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Spring 2004 | Volume 19 |  Issue 4

More Buckeye Brilliance


I ENJOYED JIM QUINN’S “Hall of Fame Report” titled “A State of Inventiveness” (Winter 2004). It is amazing how much technology came out of the Buckeye State. While all the technology of rubber and glass bottles was going on, the National Cash Register Company in Dayton was developing the mechanical wonder it is named for. Soon Delco, under Charles (“Boss”) Kettering, was developing the self-starter at its plant in Dayton. Down in Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble introduced Tide detergent in the late 1940s, making laundry soap obsolete. It all started when one of their scientists discovered that sodium tripolyphosphate was a great detergent builder. Soon after, Monsanto’s Central Research Laboratories, in Dayton, invented All low-sudsing detergent for front-loading washing machines.

A little south of Dayton and north of Cincinnati, in Miamisburg, Monsanto processed neutron-irradiated bismuth to produce polonium, used in conjunction with beryllium to emit neutrons for initiators for atomic weapons and for thermopiles to generate electricity for devices employed in space. What will Ohioans think of next?

G. D. Nelson

More Buckeye Brilliance

“A STATE OF INVENTIVENESS” lists 200 years of Ohio’s inventors without including a single female patentee. American china painting and art pottery were born in Cincinnati thanks largely to patents granted to Laura Fry and Mary Louise McLaughlininthe 1880s and ’90s. Fry’s patent changed the practice of applying underglaze, introducing an atomizer process that with modifications is still in use. Shredders patented by Pearl Ball in 1933 are still in use in today’s kitchens, and originals are prized by collectors. Becky Schroeder became America’s most famous child inventor in the mid-seventies with her luminescent backing sheet for writing in the dark, and she has at least a dozen patents altogether. Maria Mascio’s 1985 patent (jointly held with Ronald Anderson) for contact-lens cleaning solution should help open one’s eyes to Ohio’s many independent women inventors.

Abbott Industries employs industrial women inventors like Maureen Geraghty, who has helped produce diverse calcium supplement variations. And Procter & Gamble is home to dozens of women patentees. Certainly a celebration of Ohio’s inventors should include women.

Fred M. B. Amram

More Buckeye Brilliance

I THINK MR. QUINN AND your readers may be interested in another Ohio resident whose inventions have also had an impact on our lives. To quote from The New York Times , Garrett A. Morgan, who lived most of his life in Cleveland, “was born in Paris, Ky., in 1877. His father was a mulatto; his mother, a former slave who was part black and part American Indian. Finishing elementary school, he eventually taught himself the mechanics of sewing machines and set up shop selling and repairing them. He accidentally discovered an effective hair straightener. The cream (and his factory) still exists. In 1912, he invented the ‘safety hood,’ forerunner of the gas mask (patented 1914), and in 1923 the traffic-signal system. He started a newspaper for the black community, The Cleveland Call , now The Call and Post .”


Robert L. Wells

More Buckeye Brilliance

MAY I THANK MR. QUINN for including Cincinnati in his concise article on Ohio inventors. He mentions Wilson and Eggleston’s 1862 invention of a mechanical system for transporting hogs being butchered, which inspired Ford in his creation of the assembly line. The highspeed disassembly of hogs was actually under way in the Queen City by about 1850. By 1851 nearly a half-million hogs were being processed by local abattoirs. A British visitor mentioned that they were driven up an inclined ramp to the top of a four-story slaughterhouse to begin a progressive disassembly that proceeded from floor to floor. Frederick Law Olmsted recounted in a travel book of 1857 having seen hogs systematically chopped to pieces as the carcasses were passed from table to table. The work was done in about 35 seconds at each station. By the time Wilson and Eggleston received their 1862 patent, Chicago was home to the nation’s major meatpackers.


John H. White, Jr.

More Buckeye Brilliance

HO HUM. SO JIM QUINN IS another Ohioan who cannot get past the fact that humankind first got off the ground under power in North Carolina, and he flips the new Ohio quarter at us as if it were some sort of revenge.

In fact the new commemorative quarters of North Carolina are the product of a compromise. This magnanimous state dropped the phrase First in Flight from the back of its quarter in favor of First Flight , while Ohio dropped its preferred—and clearly misleading— Birthplace of Aviation in favor of Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers . Apparently the gracious gesture made by North Carolina in sharing the wonder of flight with its good friends to the north has been lost on certain diehard Yankees.


Bruce Miller

Hale Old Heads

I STILL HAVE A PAIR OF Head skis (“A Bad Skier’s Revenge,” by Stuart Leuthner, Winter 2004) that I purchased in 1954. They are seven feet long, black, and have Cubco all-direction release bindings, which were also new and innovative then. The last time I used them, about 10 years ago, people in the lift lines looked with amusement at how long and thin they were. Shorter, broader skis have long been in style, but my Heads served me well on all kinds of snow and ice.


Bob Koster

Hale Old Heads

IN 1950 I BEGAN WORK IN the same building as Howard Head, who was on the staff of the radiation laboratory at Johns Hopkins University before he left to devote himself full-time to his ski-development project. I always admired his enthusiasm. He would give you a tutorial on the dynamics of skis and skiing at the drop of a hat.


Lou Frisco

Before Sputnik

“HOW AMERICA CHOSE NOT to Beat Sputnik Into Space” (by T. A. Heppenheimer, Winter 2004) brought back some memories and answered a question I had long wondered about. Around 1954 I was working in the San Francisco Bay Area when a fellow engineer said that one of Wernher von Braun’s associates was going to give a lecture over in San Francisco that evening on putting a satellite into orbit. We went to the lecture together. It covered calculations on boost, velocities, trajectory, and so on. At the end there was a question-and-answer period, and one of the first questions was what technical problems remained before a satellite could be launched. The answer was: “None. We know how to do it.” The next question was: “Then why haven’t you done it?” The answer was: “The American military sees no strategic value in it.” That was apparently less than the whole story.


Viggo Andersen

Barreling Bits

I READ WITH INTEREST THE article “The Modem,” in the Winter issue (“Object Lessons,” by Curt Wohleber). In the mid-1970s I was involved in the development of a then revolutionary telephone modem. The state of the art was 9,600 bits per second on leased, conditioned lines, and modems for dial-up lines typically ran at 2,400 bps at the fastest. Ours operated at 16,000 bps, to use with encrypted digital voice devices. When we asked our commercial communications division about a commercial use for this technology, they replied, “No one will ever need even 9,600 bps on dial-up lines.” So much for foresight.


Frank Perkins


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