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National Inventors Hall of Fame

AS EDITH FLANIGEN EXPLAINS IT, THE STORY OF ZEOLITES dates back to 1756, when a Swedish mineralogist, Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, discovered that a certain type of natural crystal possessed a remarkable quality. When Cronstedt held the stone in a flame, it began to sizzle and froth as water inside the stone came to a boil. He combined two Greek words to name the crystal: zein , meaning “to boil,” and lithos , meaning “stone.”

FORREST BIRD WAS A TEENAGER WHEN HE ENCOUNTERED THE mystery that would engage him for his whole life. The son of a World War I flying ace, he began getting flying lessons years before learning to drive. As he contemplated the motion of air over an airplane’s wing, he marveled at the physics that governed all those invisible molecules, keeping the aircraft aloft. It led him to get degrees in engineering and then to go on to medical school when his interest in airflow turned his attention to the physics of breathing.

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