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The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) joined Engadget on stage today at CES to announce its 2019 class of inductees. While the official induction ceremony won’t actually happen until May 2nd at the National Building Museum in DC, we can tell you that 19 separate innovators representing 12 different inventions will be honored. The group ranges from relatively obscure creators of a programming language used by engineers and scientists, to house hold names like S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker — or Black & Decker — the inventors of the first portable handheld drill. The festivities will be hosted by Danica McKellar, best known as Winnie Cooper from the Wonder Years, but also an accomplished academic and mathematician.
The NIHF was also kind enough to bring along a few special guests, in 2019 inductee Bill Ward, the inventor of digital non-linear video editing; Nicole Black, the winner of its Collegiate Inventor Competition; and 2011 inductee Steve Sasson, the inventor of the digital camera. The three of them talked, not just about their inventions, but what it means to be an inventor, what inspires them and what drives them to continue to create to this day.
We’ve included the complete class of 2019 below, along with brief bios provided by the NIHF. But you can find out more info about each of the honorees here.
Chieko Asakawa: Web Browser for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Chieko Asakawa invented the Home Page Reader (HPR), the first practical voice browser to provide effective Internet access for blind and visually impaired computer users. Designed to enable users to surf the internet and navigate web pages through a computer’s numeric keypad instead of a mouse, HPR debuted in 1997; by 2003, it was widely used around the world.
Jeff Kodosky and James Truchard: Virtual Instrumentation – LabVIEW
Kodosky and Truchard introduced LabVIEW in 1986 as a graphical programming language that enables user-defined testing and measurement and control systems. It grew to be used by engineers, scientists, academics and students around the world.
Rebecca Richards-Kortum: Medical Devices for Low-Resource Settings
Rebecca Richards-Kortum develops low-cost, high-performance medical technologies for people in places where traditional medical equipment is not an option. She’s led the development of optical technologies to improve early detection of cervical, oral and esophageal cancer; and tools to improve newborn survival in Africa, including the Pumani CPAP system for newborns with breathing problems; BiliSpec for measuring bilirubin levels to detect jaundice; and DoseRight, for accurate dosing of children’s liquid medication.
Dennis Ritchie (Posthumous) and Ken Thompson: UNIX Operating System
Thompson and Ritchie’s creation of the UNIX operating system and the C programming language were pivotal developments in the progress of computer science. Today, 50 years after its beginnings, UNIX and UNIX-like systems continue to run machinery from supercomputers to smartphones. The UNIX operating system remains the basis of much of the world’s computing infrastructure, and C language — written to simplify the development of UNIX — is one of the most widely used languages today.
Edmund O. Schweitzer III: Digital Protective Relay
Schweitzer brought the first microprocessor-based digital protective relay to market, revolutionizing the performance of electric power systems with computer-based protection and control equipment, and making a major impact in the electric power utility industry. Schweitzer’s more precise, more reliable digital relay was one-eighth the size, one-tenth the weight and one-third the price of previous mechanical relays.
David Walt: Microwell Arrays
Walt created microwell arrays that could analyze thousands of genes simultaneously, revolutionizing the field of genetic analysis. His technology accelerated the understanding of numerous human diseases and is now being used in diagnosis. It has also made DNA sequencing more affordable and accessible.
William J. Warner: Digital Nonlinear Editing System
Bill Warner invented the Avid Media Composer — a digital nonlinear editing system for film and video. Warner’s technology revolutionized film and video post-production by providing editors with faster, more intuitive and more creative techniques than were possible with traditional analog linear methods.
John Baer, Karl H. Beyer Jr., Frederick Novello and James Sprague: Thiazide Diuretics/Chlorothiazide (Posthumous)
Beyer, Sprague, Baer and Novello were part of the Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories team that pioneered thiazide diuretics, the first class of drugs to safely and effectively treat hypertension. Today, thiazide diuretics remain a first-line treatment for high blood pressure and related heart problems.
S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker: Portable Hand-Held Electric Drill (Posthumous)
Virtually all of today’s electric drills descend from the original portable hand-held drill developed by Black and Decker, whose invention spurred the growth of the modern power tool industry. By 1920, Black & Decker surpassed $ 1 million in annual sales and soon had offices in eight U.S. cities and a factory in Canada. Today, the company is known as Stanley Black & Decker.
Andrew Higgins: LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel); Higgins Boats (Posthumous)
Higgins, a New Orleans-based boat builder and inventor, developed and manufactured landing craft critical to the success of the U.S. military during World War II. The best known was the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP), or Higgins Boat, used to land American troops on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
Joseph Lee: Bread Machines (Posthumous)
The son of slaves, Boston-area entrepreneur Joseph Lee was a pioneer in the automation of bread and bread-crumb making during the late 1800s. The self-educated inventor was a successful hotel and restaurant owner who created his machines to allow for greater efficiency in his kitchens, and by 1900 his devices were used by many of America’s leading hotels and were a fixture in hundreds of the country’s leading catering establishments.
Joseph Muhler and William Nebergall: Stannous Fluoride Toothpaste (Posthumous)
Dentist and biochemist Muhler and inorganic chemist Nebergall developed a cavity-preventing product using stannous fluoride. In 1956, Crest ® toothpaste was introduced nationally. Four years later, it became the first toothpaste to be recognized by the American Dental Association as an effective decay-preventing agent.