Consider all of the innovations that went into something as simple as your breakfast: the flakes of cereal in your bowl, the ceramic burr grinder that macerated your coffee beans, the toaster that browned your bread, and the margarine you smeared all over the toasty slices. Without the inventors behind them, you’d be drinking boiled whole beans and gnawing on a stalk of wheat.One organization that celebrates these feats of human progress is the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The group runs a museum in the Washington, DC, area and designs STEM-based education courses used by schools around the country.Every year since its founding in 1973, the NIHF welcomes a new group of brainy hotshots to join its ranks. This year's inductees were announced at CES in Las Vegas.
Taking the stage for Tuesday's announcement and panel discussion were Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO director Andrei Iancu, National Inventors Hall of Fame executive vice president Rini Paiva, and two inductees for the class of 2020: Mick Mountz and Raffaello D'Andrea, cofounders of the robotics company Kiva, which is now owned by Amazon and whose robots are used to sort ecommerce orders.
The other 2020 inductees include the three women who invented the sports bra (Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller, and Polly Smith), a dermatologist who revolutionized the way lasers are used to treat patients (R. Rox Anderson), the inventor of the automatic surgical tourniquet (Jim McEwen), and a chemist working on improving synthetic lubricants (Margaret Wu). You can see the full list of inductees on the NIHF's website.Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, hall of fame class of 2000, offered praise for the new inductees in an email to WIRED."Being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame—alongside innovation legends like Thomas Edison and my friend Steve Jobs—is one of the greatest honors of my career," Wozniak says. "I wish to welcome the exceptional innovators of the 2020 inductee class to the National Inventors Hall of Fame family.”
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The NIHF doesn't invite just anyone to join. The organization was cofounded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and it only celebrates individuals who have been awarded a patent for an invention that's improved society in some measurable way. Even if the world-changing product comes from a company like Dow, Ford, or Apple, it’s the person named on the patent who gets rightfully recognized.Some legacy hall-of-famers you may know: Steven Sasson, the Kodak engineer who invented the first digital camera; Helen Free, inventor of the glucose-testing strips used by diabetics; fountain-pen pioneer Lewis Edson Waterman; biotech researcher Mary-Dell Chilton, who developed the first transgenic plant; and Steven Van Slyke and Ching Wan Tang, who had the bright idea to put OLEDs into flat-screen displays.