This is the year for halls of fame to play catch-up. This summer the National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted 17 previously neglected figures from the Negro Leagues. And in May the National Inventors Hall of Fame, in Akron, Ohio, inducted a record 78 members, including 57 long-overlooked inventors, mostly from the nineteenth century.
The living inventors were Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, for the charge-coupled device, which makes digital cameras possible (and which they came up with in a brainstorming session lasting less than an hour); Vinton G. Cerf and Robert E. Kahn, for the TCP/IP concept, which makes the Internet possible; Robert W. Gore, for the breathable, waterproof Teflon fabric known as Gore-Tex; Ali Javan, for the helium-neon laser, which is used in every store checkout scanner; Robert S. Langer, Jr., for numerous noninvasive methods of drug delivery; and Julio C. Palmaz, for the intravascular stent.
A special large-scale induction of long-dead inventors was held to fill gaps in the Hall of Fame’s recognition of the nation’s earliest innovators. Notable among those new inductees are Samuel Colt, of the six-shooter; Peter Cooper, locomotive builder, among other things; John Fitch and Robert Fulton, the steamboat men; Hiram Maxim, the machine gun; Gideon Sundback, the zipper; Linus Yale, Jr., locks; and Ferdinand von Zeppelin, for his namesake airships. There are now 313 inventors in the Hall of Fame.