The latest group of nineteen inductees making up the 2019 Class of the National Inventors Hall of Fame include two pioneers in the test and measurement field.
Inductees Jeff Kodosky and James 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.
In the 1970s, Kodosky and Truchard were researchers at the Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas, responsible for automating acoustical instruments for the U.S. Navy. Frustrated by inefficient data collection methods of the time and determined to simplify their work, they imagined how computers might facilitate high-end testing. Along with co-worker Bill Nowlin, they founded National Instruments (NI), to develop the relationship between scientific instruments and computers through a concept called virtual instrumentation, where software and hardware combine to perform the functions of traditional instruments. LabVIEW (Laboratory Virtual Instrumentation Engineering Workbench) would become its flagship product.
In partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), NIHF will honor inductees in Washington, D.C. on May 1-2 at one of the innovation industry’s most highly anticipated events — “The Greatest Celebration of American Innovation.”
Other inductees this year:
• 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.
• 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.
“The National Inventors Hall of Fame honors the innovation game-changers who have transformed our world,” said NIHF CEO Michael Oister. “Through inventions as diverse as life-saving medicines and web browsers for the visually impaired, these superhero innovators have made significant advances in our daily lives and well-being.”