Inspiration can strike any place—or at any age. Of the 81
inventions that rocked the 20th century,* seven were the brain-
children of Americans age 50 or older working solo.
Here’s why it pays to keep plugging away. By Bill Hogan
Assembly line, 1913
Henry Ford (1863-1947)
Adapting the meat-
model, Ford perfected
the concept for mass
production, or, as he
put it, for producing “a
motor car for the great
multitude.” By 1914 his company had
a 48 percent share of the market.
Trivia Didn’t believe in accountants.
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*Based on Encyclopaedia Britannica’s list of 325 innovations that had profound effects on human life.
George Owen Squier (1863-1934)
In 1910, as the U. S. Army’s
chief signal officer, Squier
ing,” the simultaneous
transmission of multiple
signals over one line.
The technology laid the
groundwork for his invention of “wired
radio,” which he later renamed Muzak,
shortly before his retirement.
Trivia In 1908, working with the Wright
brothers, became one of world’s first
Igor Sikorsky (1889-1972)
In 1919, six years after
designing and flying
the world’s first multi-
engine airplane in his
native Russia, Sikorsky
immigrated to the
United States. Turning
to the helicopter, he designed and flew
what would become the standard for
Trivia Designed his first helicopter,
powered by rubber bands, at 12.
Microwave oven, 1945
Percy L. Spencer (1894-1970)
The idea came to
him when a choco-
late bar melted in
his shirt pocket as
he stood in front of
a magnetron, the
used to power radar.
Trivia Received 150 patents but
never finished elementary school.
; Power of 50
Electric razor, 1929
Jacob Schick (1877-1937)
Schick invented the
forerunner of “injec-
tor” razors but sold the
rights so he could focus
on his electric concept.
Schick Dry Shaver Inc.
began operating in 1930.
Trivia Accused by President Franklin
D. Roosevelt of taking up Canadian
citizenship in 1935 “to escape our
income [tax] and inheritance laws.”
Parking meter, 1932
Carl Magee (1872-1946)
The Oklahoma City
Chamber of Com-
merce asked Magee
to solve problems
caused by all-day
parkers in the
district. Result: the coin gobbler.
Trivia As a crusading newspaper
editor, played a key role in exposing
the Teapot Dome bribery scandal.
John Robinson Pierce (1910-2002)
Pierce designed the
world’s first communica-
tions balloon satellite while
working at Bell Telephone
Laboratories (where he
also coined the term
“transistor”). It led to the
development of Telstar 1, which, launched
by NASA in 1962, relayed the first live
television signals by satellite.
Trivia Wrote science-fiction stories
under the pseudonym J. J. Coupling.