Inventions

Ben Franklin by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis, ca 1785

Ben Franklin Lives in Your Smartphone

The 18th-century inventor discovered concepts that impact modern technology

Snowboarder Shannon Dunn competes for Team USA in the 1998 Winter Olympics, where she won the bronze medal in half-pipe.

Winter Olympics

A Brief History of Snowboarding

Rebellious youth. Olympic glory. How a goofy American pastime conquered winter

(Top) Leila Strickland, Michelle Egger, Toby Kiers, Colin Averill, J. Richard Gott (Middle) Leslie Jones-Dove, Devshi Mehrotra, Prisha Shroff, Iké Udé (Bottom) Tim Farrelly, Omar Salem, David Deneher, Victor A. Lopez-Carmen, Doris Sung

Innovation for Good

Sixteen Innovators to Watch in 2022

These trailblazers are dreaming up a future with cell-cultured breastmilk, energy-saving windows and more

A CT scan of the spiral intestine of a Pacific spiny dogfish shark (Squalus suckleyi). The organ begins on the left and ends on the right.

Innovation for Good

Ten Scientific Discoveries From 2021 That May Lead to New Inventions

From nanobots to cancer treatments, nature inspires a wide variety of innovations

Smithsonian's most-read stories of 2021 included an explainer on crocodile evolution, a profile of a teen inventor and a feature on Viking explorer Gudrid the Far Traveler.

Our Top Ten Stories of 2021

From archaeological finds to an invasive weed to Roman bathrooms, these were our most-read articles of the year

In 2017, the original Tamagotchi was relaunched on the 20th anniversary of its original U.S. release.

Keeping Tamagotchi Alive

The virtual pet that turned '90s kids into round-the-clock caretakers turned 25 this year

The original Japanese packaging emphasized English characters over Japanese ones.

How Cup Noodles Became the Instant Ramen for Americans

Released in Japan 50 years ago, the portable meal proved to be one of the biggest transpacific business success stories of all time

Elon Musk, after securing a $2.9 billion NASA contract for SpaceX, recently hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

The Return of America's Celebrity Inventor

In a new book, Smithsonian historian Eric S. Hintz traces the rise and fall, and rise again, of the maverick inventor

Dozens of Smithsonian Institution professionals share their favorite reads from this year.

The Best Books of 2021

Smithsonian Scholars Pick Their Favorite Books of 2021

The writings of many fine authors support the research and ambitious undertakings of an Institution rising to the challenges ahead

Purdue University's INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering tests toys for how well they develop STEM skills in kids.

Gift Guides

Engineers Pick the Ten Best STEM Toys to Give as Gifts This Year

These expert-approved gifts teach robotics, coding and engineering thinking through stories and play

Franklin believed a turkey killed with electricity would be tastier than one dispatched by conventional means: decapitation.

When Benjamin Franklin Shocked Himself While Attempting to Electrocute a Turkey

The statesman was embarrassed by the mishap—no doubt a murder most fowl

Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, holding the Mattel Hoverboard in a scene from Back to the Future II

Marty McFly's 'Back to the Future II' Hoverboard Sells for $500,000

Signed by the franchise's star, actor Michael J. Fox, the movie prop easily surpassed its auction estimate

LifeLab Design's WarmLife vests are 30 percent warmer than clothing of comparable weight and bulk.

Innovation for Good

This Apparel Company Wants to Have a Profound Effect on Your Energy Use

LifeLabs Design was founded by a pair of Stanford professors who have developed fabrics capable of cooling and warming the wearer

NOAA and Saildrone deployed the fleet of five hurricane-class vessels in the Atlantic’s “hurricane belt” in the summer months leading up to this year’s tropical storm season. 

 

Innovation for Good

'Saildrone' Captures First-Ever Video From Inside a Category 4 Hurricane

This uncrewed, remote-controlled vessel gathered valuable scientific data that could help researchers better understand and predict these violent storms

Godfrey Hounsfield stands beside the EMI-Scanner in 1972.

Fifty Years Ago, the First CT Scan Let Doctors See Inside a Living Skull

The invention came from an eccentric British engineer who worked at a company now better known for selling Beatles albums

The National Weather Service Began as a Crowdsourcing Experiment

Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry used an army of volunteers in what would eventually become the nation's weather forecasting operation

Ultrasound of a 4-month-old fetus

A Brief History of the Sonogram

In the mid-1950s, a Scottish obstetrician became the first to apply ultrasound technology to a pregnant human abdomen

An early example of stylish appeal: the 1940 Chevrolet 
half-ton.

The Rugged History of the Pickup Truck

At first, it was all about hauling things we needed. Then the vehicle itself became the thing we wanted

A chameleon’s exterior can dapple on demand with a remarkable variety of colors and patterns. Researchers are inching towards realizing that capability in robots.

Scientists Design a Robotic Chameleon That Crawls and Changes Color

A new artificial skin can sense its surroundings and create a camouflage coat

Were it not for tuberculosis, artist and furniture maker Daniel Mack writes, “It’s unlikely that there would have been an Adirondack chair.”

How the Adirondack Chair Became the Feel-Good Recliner That Cures What Ails You

The furniture piece has gone through countless permutations, but it all started at a time when resting outdoors was thought to be a matter of life or death

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