Past leaders of the USPTO

Discover the rich history of the USPTO through the biographies of the people who have led the agency since 1802.


William Thornton portrait

William Thornton


William Thornton, the first and longest serving head of the office, was born on May 20, 1759, in the British Virgin Islands. He was sent to England at the age of five…

Thomas P. Jones portrait

Thomas P. Jones


Thomas P. Jones was born in Herefordshire, England, in 1774. He immigrated to the United States after being trained as a physician and lived in Philadelphia as early as…

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John D. Craig


John D. Craig was born in Ireland in 1766. He was a teacher at the Baltimore Union School and the master at an academy in Baltimore. In 1828 he led the founding of the…

James C. Pickett portrait

James C. Pickett


James Chamberlayne Pickett was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, on February 6, 1793. His family moved to Kentucky when he was a young boy. He attended the best…

Henry L. Ellsworth portrait

Henry L. Ellsworth


When the Act of 1836 created the new office of Commissioner of Patents, the appointment of the then Superintendent of Patents, Henry L. Ellsworth, to the…

Edmond Burke portrait

Edmond Burke


The second Commissioner of Patents was born at Westminster, Vermont, Jan. 23, 1809. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1829, practised at Newport, New Hampshire,…

Thomas Ewbank portrait

Thomas Ewbank


Thomas Ewbank, third Commissioner of Patents, was born of humble parentage in Durham, England, March 11, 1792. He was apprenticed in boyhood to the trade of sheet metal…

Silas Henry Hodges portrait

Silas Henry Hodges


Though he was commissioner for the brief space of only one year, Mr. Hodges was, for a considerable part of his life, actively connected with the Patent Office. Silas…

Charles Mason portrait

Charles Mason


Born at Pompey, New York, October 24, 1804, the Honorable Charles Mason was the son of Chauncey and Esther Mason, grandson of Jonathan Mason and a descendant of Capt.…

Joseph Holt portrait

Joseph Holt


It is said that the incumbency of the office of Commissioner of Patents by Joseph Holt was a minor incident in a notable career. And it might well be added that the…

William Darius Bishop portrait

William Darius Bishop


The seventh Commissioner of Patents, William Darius Bishop, was descended from old New England stock, his original ancestor, Rev. John Bishop, having emigrated from…

Philip Francis Thomas portrait

Philip Francis Thomas


Less than one year out of the long and colorful political career of Philip Francis Thomas was spent in the service of the Patent Office. A native of the Eastern Shore…

David P. Holloway portrait

David P. Holloway


The war-time commissioner was David P. Holloway, the ninth incumbent of that office. Holloway was born in Waynesville, Ohio, on December 6, 1809. With his parents he…

Thomas C. Theaker portrait

Thomas C. Theaker


The Civil War having given an impetus to creative genius as applied to the useful arts, entirely without precedent, it was to the problems of this period that the tenth…

Elisha Foote portrait

Elisha Foote


Elisha Foote, the eleventh Commissioner of Patents, may be regarded as being the last Commissioner of the "old regime", prior to the revised laws of 1870. His term of…

Samuel Sparks Fisher portrait

Samuel Sparks Fisher


The occasion needed the man, and when it was announced that Col. Fisher was persuaded to take the Commissionership, satisfaction among the friends of the patent system…

Mortimer D. Leggett portrait

Mortimer D. Leggett


General Mortimer D. Leggett, the thirteenth Commissioner of Patents, while demonstrating unusual ability in several fields of activity, came into his greatest prominence…

John Marshall Thacher portrait

John Marshall Thacher


This Commissioner stands in a unique position in that he entered the Patent Office as a clerk and rose through the ranks to the top. He is an excellent representative of…

Robert Holland Duell portrait

Robert Holland Duell


Robert Holland Duell was a native of the State of New York, born in Warren, on December 20, 1824. He studied in Syracuse Academy and took up the profession of law, being…

Ellis Spear portrait

Ellis Spear


One of the many who, after the Civil War, were anxiously looking about for civilian employment and means of making a livelihood for themselves and their families was a…

Halbert Eleazer Paine portrait

Halbert Eleazer Paine


General Paine was another Civil War hero to become Commissioner of Patents. Born at Chardon, Ohio, February 4, 1826, he was the seventh in line of descent from Stephen…

Edgar M. Marble portrait

Edgar M. Marble


Rising from the ranks, Mr. Marble was appointed Commissioner of Patents on April 28, 1880, by President Hayes, and served until 1883. It was a most interesting period.…

Benjamin Butterworth portrait

Benjamin Butterworth

1883-1885 and 1897-1898

The 19th Commissioner of Patents was born near Maineville, Ohio, October 22, 1837, of Quaker ancestry, one of his maternal ancestors, John Linton having emigrated to…

Martin V. B. Montgomery portrait

Martin V. B. Montgomery


Martin Van Buren Montgomery—lawyer, legislator, jurist—was the 20th Commissioner of Patents. He was born in the township of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, October 20,…

Benton J. Hall portrait

Benton J. Hall


As a young man, having received but a limited collegiate and academic training, Benton J. Hall was greatly stimulated and broadened by the potent influence of a class of…

Charles Elliott Mitchell portrait

Charles Elliott Mitchell


Born May 11, 1837, at Bristol, Connecticut, Charles Elliott Mitchell was of ancestry prominent in the history of New England, being descended on his father's side from…

William Edgar Simonds portrait

William Edgar Simmonds


Descended through his father from Daniel Webster, and through his mother from Roger de Coigneries, who came to England with William the Conqueror, it might well be…

John S. Seymour portrait

John S. Seymour


John Seymour [was born on September 28, 1848, and] came from Colonial stock, his earliest ancestors in this country being found among the first settlers of Hartford,…

Charles Holland Duell portrait

Charles Holland Duell


Charles Holland Duell, twenty-fifth Commissioner of Patents, was the illustrious son of Robert Holland Duell, the fifteenth Commissioner of Patents. Charles was born in…

Frederick Innes Allen portrait

Frederick Innes Allen


Born at Auburn, New York, January 19, 1859, Frederick Innes Allen came from a prominent family of that city. Graduating from Yale in 1879, he received a class prize in…

Edward Bruce Moore portrait

Edward Bruce Moore


Edward Bruce Moore was born at North Anson, Maine, December 25, 1851. At the age of fourteen he came to Washington, serving as a page in the Senate. In 1876 he became…

Thomas Ewing portrait

Thomas Ewing


The name Ewing has been connected with public life and governmental functions over a considerable period of years. Thomas Ewing, Commissioner Ewing's grandfather, was…

James T. Newton portrait

James T. Newton


The chaotic condition of the rest of the world was reflected in the affairs of the Patent Office at the time when Mr. Newton became Commissioner. The personnel seemed to…

Robert Frederick Whitehead portrait

Robert Frederick Whitehead


The son of a successful farmer and lawyer, Mr. Whitehead was born February 28, 1869, near Lovingston, Virginia. He attended the public schools and the University of…

Melvin H. Coulston portrait

Melvin H. Coulston


Mr. Coulston’s short term of office is evidence, not of his unfitness for the position, but of a peculiarity of our political system. He was confirmed by the Senate on…

Thomas E. Robertson portrait

Thomas E. Robertson


Following Mr. Coulston's term of office, which was the shortest on record, comes Mr. Robertson's, which was the longest [Note: While Mr. Robertson had the longest term…

Conway P. Coe portrait

Conway P. Coe


Conway P. Coe was born in Calvert County, Maryland, on October 21, 1897, and moved to the Washington, D.C., area at an early age. After receiving a B.A. from…

Casper W. Ooms portrait

Casper W. Ooms


Caspar W. Ooms was born on August 30, 1902, in Chicago. He attended Knox College and the University of Chicago School of Commerce and Administration. He received a law…

Lawrence C. Kingsland portrait

Lawrence C. Kingsland


Lawrence C. Kingsland was born in St. Louis on April 11, 1884. He attended Washington University in St. Louis and received a degree from Washington University School of…

John A. Marzall portrait

John A. Marzall


John A. Marzall was born on March 8, 1896, in Chicago and practiced law there after living in New York. President Harry Truman appointed him commissioner of patents, and…

Robert C. Watson portrait

Robert C. Watson


Robert C. Watson was born in Washington, D.C., on November 21, 1890. His father was a patent attorney.  Watson received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from…

David L. Ladd portrait

David L. Ladd


David L. Ladd was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, on September 18, 1926. He attended Kenyon College for a year before serving in the U.S. Army. He received a bachelor’s…

Edward J. Brenner portrait

Edward J. Brenner


Edward J. Brenner was born in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, on June 26, 1923. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering and a law degree…

William E. Schuyler, Jr. portrait

William E. Schuyler, Jr.


William E. Schuyler Jr. was born on February 3, 1914, in Washington, D.C., and resided in the Washington area for his entire career. His mother operated a patent…

Robert Gottschalk portrait

Robert Gottschalk


Robert Gottschalk was born on January 10, 1911, in New York City. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from McGill University and a law degree…

C. Marshall Dann portrait

C. Marshall Dann


C. Marshall Dann was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, on March 27, 1915. His father was an engineer with Westinghouse Electric Corp. He received a bachelor’s degree…

Donald W. Banner portrait

Donald W. Banner


Donald W. Banner was born in Chicago on February 24, 1924. He was a P-47 fighter pilot during World War II and was shot down in Europe and held as a prisoner of war…

Sidney A. Diamond portrait

Sidney A. Diamond


Sidney A. Diamond was born October 17, 1914, in New York City. He received a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a law degree from Harvard University. He…

Gerald J. Mossinghoff portrait

Gerald J. Mossinghoff


Gerald J. Mossinghoff was born in St. Louis on September 30, 1935. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from St. Louis University and a law degree…

Donald J. Quigg portrait

Donald J. Quigg


Donald J. Quigg was born April 28, 1916, in Kansas City, Missouri. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Oklahoma and a law…

Harry F. Manbeck portrait

Harry F. Manbeck, Jr.


Harry F. Manbeck Jr., was born in Honesdale, Pennsylvania on June 26, 1926. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Lehigh University and was…

Bruce A. Lehman portrait

Bruce A. Lehman


Bruce A. Lehman was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on September 19, 1945. He received history and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and served as…

Q. Todd Dickinson portrait

Q. Todd Dickinson


Q. Todd Dickinson was born December 21, 1952, in Philadelphia. He received a bachelor’s in chemistry from Allegheny College and a law degree from the University of…

James E. Rogan portrait

James E. Rogan


James E. Rogan was born August 21, 1957, in the Mission District of San Francisco. He described the early hardships of his life in his 2004 book Rough Edges – My…

Jon W. Dudas portrait

Jon W. Dudas


Jon W. Dudas was born on July 5, 1968, in Springfield, Illinois. He received a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois and a law degree from the…

Portrait of former USPTO director David Kappos

David J. Kappos


Appointed by President Barack Obama, David Kappos served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office from August 13, 2009, to February 1, 2013.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Michelle K. Lee

Michelle K. Lee


Appointed by President Barack Obama, Michelle K. Lee served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office from March 13, 2015, to June 6, 2017.