Timeline of United States inventions (after 1991)

Dean Kamen (b. 1951) demonstrating his iBOT invention to President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office.

A timeline of United States inventions (after 1991) encompasses the ingenuity and innovative advancements of the United States within a historical context, dating from the Contemporary era to the present day, which have been achieved by inventors who are either native-born or naturalized citizens of the United States. Patent protection secures a person's right to his or her first-to-invent claim of the original invention in question, highlighted in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution which gives the following enumerated power to the United States Congress:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

In 1641, the first patent in North America was issued to Samuel Winslow by the General Court of Massachusetts for a new method of making salt.[1][2][3] On April 10, 1790, President George Washington signed the Patent Act of 1790 (1 Stat. 109) into law which proclaimed that patents were to be authorized for "any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any improvement therein not before known or used."[4] On July 31, 1790, Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vermont became the first person in the United States to file and to be granted a patent for an improved method of "Making Pot and Pearl Ashes."[5] The Patent Act of 1836 (Ch. 357, 5 Stat. 117) further clarified United States patent law to the extent of establishing a patent office where patent applications are filed, processed, and granted, contingent upon the language and scope of the claimant's invention, for a patent term of 14 years with an extension of up to an additional 7 years.[4] However, the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994 (URAA) changed the patent term in the United States to a total of 20 years, effective for patent applications filed on or after June 8, 1995, thus bringing United States patent law further into conformity with international patent law.[6] The modern-day provisions of the law applied to inventions are laid out in Title 35 of the United States Code (Ch. 950, sec. 1, 66 Stat. 792).

From 1836 to 2011, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted a total of 7,861,317 patents[7] relating to several well-known inventions appearing throughout the timeline below.

Contemporary era (1992–present)

Post–Cold War and the mid-to-late 1990s (1992–1999)

1992 Spinner (wheel)

1994 CMOS image sensor

Early prototype of a CMOS image sensor

A CMOS image sensor (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) is an image sensor consisting of an integrated circuit containing an array of pixel sensors, each pixel containing a photodetector and an active amplifier. Starting at the same point, they have to convert light into electrons by using the CMOS process. CMOS image sensors can be found in digital SLR cameras, embedded web-cams, video cameras, automotive safety systems, swallowable-pill cameras, toys and video games, and wireless video-security networks. The renowned American physicist and engineer Eric Fossum invented the CMOS image sensor while working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.[9] On January 28, 1994, Fossum filed U.S. patent #5,471,515, which was issued to him on November 28, 1995.[10]

1994 DNA computing

DNA computing uses DNA, biochemistry and molecular biology, instead of the traditional silicon-based computer technologies. DNA computing, or, more generally, molecular computing, is a fast-developing interdisciplinary area. Research and development in this area concerns theory, experiments and applications of DNA computing. DNA computing is fundamentally similar to parallel computing in that it takes advantage of the many different molecules of DNA to try many different possibilities at once. Leonard Adleman of the University of Southern California initially pioneered this field in 1994. Adleman demonstrated a proof-of-concept use of DNA as a form of computation which solved the seven-point Hamiltonian path problem.[11]

1994 Segway PT

A top-down view of a Segway PT

The Segway PT is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, zero-emission, electric vehicle used for "personal transport". Segways have had success in niche markets such as transportation for police departments, military bases, warehouses, corporate campuses or industrial sites, as well as in tourism. The earliest patent resembling the modern Segway PT, U.S. patent #6,357,544, was filed on May 27, 1994 and issued to Dean Kamen on December 30, 1997.[12] Kamen introduced his invention to the public in 2001.[13]

1994 Quantum cascade laser

A quantum cascade laser is a sliver of semiconductor material about the size of a tick. Inside, electrons are constrained within layers of gallium and aluminum compounds, called quantum wells are nanometers thick, much smaller than the thickness of a hair. Electrons jump from one energy level to another, rather than moving smoothly between levels and tunnel from one layer to the next going "through" rather than "over" energy barriers separating the wells. When the electrons jump, they emit photons of light. The quantum cascade laser was co-invented by Alfred Y. Cho, Claire F. Gmachl, Federico Capasso, Deborah Sivco, Albert Hutchinson, and Alessandro Tredicucci at Bell Laboratories in 1994.[14] On April 4, 1994, the Bell Labs team filed U.S. patent #5,457,709 that was issued on October 10, 1995.[15]

1995 Bose–Einstein condensate

1995 Screenless hammer mill

1995 Scroll wheel

1995 JavaScript

1996 Adobe Flash

1996 Bait car

1997 Virtual reality therapy

1998 HVLS fan

1999 Torino scale

1999 Phase-change incubator

1999 Bowtie cotter pin

1999 iBOT

2000s decade

2002 SERF

2003 Fermionic condensate

A fermionic condensate is a superfluid phase formed by fermionic particles at low temperatures. The first atomic fermionic condensate was invented by Deborah S. Jin in 2003.[31]

2003 Slingshot (water vapor distillation system)

Slingshot is a portable water purification device powered by a stirling engine running on a combustible fuel source. The size of a dorm fridge, the Slingshot is claimed to be capable of turning any water source such as urine, saltwater, and arsenic into drinking water. Dean Kamen invented the Slingshot.[32] Kamen filed U.S. patent # 7,340,879 on November 13, 2003 for the device which was issued on March 11, 2008.[33]

2007 Nanowire battery

A nanowire battery is a lithium-ion battery consisting of a stainless steel anode covered in silicon nanowires. Silicon, which stores ten times more lithium than graphite, allows a far greater energy density on a steel anode, thus reducing the mass of the battery. The high surface area further allows for fast charging and discharging. The practicality of nanowire batteries is reasoned that a laptop computer that runs on a regular lithium-ion battery for two hours could potentially operate up to 20 hours using a nanowire battery without recharging, which would be a considerable advantage for many people resulting in energy conservation and cost savings. The nanowire battery was co-invented in 2007 by Chinese-American Dr. Yi Cui, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering along with his colleagues at Stanford University.[34][35]

2008 Bionic contact lens A bionic contact lens is a digital contact lens worn directly on the human eye which in the future, scientists believe could one day serve as a useful virtual platform for activities such as surfing the World Wide Web, superimposing images on real-world objects, playing video games for entertainment, and for monitoring patients' medical conditions. The bionic contact lens is a form of nanotechnology and microfabrication constructed of light emitting diodes, an antenna, and electronic circuit wiring.[36] The bionic contact lens is the 2008 creation of Iranian-American Babak Parviz, an electrical engineer at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle.[37][38]

2008 Trongs

Trongs are gripping and lifting tools which are made up of three limbs, or finger-channels, each with teeth on the end of them. They are generally made of polypropylene and are dishwasher safe. Trongs are designed for eating finger food such as buffalo wings and barbecue ribs so that the user doesn't get his or her fingers messy. They are used in pairs so that the user has one for each hand. Trongs were co-invented in 2007 by two New Yorkers, Eric Zimmermann and Dan Ferrara Jr.[39] Zimmermann and Ferrara filed U.S. patent #12,682,890 on August 8, 2008 which was issued on February 24, 2011.[40]

See also


  1. "History of Patent Law". IP Legal Services.
  2. James W. Cortada, "Rise of the knowledge worker, Volume 8 of Resources for the knowledge-based economy", Knowledge Reader Series, Butterworth-Heinemann, 1998, p. 141, ISBN 0-7506-7058-4, ISBN 978-0-7506-7058-6.
  3. "Manufactures of the United States in 1860; compiled from the original returns of the eighth census, under the direction of the Secretary of the interior", Publisher: Government Printing Office, Washington, 1865, p. cxcix: "Salt-making was commenced at Salein in 1636, and in 1641 Samuel Winslow was allowed, for 10 years, the exclusive right of making salt in Massachusetts by a new method."
  4. 1 2 "Chapter 4: An Overview of Patents". Digital Law Online.
  5. "First U.S. Patent Issued Today in 1790". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  6. "2701 Patent Term [R-2]". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  7. "Table of Issue Years and Patent Numbers, for Selected Document Types Issued Since 1836". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  8. "Automotive wheel enhancers". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  9. "Active Pixel Sensor with Intra-Pixel Charge Transfer". National Inventors Hall of Fame.
  10. "Active pixel sensor with intra-pixel charge transfer". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  11. "Molecular Computation Of Solutions To Combinatorial Problems" (PDF). Science Journal.
  12. Human Transporter, United States Patent and Trademark Office
  13. "About Segway – Who We Are". Segway.
  14. "The Team". Bell Laboratories.
  15. "Unipolar semiconductor laser". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  16. "Bose-Einstein Condensation, A New Form of Matter". University of Washington.
  17. "Screenless hammermill". Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  18. "Computing History Displays: Fifth Floor – The Computer Mouse". University of Auckland.
  19. "System and method of adjusting display characteristics of a displayable data". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  20. "The History of JavaScript". The New York Times Company.
  21. "The History of Flash". Adobe.
  22. "Virtual Reality Battles PTSD 9 2011". CNN.
  23. "HVLS History". MacroAir Technologies, Inc.
  24. "About the Torino Scale". GNO, Inc.
  25. "Student's low-cost solution aids high-tech problem in Africa". Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  26. "Bow-Tie™ Locking Cotter". Pivot Point. Archived from the original on June 12, 2010.
  27. "Bow Tie Locking Cotter". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  28. Life on wheels: the A to Z guide to living fully with mobility issues. Demos Medical Publishing.
  29. "System and method for stair climbing in a cluster-wheel vehicle". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  30. Allred, J.; Lyman, R.; Kornack, T.; Romalis, M. (2002). "High-Sensitivity Atomic Magnetometer Unaffected by Spin-Exchange Relaxation". Physical Review Letters. 89 (13): 130801. Bibcode:2002PhRvL..89m0801A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.89.130801. PMID 12225013.
  31. "NIST/University of Colorado Scientists Create New Form of Matter: A Fermionic Condensate". University of Colorado.
  32. Marketing of High-Technology Products and Innovations. Jakki Mohr.
  33. "Locally powered water distillation system". United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  34. "Sulfur in hollow nanofibers overcomes challenges of lithium-ion battery design". Stanford University.
  35. "Silicon nanowire battery holds 10 times the charge of existing ones". Digital Journal.
  36. "Vision of the Future Seen in Bionic Contact Lens". MSNBC.
  37. "Babak Parviz: An Engineer With a Bionic Eye". United States Department of State.
  38. "Time's Best Inventions of 2008". Time Inc. October 29, 2008.
  40. "Food Handling Device". United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Further reading

External links

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