The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF), in partnership with the USPTO, will honor and celebrate the world’s foremost inventors and their contributions to society at the annual induction ceremony on May 2 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.
The 2019 inductees are visionary innovators who each patented inventions that revolutionized their industries and changed people’s lives. Of the 15 new inductees, five will be honored posthumously.
NIHF was established in 1973 by the USPTO and honors monumental achievements by individuals who have contributed great technological and scientific innovations, as well as helped stimulate growth for our nation and beyond. The criteria for induction into NIHF requires candidates to hold a U.S. patent that has contributed significantly to the nation's welfare, and the advancement of science and useful arts. The inductees are honored at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum located in the Madison Building on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia.
This year’s class of inductees includes:
Chieko Asakawa: Web Browser for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Chieko Asakawa invented the Home Page Reader (HPR), the first practical voice browser to provide effective internet access for blind and visually impaired computer users. Designed to enable users to surf the internet and navigate web pages through a computer's numeric keypad instead of a mouse, HPR debuted in 1997; by 2003, it was widely used around the world.
Jeff Kodosky and James Truchard: Virtual Instrumentation – LabVIEW
Kodosky and Truchard introduced LabVIEW in 1986 as a graphical programming language that enables user-defined testing and measurement and control systems. It grew to be used by engineers, scientists, academics, and students around the world.
Rebecca Richards-Kortum: Medical Devices for Low-Resource Settings
Rebecca Richards-Kortum develops low-cost, high-performance medical technologies for people in places where traditional medical equipment is not an option. She's led the development of optical technologies to improve early detection of cervical, oral, and esophageal cancer; tools to improve newborn survival in Africa, including the Pumani CPAP system for newborns with breathing problems; BiliSpec for measuring bilirubin levels to detect jaundice; and DoseRight, for accurate dosing of children's liquid medication.
Dennis Ritchie (posthumous) and Ken Thompson: UNIX Operating System
Thompson and Ritchie's creation of the UNIX operating system and the C programming language were pivotal developments in the progress of computer science. Today, 50 years after its beginnings, UNIX and UNIX-like systems continue to run machinery from supercomputers to smartphones. The UNIX operating system remains the basis of much of the world's computing infrastructure, and C — written to simplify the development of UNIX — is one of the most widely used computer languages today.
Edmund O. Schweitzer III: Digital Protective Relay
Schweitzer brought the first microprocessor-based digital protective relay to market, revolutionizing the performance of electric power systems with computer-based protection and control equipment, and making a major impact in the electric power utility industry. Schweitzer's more precise, more reliable digital relay was an eighth the size, a tenth the weight and a third the price of previous mechanical relays.
David Walt: Microwell Arrays
Walt created microwell arrays that could analyze thousands of genes simultaneously, revolutionizing the field of genetic analysis. His technology accelerated the understanding of numerous human diseases and is now used in diagnostics. It has also made DNA sequencing more affordable and accessible.
William J. Warner: Digital Nonlinear Editing System
Bill Warner invented the Avid Media Composer—a digital nonlinear editing system for film and video. Warner's technology revolutionized film and video post-production by providing editors with faster, more intuitive, and more creative techniques than were possible with traditional analog linear methods.
John Baer, Karl H. Beyer Jr., Frederick Novello, and James Sprague: Thiazide Diuretics/Chlorothiazide (posthumous)
Beyer, Sprague, Baer, and Novello were part of the Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories team that pioneered thiazide diuretics, the first class of drugs to safely and effectively treat hypertension. Today, thiazide diuretics remain a first-line treatment for high blood pressure and related heart problems.
S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker: Portable Hand-Held Electric Drill (posthumous)
Virtually all of today's electric drills descend from the original portable hand-held drill developed by Black and Decker, whose invention spurred the growth of the modern power tool industry. By 1920, their company, Black & Decker, surpassed $1 million in annual sales and soon had offices in eight U.S. cities and a factory in Canada. Today, the company is known as Stanley Black & Decker.
Andrew Higgins: LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel); Higgins Boats (posthumous)
Higgins, a New Orleans-based boat builder and inventor, developed and manufactured landing craft critical to the success of the U.S. military during World War II. The best-known was the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP), or "Higgins Boat," used to land American troops on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
Joseph Lee: Bread Machines (posthumous)
The son of slaves, Boston-area entrepreneur Joseph Lee was a pioneer in the automation of bread and breadcrumb making during the late 1800s. The self-educated inventor was a successful hotel and restaurant owner who created his machines to allow for greater efficiency in his kitchens. By 1900 his devices were used by many of America's leading hotels and were a fixture in hundreds of the country's leading catering establishments.
Joseph Muhler and William Nebergall: Stannous Fluoride Toothpaste (posthumous)
Dentist and biochemist Muhler and inorganic chemist Nebergall developed a cavity-preventing product using stannous fluoride. In 1956, Crest toothpaste was introduced nationally. Four years later, it became the first toothpaste to be recognized by the American Dental Association as an effective decay-preventing agent.
NIHF will honor both the new and previous inductees in a two-day celebration in May. It will kick off May 1 with the Illumination Ceremony at the NIHF museum at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, followed by the induction ceremony on May 2 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. Danica McKellar, star of the TV show "The Wonder Years," Hallmark Channel regular, mathematician, and author of "Math Doesn't Suck," among other books, will be the master of ceremonies.