American Invention Makers Who Changed the World

Fourth of July 2021: Recognizing Some of the Greatest American Inventors

Fourth of July is coming up this weekend! As most of you know, Independence Day was a defining moment in our history. So we’re celebrating by recognizing some of the greatest American invention makers of all time.

One of the greatest American invention makers, Stuart Percy, invents the first microwave oven.

Microwave Oven

The microwave oven was an accident but a welcomed one. Call it a fluke or fate, the fortuitous discovery of the microwave oven was made by the self-taught engineer and one of the greatest American invention makers, Percy Spencer. It all started back in 1945 thanks to his work with magnetrons, a type of vacuum tube that’s used as the frequency source for radars.

One day, he noticed that a peanut butter candy bar was starting to warm up and melt inside his pocket. He quickly came to the conclusion that this was due to the microwaves produced by the magnetrons. In 1946, the first commercial microwave oven, the Raytheon Radarange, was released to the public. This behemoth of an appliance originally retailed for $5,000 (which equates to almost $70,000 today), weighed 750 lbs and was a towering six feet tall.

Indeed, his discovery became the foundation of a number of other inventions. In fact, his research and findings on magnetron technologies are used in satellites, monitor weather conditions and rain structures, and police radar guns to detect a vehicle’s speed.

Wallace Carothers, inventor of the


In the early 20th century, scientists were learning much about polymeric materials; materials made of long, repeating chains of molecules. As a result, these materials have unique properties. For example, some polymers – like rubber – can bend and stretch, while others – like glass – are strong and stiff. 

Our understanding of how these chains of molecules form is largely thanks to the chemist and one most famous American invention makers in the world, Wallace Carothers. As the director of Du Pont Corporation’s research centre, one of his goals was to discover a synthetic fiber that could be used in industrial applications.

In 1934, he was able to create artificial fibers by combining three chemicals and creating a condensation reaction. Nonetheless, as almost all American invention makers feel about their own projects, he knew there was room for improvement. Condensation is the process of water vapour turning back into liquid water. He quickly realized the distilled water was returning to the chemical mixture preventing more polymers from forming. Once he found a way to remove the water, the results were remarkable. Fibers were long, strong, and incredibly elastic. And that’s how the invention of nylon was born.

Unfortunately, Carothers passed away in 1937 before he was able to fully enjoy the fruits of his labors. Today, we use nylon in many household goods. Whether it’s our toothbrush, fishing lines or clothing, we can find nylon in almost everything we use.

Thomas Edison's home phonograph.


You didn’t think we’d leave out Edison, one of the most celebrated American invention makers in the world, did you? While making improvements to the telegraph and the telephone, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1977. This device could record and reproduce sound through indentations on a surface. In his initial experiments, he used paper to record the indentations. However, he ended up changing this to a metal cylinder wrapped in tin foil.

You might not know this, but Edison didn’t build this phonograph himself. He made the sketch and requested his mechanic, John Kruesi, to build this groundbreaking device. Upon completion of this device, he attempted to record the famous nursery song Mary Had a Little Lamb. It became the first recording on the phonograph.

About: MAKO Design + Invent is the original firm providing world-class consumer product development services tailored to startups, small manufacturers, and inventors. Simply put, we are the leading one-stop-shop for developing your physical product from idea to store shelves, all in a high-quality, cost-effective, and timely manner. We operate as one powerhouse 30-person product design team spread across 4 offices to serve you (Austin, Miami, San Francisco, & Toronto). We have full-stack in-house industrial designmechanical engineeringelectrical engineeringpatent referralprototyping, and manufacturing services. To assist our startup and inventor clients, in addition to above, we help with business strategy, product strategy, marketing, and sales/distribution for all consumer product categories. Also, our founder Kevin Mako hosts The Product Startup Podcast, the industry's leading hardware podcast. Check it out for tips, interviews, and best practices for hardware startups, inventors, and product developers. Click HERE to learn more about MAKO Design + Invent!

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