It’s hard to imagine a world without light bulbs and Wi-Fi, but there was a time when these pieces of modern technology were seen as futuristic ideas. Here are some of the brilliant minds that helped to create the tech we use every day.
Heddy Lamarr: Wireless Technology
Actress Heddy Lamarr, best known for her movie career, led a “secret” life as a scientist. One of the most famous women in print during World War II, she also patented a system that helped lead to the development of modern wireless technology.
According to Biography, Lamarr was the co-inventor of a spread spectrum technology that was used during World War II to help the Allies in the war against Nazi Germany. In fact, she and George Antheil, a composer, received a patent for their radio signaling device in 1942.
Lamarr and Antheil were recognized for their work in 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation presented them with the Pioneer Award.
Thomas Edison: Electricity
One of the most prolific inventors of the Industrial Revolution was Thomas Edison. His inventions, including the phonograph and the electric light bulb, resulted in more than a thousand patents. Moreover, his business pursuits created the foundation for the today’s delivery of electricity to homes and businesses.
Edison invented the first commercial incandescent bulb in 1879, and that core technology is still being used to light-up homes and businesses worldwide.
Edison also formed what is now General Electric. According to the Boston Globe, GE was created in 1892 with the merger of Edison General Electric Co. and the Thomson-Houston Co.
Lester Allan Pelton: Hydroelectric Power
Another inventor whose impact is still resonating today is Lester Allan Pelton. A contemporary of Edison, Pelton’s water wheel helped make hydroelectric power commercially viable.
According to Wikipedia, Pelton is considered one of the pioneers in the development of hydroelectric power. He received the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1895, recognizing his scientific achievements, and was inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
One of the applications of Pelton’s technology today is in space travel. “The way in which a spacecraft increases or decreases its kinetic energy by swinging around a moving planet is very similar to the way a certain type of water turbine, the Pelton Wheel, extracts energy from a fast jet of water,” explains David P. Stern, a former scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Robert Hutchings Goddard: Liquid Fueled Rockets
Speaking of the Goddard Space Center, Robert Hutchings Goddard was the inventor of modern liquid fueled rockets. According to NASA, Goddard successfully launched the first rocket in 1926.
“Now known as the father of modern rocketry, Goddard’s significant achievements in rocket propulsion have contributed immensely to the scientific exploration of space,” according to the NASA website. “Goddard didn’t live to see the age of space flight, but his foundation of rocket research became the fundamental principles of rocket propulsion.”
Vincent Gray Cerf and Bob Khan: The Internet
Fast forward to the end of the 2oth Century: Vinton Gray Cerf and Bob Khan invented the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), which are the communication protocols that form the central nervous system for today’s Internet. At the time, both scientists worked for the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA).
Albert Einstein: GPS
No roundup of scientists who have impacted modern technology would be complete without Albert Einstein. His work in physics has facilitated everything from GPS to lasers.
Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, for instance, implement Einstein’s 1905 general theory of relativity to adjust for the Earth’s orbit. Without accounting for relativity, commercial GPS systems would not be viable.
Einstein also discovered the fundamental principle for something called light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (laser). Today, lasers are used in everything from optical disk drives and laser printers to fiber optics and barcode scanners.
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