“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” –scientist Alan Kay

            On July 20, a space capsule carrying a diverse crew of intrepid civilian astronauts landed in the Texas desert. The flight of billionaire Amazon founder Jeff  Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket made history as the latest episode in the space race. It was an amazing demonstration of humankind’s ability to turn dreams into reality.

 “Aren’t we all dreamers? It’s only because man dreamt of flying that we are travelling in planes. Behind all inventions, we see the dreams of people.” photographer Ajith Kumar said. 

People have long endeavored to improve the speed, comfort, cost and ease of transportation from the wheel invented by Mesopotamians around 3500 B.C., to the steam engine patented by James Watt in 1781, the first automobile attributed to German inventor Karl Benz in 1886 and the first motor-operated airplane built at the beginning of the 20th century by aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright,

Electric vehicles are the latest craze. No. 1 Rooney Bin son and daughter-in-law live in California; of course they had to have an all-electric car. A lot of their automotive power is used searching for charging stations. On the other hand, No.1 daughter came home upset because someone behind her at a traffic light laid on their horn when the light changed and she didn’t move quickly.

“Who invented the horn? People are using it for all the wrong reasons,” she complained.

According to Henry Ford museum transportation curator Matt Anderson, “using the horn was considered courteous” in the early 20th century. There were three kinds of horns, an air horn with a plastic squeeze bulb, an exhaust horn that sounded like a steam locomotive and an electric horn.

Another automotive improvement was the invention of the cup holder, an innovation that arose from the development of drive-through restaurants and mini-vans. Bezos’ rocket capsule had private seats, large windows and a modern interior, but did it have cup holders?

Most folks think the great inventors are all men: Thomas Edison was known for the light bulb; Alexander Graham Bell created the telephone; Johannes Gutenberg invented the Gutenberg press, and America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln also was an inventor. One of his first political causes was to improve navigation on the Sangamon River. He hired a mechanic to help him design a machine that could lift boats over shoals and sandbars.

However, women also deserve credit for essential innovations: Melina Bentz created disposable coffee filters; New York City nurse Marie Van Brittan Brown made the first home security system and Josephine Cochrane patented the first mechanical dishwasher. 

*The final word… Many inventions, such as the wheel, batteries and even beer, have ancient origins, but are not attributed to a single person. It’s up to the individual to say which invention is the most valuable. As humor writer Dave Barry observed, “Without question the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”