Famous American Inventors (Top ten and their Inventions)

What is an invention? An invention is an original idea used to create something. This idea should solve a problem, satisfy need or better an already functioning idea. As an inventor one of the most important things to do is to patent your idea.

A patent state that you, the inventor, own the intellectual property of your idea. This gives you legal protection against anyone else using your idea.

America is known as the land of the free and the home of the brave. Therefore, it is no wonder that some of the most commonly used inventions of today were made by Americans.

Flag Of The United States

Top 10 American inventors of all time:

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was many things, he was a writer, a politician, a scientist, a civic activist and many more. However, we today are most grateful that he was an inventor. Franklin invented many things such as the lightening rod, the glass harmonica, the Franklin stove and the flexible urinary catheter.

One of the most important discovers made by Franklin involves his work around electricity. Franklin was the first person to state that electricity has both positive and negative charges.

This discovery meant that Benjamin could understand how electricity worked. It was from this concept that he was able to contrast the method behind the lightening rod

Unlike other inventors Franklin didn’t believe in ownership of ideas. He never used a patent to legally bind one of his intellectual properties. Instead he stated that we should be glad to help others with our inventions and do so freely and generously.


2. Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is a famous American inventor formally known for his inventions such as the electric power generator, mass communication, motion pictures and early stages of the electronic light bulb.

Edison is most famously known for this work on the light bulb. Prior to Edison’s findings, lighting was constructed using oils and gas. He wanted his invention to be able to light up an entire room and not just a small section of space.

The light bulb could compete with the other modes of lighting based on the concept that it would be cheaper and last longer. To this day, the light bulb is still a commonly used item in every household.


3. Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell
Are you reading this on your phone? If so, what if I was to tell you that the reason you can read this on your phone is due to the original ideas of Alexander Graham Bell.

Bell invented the first fully functioning telephone. Now this telephone looked nothing like the phone we see today. However, without his discovery the phone would not exist. Bell sought to generate electrical currents that would correspond to sound waves. Bell made his first transcontinental telephone call in 1915 from New York to San Francisco.

Wright Brothers First
Wright Brothers Second


4. Wright Brothers

Orville and Wilbur Wright pioneers for the aviation sector. The two brothers invented, built and flew the first motor-operated airplane. The first flight took place on the 17th of December 1903.

The brother’s idea for the aircraft was constructed based on the concept of pilot control. They believed that in order o have a successful flight the pilot must be able to steer the plane while also maintaining equilibrium.

Their understanding stemmed from the concept of a flying bird or riding a bicycle. A plane should use its wings similarly to the wings of a bird while also being controlled like a rider on a bicycle.

Ralph H Baer


5. Ralph H. Baer

Moving on to some more contemporary inventors. Children and Teenagers are complete unaware that Ralph H. Baer invented an object that is now the centre of their universe.

Ralph H. Baer is also known as “the father of video games”. Baer invented the first home video game console known as Magnavox Odyssey. This invention along with others such as the electronic pattern matching game ‘Simon’ won Baer many awards. The biggest being the National Medal of Technology, that was awarded to him by president George W. Bush.

Pioneering for future video game inventors, Baer set a path for many of the video games you may play every day.

Samuel Morse


6. Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse was an inventor and painter. He transmitted and co-invented Morse code. Morse wanted to invent a new way of communication.

Morse code presents an encoded text from one individual to another. This I done though sequences of dots and dashes. The message is presented in a sound wave to the receiver.

Morse code has been around for over 160 years and is still being used as a method of communication today.


7. John Browning

John Browning

John Browning saw a need to improve different shotguns and riffles used during his time. His greatest contribution to the improvement of shotguns and riffles came from his ideas of an autoloading firearm. He invented what is now known as the pistol slide.

Such innovation meant that there was no need to reload a gun after each shot. This pistol slide is used in nearly every contemporary semi-automatic pistol.

Many of Browning’s firearms are still manufactured today. It should be noted that these firearms are made with very little changes to Browning’s original design.

Philo T Farnsworth


8. Philo T. Farnsworth

Philo T. Farnsworth contributed to the functions of the all-electronic television. Farnsworth invented the camera video tube and image dissector.

The camera video tube allowed an image to be constructed as a series of lines made from a back and forth motion. Farnsworth took inspiration from an instrument used to plough a field. This was a familiar concept for Farnsworth as he grew up a farm boy. Farnsworth’s camera video tube was the predecessor of CCD image sensors which are still used today.

Farnsworth’s image dissector was used to convert single elements of an image into electricity one at a time.

This is more easily understood by a quote from Mike TV in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. “You photograph something and then the photograph is spilt up into a million of tiny pieces and they go whizzing through the air down to your TV set where they’re all put together again in the right order” Farnsworth’s image dissector does something like that.

Ivan Sutherland


9. Ivan Sutherland

Ivan Sutherland is one of the leading pioneering in computer graphics. He invented the sketchpad. The sketchpad allowed people to design and draw using their computer. This meant that people could draw more precisely and it introduced the concept of memory structures.

The innovations of Sutherland greatly impacted the world of graphic design. Most contemporary designers do not use the traditional pen and paper but use an electronic software that allows them to draw electronically.

Using such a technology reduces the need for materials such as pens and paper while also acting as a more convenient mode of design. If the designer places an object in the wrong place or made a mistake they can much more easily rectify the mistake using Sutherland’s innovations.



10. You

Reading about all the famous American innovators may appear daunting. However, many of these inventors started out with merely drive and dedication. Inventions and innovation are not just a thing of the past.

Remember what was said at the start? Your idea should solve a problem, satisfy need or better an already functioning idea. If you see a problem or a need that needs to be satisfied or a functioning idea that needs to be bettered. It is up to you to fix it.

Here is just one example of an innovation competition for young people


If you have an idea, do your research and make a difference!


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