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Issue Date: May 2004 Issue


Fast Lane

Rini Paiva, National Inventors Hall of Fame, director of public relations and inductee relations

How far can an idea get you? If it's good enough, Akron. On May 1, the National Inventors Hall of Fame will induct 20 inventors during its annual ceremony. "They're all remarkable, inventive people," says Rini Paiva, director of public relations and inductee relations. "Each of them has found a way to look at the world like no one ever has before."

So, before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, what popped over an inventor's head when he had a good idea?

Not sure. A candle maybe?

How does someone qualify for the hall?

The inventor must have a U.S. patent. And their invention must be something that has benefited society.

Like the Chia Pet.

I said it must be something that's benefited society.

Personally, I find it emotionally satisfying knowing that a clay pig can grow green, leafy back hair.

I understand. I think.

What's the patent number for thumbtacks?

I have no idea.

Would we know any of the inductees this year?

The thing about inventors is that you might not recognize their name, but we all know their inventions. For example, Charles Kelman, inventor of ultrasonic cataract surgery, is being inducted this year. So is Harry Coover.

Right. Harry Coover. Inventor of the Coovinator.

Close. He developed cyanoacrylates, also known as Super Glue.

Doesn't Thomas Edison have the most patents?

That's right. He has 1,093 — far and away more than anyone else.

Is Ron Popeil second?

Frankly, I'm not sure where the inventor of the Pocket Fisherman stands on the list of world's greatest innovators.

The best part of your job?

I love spending time with the inventors. It's fascinating to watch them interact with each other. They're always so eager to give each other credit, too. They're always saying things like, "I couldn't have come up with my thing if you didn't come up with your thing."

Is the person who invented the Hall of Fame in the Hall of Fame?

I don't believe so.

What was patent No. 1?

It wasn't actually numbered, but the first U.S. patent was given to Samuel Hopkins in 1790, for a method for producing potash and pearlash.

If an inventor bet on inventions, would you allow him in your Hall of Fame?

Absolutely.

The worst invention ever?

I'd have to go with the infomercial.

Which one?

Every one.


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