How Inventions Are Inspired

Necessity is the mother of all inventions, it has often been said. But is that really the case?

When housewives and those in the developing world invent things, most often it’s inspired by necessity, even dire need. Alongside this, many a contraption and concoction has been inspired by nature, science fiction and accidents.


Women are always right

Let’s first look at some of the interesting inventions by women. Tabitha Babbitt, born way back in 1779 was supposedly stitching in her verandah and watching two men toil away with a whipsaw trying to cut a log into two and came up with the idea of a circular saw which she then sold to a lumber company. She’s also credited with having created fake teeth. Mary Walton, as early as 1881; bothered by the pollution created by the burning of coal including in steam engines, came up with the idea of passing the pollutants through water which would absorb a good part of the particles. Maria Beasley born around 1836 went on to become a serial inventor and came up with a foot warmer and more importantly; life rafts that have saved innumerable people from drowning. Many a woman has made life safer and easier by inventing the fire-escape, the dishwasher, the ironing board, the refrigerator and even central heating. The list is endless.


You don’t need electronics to connect with nature

George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor who first at the age of just 12, patented a toy airplane, got inspired by nature when he saw his dog covered in burs. He went on to create Velcro as we know it today. Lewis Nixon invented the first SONAR so that vessels wouldn’t hit icebergs. He was most likely inspired by dolphins who naturally use it to communicate. Japan first invented bullet trains that would make a loud booming sound which would get deafening when the trains passed through tunnels. An engineer by the name Eiji Nakatsu is said to have been inspired after seeing a kingfisher in flight and adapted the shape of its beak to the engine. The noise level dropped drastically. Richard Gurley Drew, an engineer with 3M, which was at that time a manufacturer of sandpaper, created adhesive tape. It is said he was inspired by a gecko. After that 3M went on to invent and patent scores of products.


Science fiction helping create a futuristic world

Science fiction has had much of a role to play too. Almost a century ago, Robert Goddard, is said to have been inspired by a novel by H.G. Wells about the invasion by Martians and invented the first liquid-fueled rocket. Also reputedly inspired by H.G. Wells, is atomic energy resulting in Leo Szilard patenting his idea of nuclear fission reactor. The submarine similarly came to be a reality through the efforts of Simon Lake after he read about deep sea travel in a fictional novel. Even Star Wars is said to have played a role in the invention of mobile phones.


There’s excellence in accidents

Accidents have also culminated in the execution of some of the major inventions. If Alexander Fleming had washed the petri dish, the life saving drug Penicillin, the mother of antibiotics might not have saved those millions of lives. Alike to this is the story of the artificial sweetener Saccharin. If Constantin Fahlberg had washed his hands dirty with the residue involving coal tar the world would have had to wait no one will know how long, before another sweetener for diabetics would be created. Conrad Rontgen also invented X-ray due to an accident. Sildenafil citrate, more popularly known as Viagra, was also developed for hypertension and chest pains related to heart disease and was not meant to be the fun drug it accidently became. And Champagne, had the monk – God bless his soul – bottled the wine correctly, we would still be deprived of the good old bubbly.

Think of the countless inventions that we take for granted that have gone on to make life more comfortable. Even an invention such as marriage has its pluses.


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