The Innovative Spirit The Innovative Spirit

Can You Guess the Invention Based on These Patent Illustrations?

Hint: They are all part of the National Museum of American History’s collection

(USPTO)
smithsonian.com

For Marion Donovan, a Connecticut mother of two, an endless parade of soggy cloth diapers spurred what would become a million dollar idea. The year was 1946 and options for diapers were sub-par: wicking cloth or rash-inducing rubber. So Donovan devised a solution.

She clipped out a section of her shower curtain to create a moisture-proof but breathable cover for her babies’ bottoms. These “boaters” became an instant commercial hit. Donovan wasn’t finished yet. She set out to replace cloth diapers all together with absorbent and disposable paper. At the time, manufacturers didn’t take the idea seriously. But in the 1960s, tapping in to Donovan’s vision, Proctor and Gamble engineer Victor Mills introduced the world to Pampers.

But this is only one example. See if you can identify these 10 inventions—all part of the National Museum of American History’s collection—by studying the drawings the inventors filed with their patents. 

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About Maya Wei-Haas
Maya Wei-Haas

Maya Wei-Haas is the assistant editor for science and innovation at Smithsonian.com. Her work has appeared on National Geographic and AGU's Eos and Plainspoken Scientist.

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