Entrepreneurs and industrial research laboratories in the United States have long produced a cascade of important innovations, from agricultural technologies to the Edison light bulb and the Bell Labs transistor, from General Electric jet engines to Google's Internet tools. Here are 10 American-made innovations that helped change our world. The most common mechanical stitch today is stitching, thanks to three 19th century inventors named Walter Hunt, Elias Howe and Isaac Singer. Walter Hunt invented the first closed-knit sewing machine in 1833, but was unable to patent the design.
He feared that his invention would create mass unemployment among seamstresses. Some 13 years later, Elias Howe reinvented the machine and applied for a patent, but failed to bring the sewing machine to the market. Although there were 22 inventors of incandescent bulbs before Thomas Edison, including British physicist Sir Joseph Swan, Edison's invention was by far the most effective for commercial use on a large scale. After the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago became a hub of daring architectural experiments that gave rise to the skyscraper.
Thanks to this construction method, skyscrapers can reach immense heights, such as those of the Burj Khalifa (2,722 feet) in Dubai, which is currently the tallest in the world. While the booming 1920s were good for business after World War I, the company suffered during the Fall of Wall St. of 1929 and the Great Depression. It wasn't until the booming 1950s that air conditioning began to grow tremendously in popularity.
The Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright, of Dayton, Ohio, made the first propelled and sustained flights under pilot control on Wright Flyer I on December 17, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. American businessman Clarence Saunders opened the first true self-service grocery store in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee, and called it the Piggly Wiggly Store. Of course, there are also countercurrents. Some experienced companies have continued to support pioneering research.
Hewlett-Packard, for example, intensified its commitment to research in the 1990s. New players at the frontiers of technology are starting to play a role. These include Microsoft, which recently established a major research organization focused on technologies that are likely to have a significant impact in the future of between 5 and 10 years. However, many of the high-tech startups in electronics and information technologies have avoided traditional research organizations and have opted for other strategies.
Leaders in the semiconductor industry, including Intel, Motorola and Texas Instruments, are now cooperating to fund university research and develop pre-competitive manufacturing technologies, but none supports a major central research center dedicated to fundamental research at the scale and type previously used in IBM, RCA and AT&T. Even when the main innovation first appeared abroad, such as the computerized tomography (CT) scanner, the US industry has been able to capture commercial leadership fairly quickly in many cases. In addition, while this trend is evident in all industrial countries, it is most pronounced in American inventions and in the medical and chemical fields. This era of prosperity is due to multiple sources, including shrewd monetary policies, prudent management of the federal budget, and the strong business culture of American society.
Probably the most controversial claim to be the true inventor of the telephone was Elisha Gray, an American electrical engineer from Ohio. A decade ago, it seemed that major American industries, such as cars and semiconductors, were facing deadly threats from Japan Inc. The institution had its greatest flourishing in the United States after World War II, when numerous corporate laboratories dedicated to fundamental science and the long-term development of pioneering technologies appeared in the American industry. .