Culture 16 min read

Happy 4th of July From our Top 20 American Innovators

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This happy 4th of July we wanted to do something special, so we put together a list of our 20 favorite U.S. innovators.

Every year, people in the United States like to celebrate the birth of their nation with barbecue parties, dazzling fireworks shows, and by putting the U.S. flag wherever possible.

Well, in light of the holiday, we here at Edgy Labs wanted to celebrate a happy 4th of July by showcasing all of the wonderful inventions and innovations that the United States has fostered over the years.

Over the past week, our editorial staff has tirelessly questioned the staff to come up with what we think are the top 20 names in the history of U.S. science.

So without any further ado,

Happy 4th of July From These Top 20 American Innovators:

1. Benjamin Franklin

Some of my earliest memories from school were about Benjamin Franklin, and for good reason.

In addition to being one of America’s founding fathers, Franklin was a reknowned inventor and polymath. His insatiable appetite for knowledge drove him to invent things like bifocals and the Franklin stove. Of course, his most famous studies involved the understanding of electricity.

While he isn’t solely responsible for early studies into electricity, his famous ‘kite experiment‘ is one of the most repeated stories in science classes everywhere. His experiments led him to save lives with the invention of the lightning rod, and it even got him an invite to the Royal Society.

2. Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse is famous for his co-invention of Morse code, a system of communication using beats and pauses. That sounds simple, but when you combine it with the telegraph, you have an early long-range communication method.

Little known fact about Morse: He was an artist by training, and a pretty good one too. After long distance kept him from learning of his wife’s illness and death before she was even buried, Morse was a man on a mission. With a little help, he developed Morse code, and it would go on to be the default for long-range communications and intelligence efforts for years to come.

That’s right, intelligence. You might think of Morse as the great-great grandfather of U.S. encryption and decryption efforts, something which has been a lynchpin for military efforts across each branch.

Which brings us to our next genius, someone who created an icon of what is known as the ‘wild west’ era of American history.

3. Samuel Colt

Guns can be a touchy subject with some crowds, but there is no denying that the introduction of the modern firearm has changed the world. Remember folks, technology is a tool; it isn’t inherently good or bad.

And how did we get to the modern firearm? Years of research and innovation on proven designs, much of which went on right here in the U.S.

Samuel Colt’s revolver came at a time when the U.S. was catching up to a rapid expansion of land, and its heavy use during that era is why many call it ‘the gun that won the wild west’.

For good or ill, the design spread across the country and found its way into the hands of lawmakers and criminals everywhere.

The ubiquitous nature of the Colt revolver cemented Samuel Colt’s memory in the American Old West mythos, and his sound design principles led to the creation of even more effective firearms.

Colt may have shot his way into the history books, but our next innovative American phoned his contribution in. Let’s take a look at Alexander Graham Bell.

4. Alexander Graham Bell

Our esteemed Mr. Bell is famous for patenting the first operational telephone.

Would we have the smartphones of today without Bell? Possibly, but Bell won the patent race, something which is pretty impactful in the world of American inventions.

See, Bell wasn’t the only one with the idea for the telephone. He had to fight to win the patent, but with grit and determination he won, and his legacy has been etched in stone ever since. And for good reason; the invention of the telephone is one of the most world-changing inventions of the 19th century. For Bell, it meant riches and a company that has lasted far beyond his death. For the world, it meant a brand new way to communicate over long distances. All in one invention. For our next inventor, let’s take a look at one of Bell’s contemporaries, Thomas Edison.

5. Thomas Edison

It would be impossible to write about the history of U.S. scientists and not mention Thomas Edison.

His name is synonymous with the invention of the light bulb, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Edison and his team of researchers filed over 1000 patents, and in a way, they foreshadowed Industry 4.0. See, Edison knew that inventions could be big business, so he gathered a team of top scientists.

There is a lot of history and controversy surrounding Edison and his team, some of it involving famed inventor Nikolai Tesla. Despite the controversy, few can say that Edison doesn’t deserve a seat of honor among American scientists.

If Edison lit the way for American science, our next inventors took it to the skies.

6. Happy 4th of July, The Wright Brothers!

History books are rife with the names of people who tried to fly and failed. Wilbur and Orville Wright, distinguished themselves, though, because they are credited as being the first to succeed.

The world is a much smaller place because of the Wright brothers’ invention of the airplane. If you like travel, then you owe them some thanks.

Amazingly enough, the brothers never even finished high school. Despite that, their constant tinkering and engineering studies led them to their legendary first flight at Kitty Hawk, and their name has been famous ever since.

Today airplanes are a staple of world travel, but let’s not count out what happens a little closer to the earth. When it comes to travel, cars are king, and in the history of U.S. automobiles few names are as recognizable as Henry T. Ford.

7. Henry T. Ford

Depending on where you live, cars are everywhere, but have you ever wondered why?

Henry T. Ford may be remembered for his Model T truck and the company he built, but let’s not forget his contributions to industrial production.

In Ford’s time, factory lines had made mass production possible, but the jobs they created were hard to keep. Factory work was monotonous, repetitive, and didn’t pay too well; Ford changed all of that, though.

Ford innovated industrial business practices by promising better pay in his production facilities than at any other factory. Workers flocked to Ford, and history was made along with thousands of Model Ts.

Without Ford, other automobile companies may not have had to massively step up their production, and the car wouldn’t be as much of an icon for American living. For that matter, many automobile production practices worldwide can be traced back to Ford and his factories.

Which brings me to the answer to the aforementioned question. Why are there cars everywhere? Ford, Ford is why cars are everywhere.

8. George Washington Carver

Many people remember George Washington Carver because he invented peanut butter.

And let’s make no bones about it, peanut butter is an awesome Happy 4th of July gift. That being said, if all Carver did was invent peanut butter, his name wouldn’t be forever burned into American history.

In a time where racial polarization was the norm, Carver used his knowledge of botany to improve the lives of many poor farmers. Where most people only see peanut butter, those farmers saw hundreds of ideas to improve their farms and their lives.

Many farmers survived harsh times by alternating from cotton crops to peanuts or sweet potatoes, and that’s all thanks to Carver.

Our next innovator has one of the most recognizable names in all of Science, and while he wasn’t born here, we’re sure glad he came over from Europe.

9. Albert Einstein

There isn’t enough room to talk about everything that Albert Einstein has contributed to the world’s understanding of physics.

But damn it, we’ll try.

The German-born scientist is famous for developing the Theory of Relativity, which redefined how we understand almost everything from the movement of atoms to the inner workings of gravity itself.

Einstein came to U.S. shores in 1933, which is the same year that Adolf Hitler rose to power in his native Germany. Einstein was a smart man, however, and with all the talk about how Hitler treated German Jewish people, he decided to stay.

Good news for the U.S., bad news for Hitler. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Einstein isn’t our only World War II-era genius, though. Our next pick is perhaps the most controversial of them all, but at the same time, nobody can argue that he didn’t change the world.

10. Robert Oppenheimer

I’m going to be honest, here. When I mentioned Robert Oppenheimer to my editor, I didn’t think he’d actually make it to the list.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s one of the most important names in the history of science. But the invention that he is most famous for is inarguably the most dreaded weapon in all of human history: the atomic bomb.

He was famously poetic and lamented his greatest accomplishment.

Oppenheimer was the head of the infamous Manhattan Project, where the first atomic bomb was developed. At the time, there was a mad race to finish the technology before the Axis powers had the chance. After the war, however, the development of nuclear weapons would set the course of history.

In that light, you could say that Oppenheimer led the project that changed how the world operates. Sure, nuclear weapons are the scariest thing in the history of scary things, but that’s just a part of technological innovation. Sometimes an invention has dire consequences, and Oppenheimer’s name stands as the best possible example of that fact.

11. Hedy Lamarr

Nuclear physics aren’t the only game-changing innovation to come out of the mid-20th century. Computing technology saw enormous advances too, including the roots of modern Wi-Fi  and Bluetooth tech.

And it’s all thanks to the work of Hedy Lamarr.

Along with being a noted movie star, Lamarr is remembered for her work developing spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology. Initially her work was used to defeat any Axis attempts at jamming Allied communications during WWII. Since that time, however, her work has developed into the things that enable the Internet of Things.

And that makes her a personal favorite of everyone here at Edgy Labs. After all, we have an entire category for IoT related articles, all thanks to Lamarr’s work.

12. Harry Hess

I think we can safely say that if science were a religion, Harry Hess would be the patron saint of Geology.

Hess is responsible for what may be the single greatest contribution to that field: the theory of plate tectonics.

Plate tectonics is the prevailing theory in geological studies to this day, making Hess’ contribution one that is still giving us insight into how land masses shift and move over time.

Hess rocked the world, so to speak, but our next American innovator gained her acclaim looking at the smaller things.

13. Shirley Ann Jackson

Shirley Ann Jackson is not only the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate degree from MIT, she’s also the first to become the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

With a resume like that, Jackson is a shining example of what you can accomplish with natural genius and hard work.

Her contributions to the field of theoretical physics have awarded her numerous awards and fellowships. In fact, she even received international recognition when she was appointed a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering back in 2012.

Jackson stands as a role model for American scientists, any of which would be lucky to earn half of what she has achieved in her storied career.

Happy 4th of July!

14. Leonard Kleinrock

If you’ve ever looked into the history of the internet, then you will no doubt see the name ARPANET in the first chapter.

But before you see that name, you should see Leonard Kleinrock. Without his contributions, ARPANET would simply not have been. Without ARPANET, there’s no internet, so in the long list of people to thank for the development of the web, Kleinrock’s name should be first.

Specifically, Kleinrock developed a method of breaking information down into small bits known as packet switching, something extensively used on ARPANET’s system.

The internet changed the world, but without our next American genius, it may never have gotten the chance. We may thank Kleinrock in part for the internet, but we thank Grace Murray Hopper for the computer programs that it runs on.

15. Grace Murray Hopper

If you are a programmer by trade, then you already know who Grace Murray Hopper is. For the rest of us, Hopper is credited with inventing the first compiler for any computer programming language.

For the uninitiated, a compiler is what converts information in the form of computer code into a working program. Without a compiler, you have no computer programs, so every time you look at any kind of modern computer, give a bit of thanks to “Amazing Grace,” as Hopper is sometimes referred.

Much like her colleagues on this list, Hopper led a life of achievement. If enabling the future of computer science wasn’t enough, Hopper attained the rank of rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, and she was also awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991.

Software developers everywhere owe a debt to Hopper’s contribution to computer science, which brings us to our next innovator: Julian Lombardi.

16. Julian Lombardi

Many advances in the world of science come from simulations these days.

Apparently, if you can recreate something in a virtual environment, you can learn a lot. All without having to meticulously recreate a bunch of physical conditions.

Which is where Julian Lombardi comes into the picture. Lombardi is one of the chief architects of scalable virtual world software, which isn’t something you would expect from someone with a PhD in Zoology.

Lombardi’s contributions are interesting because they show the impact that virtual reality environments can have in the broader world of science. As one of the chief architects of the Croquet Software Developer’s toolkit, Lombardi has given scientists in every field the ability to use collaborative virtual environments for learning.

And if knowledge really is power, then that means that Lombardi has enabled people to become much, much more powerful, all from the comfort of a computer screen.

That being said, nobody in the modern era has shown us the power of a computer screen more than Steve Jobs.

17. Steve Jobs

Did you really think that we were going to leave out Steve Jobs, the patriarch of the tech giant that is Apple?

Well, we would never!

Like Edison, Jobs led his team of researchers and engineers to invent and innovate to bring us the historic line of Apple computers, up to an including the mobile devices that we all know and love. Well, most of us love them; some hate them, but that’s what happens when your brand has worldwide recognition and popularity.

You love your smartphone, right?

Well, without Jobs you might as well still be using a Blackberry. Jobs is credited with the genius idea of implementing touch screens into mobile devices, an innovation that revolutionized mobile tech as we know it.

If you want to know more about Steve Jobs, just type his name into a search on Amazon and take your pick from the scores of books written about him. Or you could watch the movie. Either way, his impact on modern technology can not be denied. Happy 4th of July to everyone but the Luddites.

18. Ajay V. Bhatt

While Indian American computer hardware architect Ajay V. Bhatt may not be a household name, his invention certainly is.

Bhatt invented Universal Serial Bus tech, better known at the USB port and its accompanying plug.

Because of that, Bhatt is one of my personal favorite names on this list. Okay, there are a lot of reasons why USB tech is huge, but I like it because my PC gaming life would be hell without it.

Way back before USB became the industry standard for connecting PC peripherals, each device had its own way to connect to the computer. It was a pretty ineffective, and some cases, confusing affair.

With USB tech, however, all of that changed, making the life of every computer hardware nut much, much easier.

In contrast to Bhatt, our next innovator didn’t make life easier. Instead, he made it safer, an equally welcome contribution to the annals of American science.

19. Bennet Omalu

Professional athletes take their bodies to the limit, and while injuries in sports are common, they aren’t always visible.

This is especially true of the contact sports, where years of collisions can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

CTE is a severe neurological condition, and for years the connection between CTE and repeated blows to the head went unnoticed. All of that changed because of Dr. Bennet Omalu, however, and athletes everywhere should be thanking Dr. Omalu for his contribution.

Dr. Omalu came to the U.S. from Nigeria, and thanks to his extensive work in the field of neurosurgery our sports heroes have a longer lease on life. So, in a country where fight sports and football make up some of the highest rated sporting events, perhaps we should all give Omalu some thanks.

20. Elon Musk

If we weren’t going to leave out Jobs, how could we possibly leave out Elon Musk?

In the halls of Edgy Labs, Musk’s name is a mainstay, and for good reason. It seems like there’s a new innovation coming from the Tesla CEO every time we turn around.

From SpaceX to Tesla Motors, and even The Boring Company, Musk has his fingers dipped into the future, which has given him no small amount of celebrity status in the tech world.

Aside from Jobs, Musk is easily the most famous contemporary name on this list. His name seems to pop up everywhere, as does his legacy. His company’s cars are a status symbol for the rich, his space shuttles are making history, and he was even a character on South Park.

If you don’t know Elon Musk, then you need to go through a quick, two-step process. First, feel great shame for yourself, and second, type his name into the search engine in the corner of your browser. We have plenty of articles to get you up to speed on what ol’ Elon has been up to.

And with that, our list is complete, but did we miss anyone important? If so, let us know in the comments section below!

From the bottom of our hearts, we want to wish all our readers a happy 4th of July. Happy 4th of July, U.S.A., and here’s to many more in the future.

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