Behind every invention :: Smithsonian Lemelson Center
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Behind every invention there's a story...

Outfitted to Fight
The Quartermaster Corps met the challenge of full-scale global conflict in World War II by outfitting a force that fought in all terrains and climates. During the course of the war, the Corps spearheaded the development of everything from mukluks and arctic sleeping bags to rot-resistant boots and mosquito-proof jungle hammocks.
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Architecture & Innovation
What is the role of innovation, technology, and the creative process in architecture? Douglas Cardinal and Santiago Calatrava, two internationally renowned architects, talked about the ways in which they blend inspiration from nature, artistic creativity, and high technology in their work.
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A Mother’s Invention Is Necessity
Late one night in 1946, a tired mother faced a wet, crying baby yet again. While changing her soaked daughter, Marion O’Brien Donovan thought about better ways to keep babies dry. She tore down the shower curtain and went to her sewing machine, determined to create a diaper cover that would prevent leaks.
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Preserving the History of Invention
What do Mexican-American inventor Victor Ochoa and ski and tennis racket inventor Howard Head have in common? Their papers are among those donated to the Museum as part of the MIND program (for Modern INventors Documentation), a joint effort of the Lemelson Center and the Archives Center.
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Straight Talk about Flexible Straws
Sitting at a counter with his young daughter, Joseph Friedman watched her struggle to drink her milkshake through a straight paper straw. Friedman inserted a screw into the straw and wrapped the paper into the screw threads with dental floss. After removing the screw, the straw bent easily over the edge of the glass.
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If the Shoe Fits...
If you've ever been fitted for a pair of shoes, you've been in close contact with a Brannock Device. Unlike earlier measuring implements, Charles Brannock's 1925 invention measured the overall length, width, and heel-to-ball length of the foot all at once, making better fitting shoes possible for everyone, from children to soldiers.
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Sorting Out Everett Bickley
Of the hundreds of artifact donation offers that the National Museum of American History receives every year, one in particular caught curator Steven Lubar’s eye. Everett Bickley’s daughter had a prototype of her father’s seed sorting invention that related to a key moment in American agricultural history.
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Yo-Yo Ups and Downs
In 1929, a yo-yo craze swept California, thanks to Pedro Flores, who was beginning to mass produce and sell the simple toy he had known as a boy in the Philippines. But when Chicago businessman Donald Duncan Sr. spotted Flores's yo-yo, he made it one of the most popular toys of all time.
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