An often-asked trivia question is: Only one United States President holds a patent. Which one? (The answer is Abraham Lincoln.) This got me to wondering if any other famous people, that inventing was NOT their primary occupation, held patents. A bit a research uncovered several instances.
The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a prime example. After the leak was contained, the job of filtering the oil out of the seawater began. This is accomplished by what is called an Ocean Therapy Solution (OTS) oil separation turbine, which spins affected seawater to separate it from oil. BP ordered 32 of these devices. The fascinating part is that the actor Kevin Costner developed and holds the patent for this apparatus!
What do the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and one of the Marx Brothers (Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo) have in common? Zeppo Marx, invented a device for holding an A-bomb in place until released. Zeppo’s clamps held both A-bombs dropped on Japan to end World War II. Later, in 1969, Zeppo was part of a team that received a patent for a cardiac pulse rate monitor that was designed to let people with heart problems know if their pulse was shifting into a danger zone.
What do cell phones and the 1930s-1940s movie star Hedy Lamarr have in common? In 1942 Lamarr and composer George Antheil received a patent for a "secret communication system" that could use carrier waves of different frequencies to remotely control devices like zeppelins and torpedoes. The military used their invention extensively in World War II. It is this same technology, with minor modifications, that cell phones utilize today. Unfortunately, a patent is only good for twenty years, so the Lamarr estate did not benefit financially from her invention - but the cell phone inventors made a bundle off her invention.
What does fishing and the actor Gary Burghoff, the man who played Radar on M*A*S*H, have in common? Burghoff invented a device he calls "Chum Magic," a floating apparatus that fishermen can fill with chum to lure fish to their boats. He received a patent for the device in 1992.
What do Paul Winchell and open heart surgery have in common? Paul Winchell was famous in the 1950s and 1960s for being a ventriloquist. His two dummies were Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. Believe it or not, he invented the artificial heart that is used to replace a defective human heart.
How about soft-serve ice cream and the former Prime Minister of Great Britain Margaret Thatcher? Yes, in the 1940s, she invented the first machine to produce soft-ice cream. Today, her invention is utilized at the local Dairy Queen and other ice cream parlors.