The Stuff of Genius
Adolf Fick: Contact Lens
Today, contact lenses are used by people across the world. But how did this billion-dollar industry get started? Tune in to learn how a German ophthalmologist created the Stuff of (Optical) Genius.
Al Gross: Walkie-Talkie
When Al Gross was nine years old, he wandered into a steamboat's radio room while vacationing with his family. For the rest of his life he was fascinated by wireless communication. Tune in and learn more about Al's Stuff of Genius.
Aloysius Lilius: Modern Calendar
Nowadays it's easy to take the calendar for granted -- nations across the world have agreed that (for business purposes) each year is twelve months long. But how did we get this calendar in the first place? Tune in and find out.
Arthur Arnot: Electric Drill
When Arthur Arnot moved to Australia, drills had already been around for quite a while. Yet they were still hand-operated, slow and unwieldy. Listen in to learn how Arthur stumbled on his Stuff of Genius
Arthur Wynne: Crossword Puzzle
Crosswords are one of the world's most popular word games, but how did they get invented? Tune in to learn how hard-working newspaper employee Arthur Wynne struck upon the Stuff of (Crossword) Genius.
Bette Nesmith Graham: Liquid Paper
Dallas secretary Bette Nesmith Graham hated typos, because erasing an error left smears and smudges. Luckily, she decided to tackle the problem with paint rather than erasers. Learn about her Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Charles Drew: Modern Blood Bank
Before the advent of the modern blood bank, blood could only be stored for about two days. Luckily, when Charles Drew began researching ways to prolong the usefulness of stored blood, his Stuff of Genius struck. Tune in and learn more in this episode.
Charles Edgar Fritts: Solar Cells
As an electrician, Charles Fritts was intimately acquainted with the drawbacks of coal-powered electricity distribution grids. Tune in and learn how he used selenium, gold and glass to make his own solar-powered Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Charles Strite: The Toaster
Although toast itself dates back into prehistory, the toaster is a very recent -- and convenient -- invention. Learn how Charles Strite's Stuff of Genius became a fixture of the modern kitchen in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Chaz Holder: (Modern) Prosthetic Limbs
Prosthetic limbs have been around for thousands of years, but they've usually been clumsy and expensive. Tune in and learn how Chaz Holder's Stuff of Genius made prosthetic limbs more affordable -- and more comfortable -- for people across the world.
Chester Greenwood: Earmuffs
As a big-eared child in Maine, Chester Greenwood was used to freezing weather. Of course, that doesn't mean he enjoyed it. Learn how his Stuff of Genius kept ears across America toasty (and made Chester famous) in this podcast.
Christopher Cockerell: Hovercraft
Christopher came from a smart family, and he was no exception to the rule. Tune in to learn how the purchase of a marina inspired this engineer to build something that's not quite a boat, and not quite a plane -- but certainly the Stuff of Genius.
Christopher Sholes: The QWERTY Keyboard
Although the keys on the original typewriter keyboard were alphabetized, consumers quickly realized the swift taps of typists would inevitably jam the machine. Learn how Christopher Sholes saved the keyboard in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Cornelius Drebbel: Submarine
With loads of experiments and inventions under his belt, Cornelius Drebbel was a true Renaissance man. But one of his inventions was more useful than any other, even if England didn't think so at the time. Tune in and learn more about submarines.
Cyril Callister: Vegemight
Today, Vegemite is an iconic Australian condiment and a piece of the country's national identity. Yet this wasn't always the case. Tune in and meet Cyril Callister, the genius behind Vegemite.
Daisuke Inoue: Karaoke
Daisuke Inoue was a drummer for several Japanese bands, and spent hours memorizing popular songs. At least, that is, until he realized how much easier life would be if he could automate the band. Learn more in this podcast.
Daniel Fahrenheit: Mercury Thermometer
Daniel Fahrenheit built several types of thermometers, but his Stuff of Genius wasn't restricted to a few temperature measuring devices. Tune in and learn how Daniel Fahrenheit invented the system that bears his name today.
Daniel Peter: Milk Chocolate
Nowadays milk chocolate is everywhere, but this wasn't always the case. Tune in to learn more about Daniel Peter, who took bitter cocoa tablets and -- with loads of hard work and a neighbor named Nestle -- created the Stuff of (chocolate) Genius.
David Warren: Black Box
Nowadays flight recorders are a mandatory piece of equipment for all commercial planes -- but why? Tune in and learn more about black box recorders, as well as the genius behind them, in this podcast.
Douglas Engelbart: The Computer Mouse
Before Douglas Engelbart invented the mouse, computers received input through typed commands -- but that all changed once this handy pointer hit the scene. Learn more about the Engelbart's Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Earle Dickson: Band-Aids
Earle Dickson was exhausted. He spent nearly every night making bandages for his accident-prone wife, and he knew there had to be a better, faster way. Learn how his Stuff of Genius healed cuts around the world in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Ed Acheson: Carborundum
Although silicon carbide occurs in the natural world, it's extremely rare. Tune in to learn how Edward Acheson got struck by inspiration and learned how to manufacture this substance, which he called carborundum.
Edmund McIlhenny: Tabasco Sauce
You might be surprised to learn that the creator of modern-day Tabasco sauce was once a banker. Yet when the Civil War wiped his fortunes away, Edmund didn't give up. He hunkered down in his garden and made the Stuff of Genius. Tune in to learn more.
Edward Budding: Lawnmower
Before 1830, trimming a lawn was time-consuming and difficult. At least, that is, until a fabric-shaving machine inspired Edward Budding to invent the lawnmower -- and save future landscapers from countless hours of hacking at the ground with scythes.
Edward Jenner: Smallpox Vaccine
Although forms of vaccination had been discovered thousands of years ago in Asia and Africa, Western Europeans didn't pick up on it until Edward Jenner turned an old wives' tale into the Stuff of Genius. Tune in and learn more in this podcast.
Edwin Land: Polaroid Camera
When Edwin Land's daughter asked why she couldn't see a photograph immediately after it was taken, inspiration struck. Learn how this prolific inventor's Stuff Of Genius polarized light and made every camera user an amateur film developer in this episode.
Erik Rothheim: Spray Cans
Although the idea of an aerosol spray can dates back to the 18th century, Erik Rotheim was the first person to make a working device based on the concept. Tune in and learn how his Stuff of Genius has changed the world -- for better or worse -- in this ep
Erno Rubik: Rubik's Cube
As a professor in Budapest, Erno Rubik had a pretty swell day job -- but his hobby was even more fascinating. Tune in and learn how Erno Rubik's hobby became the brain-teasing Stuff of Genius that baffles millions in this episode.
Ernst Alexanderson: Long-Range Radio
Before Ernst Alexanderson designed the high-frequency alternators that transmitted radio broadcasts in a continuous wave, radio was not usable over long distances. Tune in and learn more Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Felix Hoffman: Aspirin
When chemist Felix Hoffman attempted to lessen his father's chronic stomach pain, he discovered aspirin. Learn more about the positive -- and negative -- consequences of Hoffman's astonishing career in this podcast by HowStuffWorks.com.
Ferdinand Zeppelin: Zeppelin
When the German aristocrat Ferdinand Zeppelin traveled to the U.S. during the Civil War, an unexpected encounter with Thaddeus S.C. Lowe's aviation experiments changed his life. Tune in to learn more about the rise and fall of the Zeppelin airship.
Frank Epperson: Popsicle
Frank Epperson wasn't the typical inventor -- in fact, he wasn't even old enough to drive when he invented the popsicle. Tune in and learn the story behind this Stuff of (Frozen) Genius.
George Crum: Potato Chips
Frustrated by a picky customer, cook George Crum fried up some paper-thin potato slices. Find out how George's revenge scheme went awry -- and how his potato chips became the Stuff of Genius -- in this episode.
George de Mestral: Velcro
When George de Mestral and his dog set out on a leisurely mountain stroll, they returned covered in burrs. Learn how an afternoon walk inspired the creation of Velcro in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
George Ferris: Ferris Wheel
When Chicago began planning for the World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893, the city's planners asked George Ferris to build something "original, daring, and unique." Tune in to learn more about his invention -- and why it's considered the Stuff of Genius.
George Hancock: Softball
As a reporter in Chicago, George Hancock was resigned to the bitter, snowy winter weather that trapped people indoors and stopped them from playing outdoor sports like baseball. At least, that is, until his Stuff of Genius struck. Tune in and learn more.
Georges Claude: Neon Lights
Have you ever been curious about the story behind those bright city lights? Then tune in and learn how Georges Claude's Stuff of Genius illuminated the world of advertising in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Hans Geiger: Geiger Counter
Today, the Geiger counter used across the planet -- but who invented it, and how? Tune in to find out.
Harry Coover: Superglue
Everyone knows superglue can fix broken mugs and car models -- but it's also strong enough to staunch bleeding wounds. Learn the amazing story behind Harry Coover's Stuff of Genius -- and its original use -- in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Henry Phillips: Phillips Screwdriver
Flat-head screwdrivers have been around for centuries, but when Henry Phillips realized he'd need a better screwdriver for power tools, inspiration struck. Learn more about his Stuff of Genius -- the Phillips screwdriver -- in this episode.
Jack Cover: Taser
As a leading physicist at NASA, Jack Cover already had a few achievements under his belt. Yet his Stuff of Genius was something completely unrelated. Tune in and learn how a fateful encounter with an electric fence led to the taser in this episode.
James Russell: Compact Disc
As an audiophile, James Russell loved his record collection despite the scratching and warping of vinyl. As an inventor, he knew there had to be a better way to play music. Learn more about his Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Jaques Brandenberger: Cellophane
It's easy to take cellophane for granted, but without Jaques Brandenberger we may have never discovered this biodegradable packaging. Learn how one man's quest for a stain-proof tablecloth changed in the world in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
John A. Roebling: Brooklyn Bridge
When New York's leaders contacted John Roebling for help on the Brooklyn Bridge, he was already a well-known engineer -- but was he up to the task? Tune in and learn how Roebling used his cable designs to spin the Stuff of Genius in this episode.
John Herschel: Blueprints
Before the days of copiers and electronic documents, duplicating documents was a time-consuming, arduous task. Learn how John Herschel's blueprints changed the face of the modern world -- and why they're blue -- in this podcast.
John Shepherd-Barron: ATM
John Shepherd-Barron usually stopped by his local bank on Saturdays to cash checks. But when he arrived one minute after they closed, he was out of luck. Tune in and learn how John's irritating experience led to the Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Joseph Friedman: The Flexible Straw
Joseph Friedman took beverage technology to a whole new level with the invention of the flexible drinking straw. Find out how Friedman came up with his bendy creation in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Joseph Glidden: Barbed Wire
Joseph Glidden was working as a sheriff when an demonstration at a county fair piqued his interest and set him on the path to inventing the Stuff of Genius. Tune in to learn more about barbed wire.
Josephine Cochrane: Dishwashers
Josephine Cochrane didn't exactly enjoy washing dishes -- then again, who does? Luckily, Mrs. Cochrane happened to enjoy design and a flair for invention. Learn more about her Stuff of Genius in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Joshua Silver: Self-Adjustable Glasses
Professor Joshua Silver isn't an optometrist, but his self-adjustable eyeglasses have improved the vision of people across the developing world. Tune in and learn how this Oxford physicist plans to improve the vision of a billion people by 2020.
L.L. Zamenhof: Esperanto
L.L. Zamenhof was fascinated by language from a young age. He also believed the majority of human conflict arose from miscommunication. Tune in to learn how Zamenhof used his Stuff of Genius to build a universal language.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin: Google
Today, Google is one of the world's most well-known, influential companies. But how did it get its start? Tune in and learn how two Stanford graduate students took their Stuff of Genius from a garage to people across the globe.
Laszlo Biro: Ballpoint Pens
In one form or another, pens have been around for centuries. Unfortunately, they've also been messy, inconvenient and unreliable. Learn how Laszlo Biro's Stuff of Genius brought pens into the modern age in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Leo Baekeland: Bakelite
After making millions from a new photo paper, many people would retire. Leo Baekeland, on the other hand, was just getting started. Learn more about how he invented Bakelite -- and how it changed the world -- in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Les Paul: Electric Guitar
According to his piano teacher, Les Paul had no musical talent. Yet Les Paul overcame this inauspicious beginning to become a legendary songwriter -- even inventing the modern electric guitar on the way. Tune in and learn more.
Levi Strauss: Blue Jeans
Today, blue jeans are one of the world's most iconic forms of clothing. But who came up with the idea? (Hint: It wasn't just Levi Strauss.) Tune in to learn more about blue jeans in this special episode featuring two inventors.
Louis Reard: Bikini
Louie Reard wasn't the typical automobile engineer, and his Stuff of Genius has nothing to do with cars. Tune in and learn how an otherwise mild-mannered inventor created one of history's most iconic -- and controversial -- pieces of swimwear.
Mary Anderson: Windshield Wipers
When Mary Anderson traveled to New York, she noticed that traffic jammed as drivers stopped to wipe their windshields in snowy weather. Learn how her Stuff of Genius made roads safer -- and windshields cleaner -- in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Mary Phelps Jacob: Modern Bra
Frustrated by the cumbersome and uncomfortable whalebone corsets common in her time, Mary Phelps Jacob decided that something had to be done. Tune in and learn how her Stuff of Genius became one of the world's most popular undergarments in this podcast.
Momofuku Ando: Instant Noodles
Momofuku Ando didn't set out to create noodle bowls, but the former textile company owner had an epiphany while watching a line of hungry people waiting for food. Tune in to learn what led him from garments to instant noodles in this podcast.
Muhammad Yunus: Microloans
For most of the modern age, conventional bank loans have been beyond the reach of the poor, forcing families across the globe to do business with loansharks. At least, that is, until Muhammad Yunus invented microloans. Learn more in this podcast.
Nathaniel Baldwin: Headphones
Nathaniel Baldwin was always an exceptional inventor. Regardless of his day jobs, Baldwin continued tinkering until he hit upon the Stuff of Genius that would literally change the way modern civilization approaches music. Tune in and learn more.
Nicolas Appert: Canned Food
Nowadays, canned food is everywhere -- but how did this industry begin? Tune in to learn how Nicholas Appert discovered the principles used in canning food -- and why we have Napoleon to thank for this Stuff of Genius.
Nikolaus Otto: Internal Combustion Engine
Nikolaus Otto wasn't the first to design an internal combustion engine, but his improved design made the engine practical and popular. Learn more about Otto's auto-related Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Nils Bohlin: Modern Seatbelt
Before Nils Bohlin created the modern seatbelt, he designed ejection seats for Saab aircraft. Learn how Nils' Stuff of Genius changed the world -- and saved millions of lives -- in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Norbert Rillieux: Refined Sugar
Before Norbert Rillieux's sugar evaporator, slaves across the New World risked severe -- and often fatal -- injury while refining sugar. Learn how this Stuff of Genius saved hundreds of lives and modernized sugar in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Norm Larsen: WD-40
Norm Larsen started with a simple idea: If water causes rust, then a substance that displaces water can prevent rust. Sure, his first 39 tries didn't work out -- but the last one was pure genius. Tune in and learn more.
Norman Borlaug: Super Wheat
Norman Borlaug spent most of his life fighting world hunger and led the effort to grow more productive, disease-resistant wheat strains. Learn more about The Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Ole Evinrude: Outboard Motor
Ole Evinrude grew up loving machines, but he may never have stumbled across the Stuff of Genius if he hadn't had a grueling quest for ice cream. Tune in to learn more about outboard motors.
Percy Spencer: Microwave Oven
Today, microwave ovens are a common sight in kitchens across the world -- but who invented them? Tune in to learn how Percy Spencer accidentally struck upon the Stuff of Microwaving Genius.
Peter Henlein: Watches
Nowadays, wristwatches aren't anything to write home about ... but this wasn't always the case. Learn how locksmiths like Peter Henlein miniaturized the dubious clocks of the day to create portable timepieces in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Peter Safar: CPR
In emergency situations, CPR training can make the difference between life and death. This episode explores the work of Peter Safar, who combined preexisting medical techniques and worked with his colleagues to produce the Stuff of Genius we call CPR.
Philip Diehl: Ceiling Fan
Originally born in Germany, Philip Diehl immigrated to the US in 1868. Although he has several fascinating inventions to his name, the ceiling fan remains his most well-known innovation. Tune in to learn more.
Philo Farnsworth: Television
When Philo Farnsworth was just 14 years old, he had an epiphany that changed his life -- and ours. Tune in and learn how this former sharecropper created the modern television in The Stuff of Genius, a video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Ralph Baer: Video Games
Ralph Baer was working for a U.S. defense company when he invented the world's first video game system. Luckily, this Stuff of Genius was too fun to remain locked away from the public. Learn more about video games in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Ralph Teetor: Cruise Control
Although he was blinded at the age of six, Ralph Teetor rose through the ranks of industry to become the president of his own manufacturing company -- and he didn't stop there. Tune in to learn how an uncomfortable auto ride inspired the Stuff of Genius.
Richard Drew: Tape
It's easy to take tape for granted -- it's usually around when you need it, and you can buy it in numerous places. However, this wasn't always the case. Tune in and learn how Richard Drew's Stuff of Genius changed the world of adhesives in this podcast.
Robert Adler: TV Remotes
Modern TV viewers use remote controls to channel surf from the comfort of their seat -- but it wasn't always this easy. Learn more about the convenience -- and consequence -- of Robert Adler's Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Robert Cades: Gatorade
When a local football coach asked Robert Cade to help hydrate his players, he set off on a journey to find the perfect sports drink. Tune in and learn more about Cade's Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Robert Jarvik: The Artificial Heart
Robert Jarvik wasn't the first person to patent an artificial heart, but his design was the first heart successfully implanted in a human patient. Tune in and learn how Jarvik's Stuff of Genius gave new hope to heart patients in this podcast.
Robert Wilhelm Bunsen: Bunsen Burners
Nowadays Bunsen burners are an everyday laboratory device, but this wasn't always the case. Tune in and learn more about the fascinating life of Robert Bunsen and his Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Robertson Screwdriver: Robertson Screwdriver
After he was injured using a conventional flathead screwdriver, frustrated tool salesman Paul Robertson took matters in his own hands. Learn more about his Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Rudolf Diesel: Diesel Engine
Born in 1858, Rudolf Diesel was fascinated by engines from a young age. However, the engines of the time were incredibly inefficient -- at least, that is, until Rudolf's Stuff of Genius struck. Tune in and learn more in this podcast.
Sanford Fleming: Standard Time
Although you may not have heard of Sir Sanford Fleming, his Stuff of Genius influences every second of your life. Turn back the clock and take a look at the man who standardized time in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Sarah Goode: Folding Bed
During a time when women were treated like second-class citizens and African-Americans were relentlessly persecuted, Sarah Goode built her own business from the ground up. Tune in to learn more about Sarah Goode and the folding cabinet bed.
Stephanie Kwolek: Kevlar
When Stephanie Kwolek couldn't pursue a career in medicine, she took a job as a research chemist. Tune in to learn how this unplanned career led to the Stuff of Genius that changed the world and saved thousands of lives.
Sylvan Goldman: Shopping Cart
As a grocer in Oklahoma, Sylvan Goldman had a hunch that he was losing business because customers only bought as much as they could carry. Check out this episode to learn how his Stuff of Genius saved his store and spread throughout the world.
The Stuff of Genius: A Thanksgiving Special
Whether they're building blood banks or conveniences like air conditioning and the world wide web, inventors have given us a lot to be thankful for. Tune in and watch as we thank three inventors in particular in this special Thanksgiving episode.
The Stuff of Genius: Best of 2009
Over the past year, Stuff of Genius has covered dozens of inventors and world-changing inventions. Tune in as our narrator, Marshall Brain, takes a look back at some of our favorite inventors from 2009.
The Stuff of Genius: The Evolution of High Heels
Unlike many modern inventions, high heels can't be traced to a single inventor. In fact, this unique form of footware dates back into antiquity. Listen in and learn more about the evolution of high heels.
Theophilus Kannel: Revolving Door
Today, revolving doors are a common sight in large buildings across the world -- but how did they get here? This episode ... wait for it ... revolves around Theo Kannel and his astonishing Stuff of Genius.
Thomas Adams: Chewing Gum
Before his Stuff of Genius struck, Thomas Adams had already lived a very interesting life -- in fact, he even spent time with the infamous Santa Anna. Tune in to learn how Thomas failed at making synthetic rubber and ended up with chewing gum.
Tim Berners-Lee: World Wide Web
Nowadays the internet is nearly ubiquitous -- but how did it all begin? Tune in for a closer look at the man who changed the world -- and invented the world wide web -- in this episode.
Walter Hunt: Safety Pin
With patents on everything from fountain pens to rifles, Walter Hunt has sometimes been called "America's forgotten inventor." However, his most successful invention is incredibly commonplace -- tune in and learn more about the safety pin.
Whitcomb Judson: Zipper
Nowadays zippers are everywhere -- they're faster than buttons, convenient and reliable. But where did they come from? Tune in and learn more about Whitcomb Judson's stuff of genius in this episode.
Willem Einthoven: ECG
Today, doctors across the planet use the ECG -- also known as the EKG -- to detect and diagnose heart conditions that might otherwise go unnoticed. But who gets the credit for making the first reliable ECG? Tune in to find out.
William Burroughs: Calculator
Although numerous inventors had devised adding machines of some sort, William Seward Burroughs invented the first practical calculator. Tune in to learn more about his Stuff of Genius in this podcast.
William Mitchell: Junk Food
During World War II, William Mitchell made a discovery that led to the emergence of junk food for the masses. Learn how tapioca led to pop rocks in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Willis Carrier: Air Conditioning
When Willis Carrier set out to solve inking problems for a local printing press, he didn't set out to change the world. Luckily for us, he did. Tune in and learn the story behind the modern air conditioning unit in this podcast.
Zhang Heng: Seismometer
Centuries before the European Renaissance, Zhang Heng had all the makings of a Renaissance man. Learn how this statesman, scholar and inventor invented the first seismometer in this podcast.
Zhou Youguang: Pinyin
The Chinese language uses non-phonetic characters, which means that a reader can't tell how a word is pronounced by looking at its written form. For readers facing unfamiliar Chinese words, life was rough -- at least, that is, until Zhou Youguang.
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