An invention is a two-way street. The person behind the invention is inspired to create something meaningful and useful, and we are inspired by their dedication and their stories. If you’re in need of a quick pick-me-up, here are the heartwarming and inspiring stories behind some incredible creations or the people who made them.
For many developing countries, being able to distribute vaccines is a challenge. If the medicine gets too warm, it could lose its effectiveness. Anurudh Ganesan, a then 15-year-old student, knew firsthand how lucky he was to have received a polio vaccination in his home country of India. The struggles his grandparents went through to get him the shot led him to build the VAXXWAGON, a modified bicycle with a thermos kept cold by user pedaling.
Mr. and Mrs. Earl Dickson lived at the turn of the century and were, by all accounts, quite a loving pair. Mr. Dickson was indeed so caring he sought to help his wife deal with the many cuts and burns she gave herself while making dinner. Using his skills and resources from working at Johnson & Johnson, he attached gauze to pieces of surgical tape, prepared for whenever she was injured. The result? The earliest adhesive bandages.
MADAME CJ WALKER
The daughter of former slaves, Sarah Breedlove Walker struggled during her life but never lost hope. After developing a lotion to deal with her hair loss, she began selling her product door-to-door before establishing a college in Pittsburgh. The Walker System, as it came to be known, revolutionized the sales industry and gave African-American women a chance to provide for themselves. Today, she’s recognized as the first female African-American self-made millionaire.
LEONARDO DA VINCI
The creations of Leonardo da Vinci are well-documented and discussed, but few talk about just how ahead of his time he was. From birth, he was considered different (being born out of wedlock during an age of strict religious ideas). His interpretations of religion in paintings like The Last Supper flew in the face of societal norms. And of course, his inventions- including scuba suits and modern tanks- are still being perfected today. He may be a Renaissance man, but his work is far from ancient.
Long before they manufactured video games, Nintendo made Hanafuda cards. One day, the president visited the factory Gunpei Yokoi was working at and noticed a toy Yokoi had made. The extending arm, later dubbed the Ultra Hand, was then rushed into production and became a smash for Nintendo. Yokoi continued to develop toys for Nintendo, including the first in the lucrative Game Boy line of consoles. He’s also known for the creation of the control pad, a staple on many gaming consoles to this day.
When he wasn’t busy being a founding father, Benjamin Franklin enjoyed experimenting. His discovery of electricity, if somewhat misattributed, is common knowledge. But what about the Franklin stove? The lightning rod? Indeed, not all of his ideas were amazing- he wanted to make the national bird the turkey, for example- but what makes him inspiring was his stance on his inventions. He never patented his inventions because he believed everybody should be able to use them.
Josephine Cochrane wanted to make life easier for her servants by lessening the work they had to do to clean the dishes. She built a machine with a motor spinning a wheel inside of a copper boiler. This was the first automatic dishwasher to use water pressure. After her alcoholic husband left her with debt after his death, she patented the creation in 1886 and used it to open her own factory and revolutionize households forever.