Facts about inventors and their inventions from around the world.

Otto Wichterle

Wichterle discovered the hydrogel polyhydroxyethyl methacrylate (poly-HEMA), a synthetic polymer (plastic) that could absorb and retain water, and developed a method for molding it into flexible, soft contact lenses. He patented dozens of types of plastics and methods for their use or manufacture, and he wrote extensively on organic and inorganic chemistry, polymer science, and… read more »

Sheila Widnall

The first woman to serve on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Widnall became an internationally renowned expert in fluid dynamics who revolutionized the field with her work on aircraft turbulence, vortices, and spiraling airflows. Born: July 13, 1938; Tacoma, Washington Also known as:Sheila Evans Widnall (full name); Sheila Evans (birth name) Primary fields:Aeronautics and… read more »

Paul Winchell

Though better noted as a television personality and entertainer than as an inventor, Winchell developed innovations that ran the gamut from dramatic medical breakthroughs to novelties to unobtrusive everyday articles. His greatest accolades came as a result of his invention of the artificial heart, which purportedly became the model for the Jarvik-7 heart. Born:December 21,… read more »

Alexander Winton

Winton was a leading pioneer in the automobile industry, and his Winton Motor Carriage Company was one of the first American companies to sell automobiles. He also invented the first American diesel engine and the first engines with marine applications. Born: June 20, 1860; Grangemouth, Stirling, Scotland Died: June 21, 1932; Cleveland, Ohio Primary fields:Automotive… read more »

Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton

Walton, working with John Cockroft in Ernest Rutherford’s laboratory at Cambridge University, built the first high-energy particle accelerator and with it produced the first human-made nuclear reaction. Born:October 6, 1903; Dungarvan, County Waterford, Ireland Died: June 25, 1995; Belfast, Northern Ireland Primary field:Physics Primary invention:Cockroft-Walton particle accelerator Early Life Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton was born… read more »

Granville T. Woods

Woods invented many electrical and electromechanical devices related to railway technology and telecommunications systems. He also invented the egg incubator and improvements to inventions such as safety circuits, phonographs, telegraphs, and telephones. Altogether, he had approximately sixty patents to his credit. Born:April 23, 1856; Columbus, Ohio Died: January 30, 1910; New York, New York Also… read more »

An Wang

Wang invented the magnetic memory device that dominated the storage capacity of computers for twenty years, until the development of semiconductor technology. He became a major American entrepreneur in the area of calculators, word processors, and computers. Born:February 7, 1920; Shanghai, China Died:March 24, 1990; Boston, Massachusetts Primary fields:Computer science; physics Primary invention:Pulse transfer controlling… read more »

Taylor Gunjin Wang

Wang’s inventions moved from novel methods of acoustic manipulation of matter to the design of new encapsulations for cells used in bioengineering, with practical applications in the fight of diseases such as diabetes. His innovative design of drop dynamics experiments in zero gravity made him the first Chinese American astronaut. Born: June 16, 1940; Shanghai,… read more »

Felix Wankel

Wankel was an imaginative, self-trained engineer and inventor whose most memorable contribution was the development of the rotary engine that bears his name—the Wankel engine—and operates by using orbiting triangular rotors that function much as pistons do in conventional gas-powered engines. Born:August 13, 1902; Lahr, Germany Died:October 9, 1988; Lindau, West Germany (now in Germany)… read more »