October 14, 1999
Press Release, 99-36
Four American Inventors Honored for Revolutionary Innovation
In a 1 p.m ceremony today, Robert Mallett, deputy secretary of commerce, presented the department's Ronald H. Brown American Innovator Award to four outstanding American inventors whose creative genius revolutionized life in the 20th century. Q. Todd Dickinson, acting assistant secretary of commerce and acting commissioner of patents and trademarks, and Alma Brown, widow of the former secretary of commerce for whom the award is named, joined the deputy secretary in presenting the prestigious award to Donald L. Campbell, James Edward West, Bryan B. Molloy and Klaus K. Schmiegel. Donald L. Campbell is known for the process still used today to produce over half of the world's gasoline. Campbell is the only surviving member of the "four horsemen," the Exxon research team that developed the fluidized bed catalytic cracking process. Fluidized bed catalytic cracking revolutionized the petroleum industry by greatly increasing the yield of high-octane gasoline from crude oil. James Edward West invented the foil electret microphone while working at Bell Laboratories. Nearly 90 percent of today's microphones use West's technology in everyday items such as telephones, camcorders, and tape recorders. Bryan B. Molloy and Klaus K. Schmiegel discovered the active ingredients used in Eli Lilly's Prozac. Prozac is the world's most widely used antidepressant, and has been prescribed for over 35 million people.
"There are many parallels in the lives of Ron Brown and the inventors we honor today. They tore down barriers with their relentless determination; they will leave a legacy of firsts and perhaps bests; and America has been enriched by all of them.," said Robert Mallett, deputy secretary of commerce.
Q. Todd Dickinson, acting assistant secretary of commerce and acting commissioner of patents and trademarks, noted that "America's inventors and entrepreneurs have played a crucial role in making our nation envied throughout the world. Our technological prowess, our high standard of living—all of it stems from the creativity, determination, and entrepreneurial drive of our inventors."