Wouldn’t it be nice to be an inventor of cool stuff? Think about it – you get an idea. Your idea, the small and delicate flower that it is, can grow and if you play your cards right, you can turn it into something physical, something of value, not only to you, but to the world. You patent it and that’s it – your life is now easier and you’re free to go on to the next great thing. This kind of thing has happened to a lot of people, who dared dream their dreams into existence.
But then again, there are those, unlucky puppies, whose inventions, albeit interesting, historically important, or even lucrative in principle, didn’t compensate their creators. Here are 11 of those cases. Why 11? Because 10 is boring, plus, I always do more than needed. Enjoy.
#1. John Walker: THE MATCHES
Creating fire is what got mankind out of the primordial swamp – literally. But before inventing the lighter (curiously – that was before the matches, in 1823), people would light a fire the hard way. Then, in 1826 the world saw an even cooler way to light you cigar – the matches.
An English fellow by the name of John Walker did it first, and he did it in his own chemistry lab in Stockton, where he was born and raised. The original title of those naughty sticks was “friction lights”, but as per usual, the mob had a better and far catchier nickname for them – “Lucifers”. Johny boy wasn’t very impressed with his work and that’s why he didn’t patent it. The “Lucifers” invention was then given to a more business oriented man – Sir Isaac Holden. He saw the lucrative opportunity for what it was and presented the matches to the rest of the world. They took off like a wild fire and made him rich and famous (which is why many people think it was him, not Walker, who invented them). In the end Walker got the credit he deserved, but at that point he was already dead.
#2. Benjamin Bradley: STEAM ENGINE FOR WARSHIPS
Benjamin Bradley had a rough start in his life: He was an African American in the 19th century, living in the wrong part of the US – Maryland. He was, for all intents and purposes, a slave. But he proved to be so, so much more than that. An inventive and curious man by his very nature, once he got some education in him (illegally, his owner’s kids were ‘to blame’ for that), he exceeded in mathematics, and got to be a prolific reader. By the time the year 1830 rolled around, he was already working as an engineer, creating all sorts of impressive engine designs (made them from scrap).
Next stop – US Navy Academy, Annapolis, where Ben got to be an assistant, helping out with all sorts of experiments. The academy recognized him as equal and even paid him a salary, which sadly, he couldn’t keep, because all of it (short of 5 bucks) was by law, his master’s.
You’d be amazed how far Benjamin could stretch those five dollars. He saved most of his miniscule income, until he got enough cash to build his own steam engine – one that was big enough for the needs of a warship. Of course, the law being what it was, he couldn’t patent it. Oh, that steam engine design was later at the heart of US’s first warship, powered by steam. And Ben? Ben went on to save more money, this time to buy his freedom. He never got to profit off of his invention. But he died a free man and a genius.