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Junior Taamas
, Nigeria.
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By Stephanie Walden

Can you imagine a world without frozen TV dinners or bubble wrap? (And more importantly, who would want to?)

Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and Albert
Einstein are probably the first names that
come to mind when you think of "inventors."
But beyond the big names, there are plenty of
inventors whose creativity and ingenuity
changed the way we live, even if they never
became household names.

To pay homage to these under-the-radar
innovators, we've put together a shortlist of
influential inventors who you (most likely)
never learned about in school.

1. Clarence Birdseye — Frozen Food

If you're a TV dinner aficionado, you can thank
Clarence Birdseye for the technology used in
frozen food. Birdseye discovered a new way to
flash-freeze foods that produced much fresher
and better tasting results than the earlier,
slower methods of freezing. His inventions
marked the beginning of the frozen food
industry as we know it today, and Birds Eye is
still a popular brand of frozen food.

2. Samuel O'Reilly — Electric Tattooing Machine

Not much is known about Samuel O'Reilly, but
he is attributed with the invention of the
modern rotary tattoo machine — technology
that has not evolved much since its original
iteration. O'Reilly began tattooing in New York
City in the 1870s and operated a small tattoo
parlor there for several years. His tattoo
machine was the first of its kind to operate on
electricity, and it was based on rotary
technology developed by Thomas Edison.

3. Ermal "Ernie" Fraze — Soda Can Pop-Tab

Next time you crack open a cold one, take a
moment to remember Ernie Fraze, the inventor
of the soda can pop-tab. Fraze set out to
improve the beverage can in 1959, and by
1965, more 75% of American beer brewers had
adopted the new and improved can. Fraze's
original design involved a "pull-top" opening
that separated from the can, which eventually
evolved into the push-in tabs we are familiar
with today.

4 and 5. Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes — Bubble Wrap

The popular, poppable packing material was
actually invented serendipitously. Alfred
Fielding and Marc Chavannes were trying
(unsuccessfully) to design a plastic wallpaper,
and in the process discovered that their
invention made an effective packing material.
The entrepreneurs went on to found the Sealed
Air Corporation
, a company that now produces
annual revenues exceeding $8 billion, and it
employs 26,300 people in 175 countries.

6. Garrett Morgan — The Gas Mask, Hair Straightener, Traffic Signal and More

Garrett Morgan only had an elementary school
education, yet he is one of the most prolific
inventors of his time, credited with the
invention of gas masks, hair straighteners,
modern traffic signals and more. His patented
"breathing machine" led to the prototype of
the gas masks used in World War I —
equipment that saved countless lives during
toxic gas warfare.

7. John Walker — Matches

John Walker didn't invent fire, but he did
invent a way to make it a little more portable.
During experiments, Walker (a chemist)
inadvertently created a paste that would burst
into flames when scratched against a rough
surface. He started selling matches made from
cardboard sticks in 1824. Sadly, Walker never
patented his breakthrough product, and Sir
Isaac Holden (who took over the work that
Walker left unfinished) eventually gained fame
for the invention.

8. Mary Phelps Jacob — The Modern Brassiere

Believing corsets to be passé, Mary Phelps
Jacob developed a more comfortable, less
constricting women's undergarment, and she
invented the modern bra in 1914. Jacob, a
New York socialite, wanted to create a garment
more in-line with the fashions of the time —
sheer fabrics, tunics and plunging necklines.
Soon after Jacob patented the bra, she grew
weary of running the business and sold the
patent rights to Warner Brothers Corset Company for $1,500. Over the next thirty
years, Warner made more than $15 million off
the invention.

9. Dr. Charles Drew — Modern Blood Banks

Dr. Charles Drew, a physician and medical
researcher, discovered a novel way to store
and process blood plasma used in transfusions.
His discoveries led to the development of
blood banks, which revolutionized modern

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Rufai Oladimeji
Lagos State University
100Level, Nigeria.
10. Thomas Midgley Jr. — Leaded Gasoline

Though awarded the Priestley Medal for his
"genius for benign invention," Midgley's legacy
today is less than stellar. His major inventions,
including tetraethyl lead gasoline and
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), have largely been
recognized as major contributors toward global
warming. At the time of its invention, leaded
gasoline helped reduce "knock" in engines, and
CFCs (used in Freon) led to safer and mass
market refrigeration methods.

Not only will Midgley go down in history as an
environmental vandal, he was actually killed by
one of his own inventions
, a pulley-system
contraption he had created to support himself
in bed while suffering from polio.

11. Thomas Adams — Chewing Gum

Elementary schoolteachers everywhere have
Thomas Adams to thank for the constant
reprimanding of gum-cracking students.
Before coming up with chewing gum, Adams
first tried utilizing chicle (a natural gum
ingredient collected from trees) for rain boots,
bicycle tires, masks and toys.

12. Stephanie Kwolek — Kevlar

One of the most notable women inventors,
Stephanie Kwolek is responsible for the
invention of kevlar in 1965, the synthetic fiber
used in bullet-proof vests. Kevlar is said to be
five times stronger than steel, and has played a
major role in the safety of soldiers, police
officers and even extreme sport athletes
around the world. Today, kevlar is used in
underwater cables, skis, boats, parachutes,
brake linings, fiber-optic cables, space vehicles
and building materials.

13. Pierre Lorillard IV — The Tuxedo

Gentlemen, next time you pull the penguin suit
out of the closet, you can thank (or curse)
Pierre Lorillard. Though there are a couple
schools of thought on the inventor of the
traditional men's formalwear, many scholars
credit Lorillard with the popularization of the
tux. Lorillard was a 19th-century wealthy
tobacco magnate who lived in Tuxedo Park, an
area northwest of New York City. In October of
1886, Lorillard's son Griswold sported a new
"tailless" black jacket to The Tuxedo Club 's first
annual Autumn Ball, thus condemning men
everywhere to the timeless fashion statement
for decades to come.
The inventor of the dog tuxedo is still up for


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