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Inventions 1911-1921

Technology, science, and inventions have progressed at an accelerated rate during the hundred years of the 20th century, more so than any other century. Especially, the second decade is particularly interesting. That was time of war and industry development, consequently that was period of vivid imagination and daring performances. Here a timeline of some curious inventions during this 10 years, from 1911 to 1921.

1911 – The first seaplane was created.


Glenn H. Curtiss

Glenn H. Curtiss demonstrates the first amphibian type of aeroplane equipped with wheels and floats. Glenn Hammond Curtiss was an American aviation pioneer and a founder of the U.S. aircraft industry. He began his career as a bicycle then motorcycle builder and racer, later also manufacturing engines for airships. During the years leading up to World War I, he experimented with seaplanes. At the end of 1910, Curtiss established a winter encampment at San Diego to teach flying to Army and Naval personnel. Through this course, he was able to develop a float (pontoon) design that would enable him to take off and land on on water. On 26 January 1911 Curtis flew the first seaplane from the water in the United States.

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1911 – Charles Franklin Kettering invents the first automobile electrical ignition system.


Charles Kettering and Cadillac Engine Electrical System – 366 CID 50 HP

“The world hates change, but it is the only thing that has brought progress.” – Charles Kettering
The first electrical ignition system or electric starter motor for cars was invented by GM engineers Clyde Coleman and Charles Kettering. The self starting ignition was first installed in a Cadillac on February 17, 1911. The invention of the electric starter motor by Charles Kettering eliminated the need for hand cranking.

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1912 – Motorized movie cameras were invented, replacing hand-cranked cameras.


Model of a camera

This invention replaced hand-cranked cameras which made it easier for teachers to show students informational videos. This invention also enabled information to travel faster and more efficiently.

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1912 – The first tank was invented.

The Idea about a tank was not new. In 1903 the French captain Levavasseur proposed machine, moved by a caterpillar system. Some years later two practical design were developed independantly – one by Australian engineering officer Günther Burstyn and one by Australian civil engineer  Lancelot de Mole. The first modern tank was patented in 1912 by the inventor Lance De La Mole. Here very interesting fact is that these projects first were rejected by governmental administrations. After that this invention played a big role in World War I.

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1912 – Candy manifacturer Clarence Crane created Life Savers candy.

This is an American brand of ring-shaped mints and artificially fruit-flavored hard candy. It was invented as a “summer candy” which could withstand heat better than chocolate. The name is derived from its similarity to the shape of lifebuoys used for  saving people who have fallen from boats.

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1913 – Mary Phelps Jacob invents the bra.


Mary Phelps Jacob and the first bra

Mary Phelps Jacob had just purchased a sheer evening gown for one of her social events. At that time, the only acceptable undergarment was a corset stiffened with whaleback bones. Mary found that the whalebones poked out visible around the plunging neckline and under the sheer fabric. Two silk handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon later, Mary had designed an alternative to the corset. She was the first to patent an undergarment named “Brassiere” derived from the old French word for “upper arm”.

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1913 – The Merck Chemical Company patented, what is now know as, ecstasy.

In 1913 ecstasy was famous witn another name – MDMA (Methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine). Although it is derived from organic material, MDMA itself does not occur in nature, and must be created in a complex laboratory process. For first time MDMA was patented by this German company supposedly to be sold as a diet pill.

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1913 – Igor Sikorsky developed the first passenger airplane.


Igor Sikorsky / The first passenger airplane

In 1912, Sikorsky became Chief Engineer for the aircraft factory of the Russian Baltic Railroad Car Factory in Petrograd. Soon after, the factory’s governing society approved construction of a large, four-engined airplane. When the S-21 (with a wingspan of 89 feet and a gross weight of 9,000 pounds) first flew on 13 May 1913, Sikorsky became the world’s first four-engine pilot. The even larger S-22 began flying passengers in December 1913.

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1913 – Gideon Sundback invented the modern zipper.

The idea for zipper was born earlier. In 1893 there was shown a device called a “clasp-locker”. An engineer named Whitcomb Judson patented this item and intended it to replace the hook and eye shoelaces so prevalent in the late 19th century. The clasp-locker device resembled two small chains of alternating hook and eye locks. A metal sliding implement joined the two chains, which then closed the shoe flaps to which they were attached. Judson’s idea was practical, but was not noticed. Twenty years later, in 1913, another engineer, Gideon Sundback, modified Judson’s idea. He manifactured a smaller, lighter version of the “clasp-locker”. Renamed it to “hookless fastener”, this device could be attached not only to boots, but also to clothing and purses.

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1913 – The crossword puzzle was invented by british journalist Arthur Wynne.


The first crossword

The first crosswords appeared even earlier, but the first known published one was published on 21 December, 1913 in a Sunday newspaper, the New York World. Wynne’s puzzle was diamond shaped and contained no internal black squares.

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1914 – Garrett A. Morgan invented the Morgan gas mask.

Inventions that aid and protect the ability to breath where gas, smoke or other poisonous fumes exist, were being made before the first use of modern chemical weapons. American, Garrett Morgan patented the Morgan safety hood and smoke protector in 1914. Two years later, Garrett Morgan made national news when his gas mask was used to rescue 32 men trapped during an explosion in an underground tunnel 250 feet beneath Lake Erie.

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1914 – Anthony Fokker developed German pursuit planes during WorldWar I and invented a timing mechanism for the shooting of rear-mounted machine guns through an airplane’s propeller blades.

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1915 – Eugene Sullivan and William Taylor co-invented and patented Pyrex in New York City.

Pyrex is a brand name for glassware, introduced by Corning Incorporated in 1915. Borosilicate glass was first made by the German chemist and glass technologist Otto Schott in 1893. This kind of products were sold under the name “Duran”. In the English-speaking world, however, in the midst of World War I, Corning’s Pyrex brand of borosilicate glass offered a non-German alternative. Ever since, the name Pyrex has been widely used as a genericized trademark for borosilicate glass in the English-speaking world.

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1916 – Radio tuners were invented, that received different stations.

History of the radio began far away, in 19th century, but first tuning system was patented in 1916. That was work of Ernst Alexanderson. He developed a tuned radio frequency receiver system, allowing selective radio tuning, while he was working as an engineer for General Electric Co. in Schenectady, New York.

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1916 – Stainless steel was invented by Henry Brearly.

Brearley inventedstainless steel as a way of improving the quality of gun barrels. He had been asked to help reduce the amount of corrosion occurring when rifles were fired.  Combustion, moisture and the gases produced as the weapons discharged all combined to corrode the inside and reduce the efficiency of the guns. He tried adding a variety of other metals to create a steel alloy that had better resistance and knew of the effect that adding chromium to steels had – this was already being used in the manufacture of aeroplane engines and Brearley found one alloy that was difficult to examine microscopically because the etching processes used to prepare the samples for examination were far less effective than usual – surely an alloy with better corrosion resistance!

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1918 – The flip-flop circuit was invented.

In electronics, a flip-flop or latch is a circuit that has two stable states and can be used to store state information. The first electronic flip-flop was invented in 1918 by William Eccles and F. W. Jordan. It was initially called the Eccles–Jordan trigger circuit and consisted of two active elements (vacuum tubes). Such circuits and their transistorized versions were common in computers even after the introduction of integrated circuits, though flip-flops made from logic gates are also common now.

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1918 – The superheterodyne radio circuit was invented by Edwin Howard Armstrong.

Armstrong invented this receiver as a means of overcoming the deficiencies of early vacuum tube triodes used as high-frequency amplifiers in radio direction finding equipment. Unlike simple radio communication, which only needs to make transmitted signals audible, direction-finders measure the received signal strength, which necessitates linear amplification of the actual carrier wave. Today, every radio or television set uses this invention.

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1918 – Charles Jung created fortune cookies.

A fortune cookie is a crisp cookie usually made from flour, sugar, vanilla, and oil with a “fortune” wrapped inside. A “fortune” is a piece of paper with words of faux wisdom or a vague prophecy. The message inside may also include a Chinese phrase with translation or a list of lucky numbers used by some as lottery numbers, some of which have become actual winner numbers. A Chinese immigrant, David Jung, living in Los Angeles and founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company created the fortune cookie. The story goes that David Jung was concerned with all the poor he saw in the streets near his shop. So he created a cookie to pass out to them for free. Each cookie contained an inspirational verse written by the local Presbyterian minister.

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1919 – Short-wave radio was invented.

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1919 – The pop-up toaster was invented by Charles Strite.

During World War I, a master mechanic in a plant in Stillwater, Minnesota decided to do something about the burnt toast served in the company cafeteria. To circumvent the need for continual human attention, Charles Strite incorporated springs and a variable timer, and filed the patent application for his pop-up toaster on 29 May 1919. He intended the device would be sold to the restaurant trade.

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1919 – The arc welder was invented.

Arc welding is a type of welding that uses a welding power supply to create an electric arc between an electrode and the base material to melt the metals at the welding point. First appearance of that device dated from 1881, but officially was invented in 1919-1920.

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1920 – The Thompson or ‘the tommy gun’ was invented by John T. Thompson.

That is an American submachine gun, which was favoured by soldiers, criminals, police and civilians alike for its ergonomics, compactness, large 45 ACP cartridge, reliability, and high volume of automatic fire.

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1920 – Anthony Fokker created the F.II, one of the first passenger transport planes.

The Fokker F.II was the first of a long series of commercial aircraft from the Fokker Aircraft Company. The Fokker F.II was a single engined high-wing cantilever monoplane with a design lineage that went back to designer Reinhold Platz’s Dr.I triplane, via the biplane D.VII and monoplane D.VIII fighters and his unflown F.I civil design.

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1920 – The Band-Aid was invented by Earle Dickson.

Band-Aid is a brand name for line of adhesive bandages and related products. It has also become a genericized trademark for any adhesive bandage in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India and the United States. The Band-Aid was invented in 1920 by Earle Dickson, an employee of Johnson & Johnson, for his wife Josephine Dickson, who frequently cut and burned herself while cooking. The prototype product allowed his wife to dress her wounds without assistance. Dickson, a Highland Park, New Jersey resident at the time, passed the idea on to his employer who then went on to produce and market the product as the Band-Aid.

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1921 – Artificial life began – the first robot.

Actually that was just a performance. The real first robot was created some years later, in 1926, but the term “robot” was first used in a play called “R.U.R.” or “Rossum’s Universal Robots” by the Czech writer Karel Capek in 1921. The plot was simple: man makes robot then robot kills man!

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1921 – John Larson invented the lie detector.

The first modern “lie detector” – Polygraph test was developed by John A. Larson, a medical student at the University of California in the USA, in collaboration with a police officer. It is called a polygraph because it is capable of recording blood pressure, pulse and respiration continuously and simultaneously. After 3 years the police used for first time the polygraph as an interrogation device. It is considered that physiological phenomenon such as blood pressure, pulse and respiration  are affected by a person’s emotional condition. These phenomenon are not generally under voluntary control.

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