can thank Selman Waksman and Hubert Lechevalier of Rutgers University. Gilbert Buchalter invented a reliable gel that connects electrodes to the body for electrocardiographs, and cardiac defibrillators. High blood pressure is a serious disorder that can be treated with relatively inexpensive drugs invented by George de Stevens. Arthur Nobile gave aging baby boomers anti-arthritis drugs. Sidney Pestka is recognized for his early work with the anti-cancer drug, Interferon. Dominic Witkor may be responsible for one of your relatives, or perhaps even you, being alive. He invented the Witkor-Stent used to reconstruct damaged coronary arteries.
Log onto the Internet using high speed DSL, and you can thank Irwin Gerszeberg, called “Mr. DSL” by his AT&T friends. He has 65 patents and more on the way. Pick up your cell phone and make a clear, interference free call and thank Eric Addeo for his work at Bell Communications Research. Those high capacity lithium batteries that allow you to talk on your cell phone for hours---give a nod to Antoni Gozdz, Jean-Marie Tarascon, and Paul Warren of Telecordia for their pioneering work. When speaking on today’s phone, Jim West and Gerhard Sessler of AT&T Bell Labs and their foil-electret transducer make it possible for you to clearly hear and transmit your voice.
Let’s talk radio and TV. Lee de Forest kicked off the electronic revolution with his invention of the triode audion tube that makes practical amplification possible, and set us on a path to transistors. This all stemmed directly, believe it or not, from Tom Edison’s work with light bulbs. Edwin Armstrong followed de Forest by inventing FM radio and the popular super heterodyne circuitry for early radio receivers. Jack Avins advanced Armstrong’s work with his FM detector and improved radio receivers. Vladimer Zworykin built one of the first TV Kinescopes, a forerunner to the cathode ray tube, which was later improved upon by Albert Rose and Harold Law.
Harold B. DuMont, a pioneering TV manufacturer, was also very active in cathode ray tubes, magic eye tuners, and a host of TV improvements. In 1947, the Bell Labs team of John Bardeen, Walter Brittain and William Shockley invented the transistor, which ushered in a tremendous miniaturization of circuitry, leading to today’s computers and integrated circuits. Much of today’s integrated circuit designs lead back to Andrew Dingwall and his 100+ patents in CMOS integrated circuit technology. Cable television? We can thank Isaac Blonder and Ben Tongue for developing much of the electronics and systems for this telecommunication medium.
Music and sound recording are closely allied with radio and TV. When we talk about the sound of modern music, we must recognize Les Paul, the man responsible for our modern musical sound. A pioneer in the design of the electric guitar and early tape recorders, Les also gave us multiple sound tracks and sound mixers that allow for the making of custom music recordings. Jim Flanagan of Bell Labs gave us the basis for acoustic signal processing and modern speech synthesis. Jim made it possible for throat cancer victims with larynx damage to once again speak by using a handheld synthesizer pressed against their throats.
In the areas of hygiene and public health, the state is also home to significant advances. Charles F. Wallace gave us chlorination of water, so essential to public health. Abdul Gaffar, with his many patents was instrumental in bringing a variety of oral health care products to us, the most significant of which was the first antibacterial toothpaste, Colgate’s “Total”. Anthony Winston, another man with many patents in health and oral care products, has given us anti-tartar toothpastes, baking soda enriched toothpastes, fungicides to protect crops, deodorizers, and environmentally safe cleaners and laundry detergents.
All of these inventions and innovations and many more stemmed from the hearts and minds of a long list of New Jersey inventors. It is no wonder that New Jersey is well known as the Invention State!
This 2002 article is authored by Harry Roman, a retired PSEG engineer and New Jersey inventor. President Emeritus of the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame (NJIHoF), Roman was honored by the NJIHoF as Inventor of the Year 2005. Roman currently lectures, consults, and writes educational resource books for teachers on invention, technology, and creativity.
See our powerpoint slide show of the history of invention and New Jersey inventors.