101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

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Invented by Wallace Hume Carothers, head of the Du Pont experimental station, in 1937. Nylon stockings came on the market in 1940; they were so popular that Du Pont sold sixty-four million pairs that year. Carothers and his associates at Du Pont also invented the synthetic rubber neoprene.

96 Frequency modulation (FM).

The system of transmitting sound patterns by varying the frequency of the carrier wave rather than its amplitude (AM), invented by Edwin H. Armstrong in 1933 but not developed widely until after World War II.

97 Aerosol valve.

Invented in 1953 by Robert Abplanalp (better known for his friendship with Richard Nixon).

98 Permanent Wave.

Invented by Karl Ludwig Nessler, a German-born hairdresser, who over a period of years ending in the mid-1920s perfected machines for making hair more porous so that it would absorb moisture. Moist hair holds a curl longer than dry hair, but not, of course, permanently.

99 Oral contraceptive.

Invented in the 1950s by Gregory Pincus, who produced Enovid, the first “pill,” by combining synthetic progesterone and estrogen.

100 Quick-frozen foods.

Invented by Clarence Birdseye, who first experimented with the concept while he was a fur trader in Labrador before World War I. Birdseye invented the term quick-freeze and sold his patents in 1929.

THE INVENTION THAT WASN'T 

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In the 1870s George B. Seiden had developed detailed designs for a “horseless carriage,” powered by a gasoline engine and complete with an ignition system, a clutch, brakes, and other details. He never built even a prototype for such a machine, apparently because he was unable to obtain financing. Nevertheless, in 1895 he was issued a patent for a “road engine.” He assigned his patent to the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers, and for many years this group licensed the actual manufacturers of cars, charging a small royalty. Henry Ford, however, refused to recognize the Seiden patent, and in 1911, after a complicated legal battle, a US. circuit court decided in Ford’s favor.