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Inventors and Inventions


The Direct Action Committee, a group pushing for nuclear disarmament, invented the peace symbol in 1958. The forked symbol is actually a composite of the semaphore signals "N" and "D," to stand for nuclear disarmament.

Diet Coke was only invented in 1982.

Naugahyde, plastic "leather" was created in Naugatuck, Connecticut.

As of 1940, total of ninety patents had been taken out on shaving mugs.

It took three years of constant printing to complete Johann Gutenberg's famous Bible, which appeared in 1455 in two volumes, and had 1,284 pages. He reportedly printed 200 Bibles, of which 47 still exist.

Madame Alexander dolls were the creation of Beatrice Alexander Behrman, the daughter of Russian immigrants. Mrs. Behrman, whose father operated New York's first doll "hospital," started making dolls in 1923, and her creations soon became famous for their molded heads and limbs, lifelike eyes, rooted hair and elaborate costumes. Mrs. Behrman sold the company to several New York investors in 1988, two years before she died at age 95. But America's first and only remaining doll manufacturer has not compromised her high standard of quality and unique craftsmanship. Today, most of the company's manufacturing is still done in Harlem, New York, and more than 500,000 dolls a year are sold.

Dr. Samuel Langley was able to get many model airplanes to fly, but on December 8, 1903, Langley's "human carrying flying machine", the aerodrome plunged into the Potomac River near Washington D.C., in front of photographers who were assembled to witness the event. Reporters around the country made fun of the idea that people could fly and nine days later, Wilbur and Orville Wright proved them wrong.

The first product Motorola started to develop was a record player for automobiles. At that time the most known player on the market was the Victrola, so they called themselves Motorola.

Self-made millionaire Cyrus Field championed the idea of a telegraph from England to Newfoundland. Britain quickly agreed to subsidize. Congress went along by a one-vote margin. That was in 1856. Laying cable was tough. It kept breaking. The first line - two years later - died almost immediately. But 10 years later, there were two working lines. Communications changed forever.

The first lightweight luggage designed for air travel was conceived by aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.

Donald F. Duncan, the man who made the yo-yo an American tradition, is also credited with popularizing the parking meter and introducing Good Humor "ice cream on a stick.

Eastman Kodak's Brownie camera cost $1.00 when it was introduced in 1900.

Sylvan N. Goldman of Humpty Dumpty Stores and Standard Food Markets developed the shopping cart so that people could buy more in a single visit to the grocery store. He unveiled his creation in Oklahoma City on June 4, 1937.

Frederick Winthrop Thayer of Massachusetts and the captain of the Harvard University Baseball Club received a patent for his baseball catcher's mask on February 12, 1878.

The first coin operated machine ever designed was a holy-water dispenser that required a five-drachma piece to operate. It was the brainchild of the Greek scientist Hero in the first century AD.

Ornithologists often use Scotch tape to cover cracks in the soft shells of fertilized pigeon eggs, allowing the eggs to hatch. Scotch tape has also been used as an anti-corrosive shield on the Goodyear Blimp.

The power lawn mower was invented by Ransom E. Olds (of Oldsmobile fame) in 1915.

The shoestring was invented in England in 1790, Prior to this time all shoes were fastened with buckles.

The single blade window cleaning squeegee was invented in 1936 by Ettore Sceccone and is still the most common form of commercial window cleaning today.


The 'spot' on 7UP comes from its inventor who had red eyes. He was albino.

Edison improved the incandescent lamp in 1879, but he didn't actually invent it. Sir Humphrey Davy is reputed to be the true inventor of the electric light. He passed electricity through a platinum wire and caused an arc lamp to glow as early as 1802. However, Davy did not pursue the discovery. By the time Edison entered the scene, arc lamps had been burning for several decades, but were limited by short life spans. Edison developed a long-lasting filament light in 1877, and in 1879 produced the first long-lasting light bulb.

The man who invented shorthand, John Gregg, was deaf.

Because he felt such an important tool should be public property, English chemist John Walker never patented his invention — matches.

The hypodermic needle was invented in 1853. It was initially used for giving injections of morphine as a painkiller. Physicians mistakenly believed that morphine would not be addictive if it by-passed the digestive tract.

Thomas Edison’s first major invention was the quadruplex telegraph. Unlike other telegraphs at the time, it could send four messages at the same time over one wire.

Inventor Gail Borden, Jr. invented condensed milk in the 1850's.

After his death in 1937, Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless telegraph was honored by broadcasters worldwide as they let the airwaves fall silent for two minutes in his memory.

Pez was invented in 1927 by Eduard Haas, an Austrian anti-smoking fanatic, who marketed peppermint-flavored PEZ as a cigarette substitute. The candy gets its name from the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminze. Haas brought the candy to the U.S. in 1952. It bombed, so he reintroduced it as a children's toy, complete with cartoon heads and fruity flavors. One of the most secretive companies in the U.S., PEZ won't even disclose who currently owns the company.

The Nobel Prize resulted from a late change in the will of Alfred Nobel, who did not want to be remembered after his death as a propagator of violence - he invented dynamite.

Germany holds the title for most independent inventors to apply for patents.

Noxema, the skin cream invented in 1914 by Baltimore pharmacist George Bunting, was originally sold as "Dr. Bunting's Sunburn Remedy." Mr. Bunting changed the name to Noxema after a customer enthusiastically told him the cream had "knocked out his eczema." Thus, the cream that "knocks eczema" became "Noxema".

George Eastman, inventor of the Kodak camera, hated having his picture taken.

Root Beer was invented in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1898 by Edward Adolf Barq, Sr.

Because Napoleon believed that armies marched on their stomachs, he offered a prize in 1795 for a practical way of preserving food. The prize was won by a French inventor, Nicholas Appert. What he devised was canning. It was the beginning of the canned food industry of today.

Bavarian immigrant Charles August Fey invented the first three-reel automatic payout slot machine, the Liberty Bell, in San Francisco in 1899.
More than 5,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered how to make silk from silkworm cocoons. For about 3,000 years, the Chinese kept this discovery a secret. Because poor people could not afford real silk, they tried to make other cloth look silky. Women would beat on cotton with sticks to soften the fibers. Then they rubbed it against a big stone to make it shiny. The shiny cotton was called "chintz." Because chintz was a cheaper copy of silk, calling something "chintzy" means it is cheap and not of good quality.

Incan soldiers invented the process of freeze-drying food. The process was primitive but effective — potatoes would be left outside to freeze overnight, then thawed and stomped on to remove excess water.

The first wooden shoe comes from the Netherlands. The Netherlands have many seas so people wanted a shoe that kept their feet dry while working outside. The shoes were called klompen and they had been cut of one single piece of wood. Today the klompen are the favorite souvenir for people who visit the Netherlands.

When airplanes were still a novel invention, seat belts for pilots were installed only after the consequence of their absence was observed to be fatal - several pilots fell to their deaths while flying upside down.

The first Bowie knife was forged at Washington, Arkansas.

The supersonic Concorde jet made its first trial flight on January 1, 1969.

Duffel bags are named after a town of Duffel, Belgium, where they were first made.

The commercial wireless phone was first introduced in Chicago in 1982 by Ameritech.

The safety pin was patented in 1849 by Walter Hunt. He sold the patent rights for $400.

The first Fords used Dodge engines. Many ford vehicles now use Nissan engines, especially in Mini-vans.

The first portable calculator placed on sale by Texas Instruments weighed only 2-1/2 pounds and cost a mere $150. (1971)

In 1937 the emergency 999 telephone service was established in London. More than 13,000 genuine calls were made in the first month.

In 1889, the 1st coin-operated telephone, patented by Hartford, Connecticut inventor William Gray, was installed in the Hartford Bank.

In 1977, according to the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, there were 14.5 telephone calls made for every 100 people in the entire world.

Humphrey O'Sullivan invented the rubber heel because he was tired of pounding the pavements of Boston looking for a job.

Hungarian brothers George and L"szlo Biro invented the ball point pen in 1938.

Seating on the first scheduled inter-city commuter airplane flight consisted of moveable wicker chairs. There were 11 of them on the first Ford Tri-Motors. After several years, Ford replaced them with aluminum framed leather chairs.

The first man-made item to exceed the speed of sound is the bull whip or leather whip. When the whip is snapped, the knotted end makes a "crack" or popping noise. It is actually causing a mini sonic boom as it exceeds the speed of sound.

Cornelius van Drebel, a Dutch physician, built and successfully demonstrated the first submarine in 1620. It was a wooden framework covered with greased leather. The propulsion was provided by oars worked from the inside. It was tested in the Thames River in London.

Venetian blinds were invented in Japan.

Henry Waterman, of New York, invented the elevator in 1850. He intended it to transport barrels of flour.

John Greenwood, also of New York invented the dental drill in 1790.

The corkscrew was invented by M.L. Bryn, also of New York, in 1860.

Electrical hearing aids were invented in 1901 by Miller R. Hutchinson, who was (you guessed it) from New York.




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