Missouri Inventors Make Their Mark

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George Washington Carver National Monument

The season of giving thanks may have been a few months ago, but you may have left out a few people that were either Missouri-born or Show-Me State adopted. You may not have known their names, but chances are you know – and have used – their inventions.

Some of the brightest stars in the world of invention have called the Show-Me State home: 

Jack Kilby – Jefferson City-born electrical engineer who invented the first integrated circuit (and received the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics for it) and was a pioneer in microchip technology.

George Washington Carver – Diamond-born botanist who discovered 300 uses for peanuts and sweet potatoes, and developed techniques to improve soils depleted by growing cotton. He also designed a mobile classroom to take education out to farmers and was a leader in promoting environmentalism. Visit the George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond. 

James Fergason – Carroll County-born inventor who did groundbreaking work with liquid crystals and formed the first industrial research group into its practical uses. Among other inventions stemming from that research, he holds a patent on the mood ring.

Susan Elizabeth Blow – St. Louis-born founder of the first public kindergarten in Des Peres in 1873, which she ran for 11 years with no pay.

Dr. John S. Sappington – a physician who moved to Arrow Rock in 1819 (on the advice of close friend Thomas Hart Benton), Sappington developed an anti-malaria pill and is regarded as the first physician to successfully and effectively use quinine to treat malaria.

Joseph Pulitzer – Hungary-born St. Louis resident (1865-1883) who purchased the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1879. His family remained involved with the paper until 1995. Credited as the father of proper journalistic style and as the creator of the Pulitzer Prize.

William Lear – Hannibal-born designer of the Lear jet and inventor of the 8-track tape. (For you younger folk, this was a very cool portable music format in its day.)

Bob Chandler – St. Louis area-born builder of “Bigfoot,” in 1975, regarded as the original monster truck. The former construction worker’s modifications resulted in an innovation in automotive technology: the 4x4x4 (four wheels, four-wheel-drive and four-wheel steering).

Edwin Hubble – Marshfield-born astronomer regarded as one of the most important astronomers of all time and the “discoverer” of the cosmos (as first to discover a universe outside our own Milky Way). A replica of the space telescope named in his honor is on display in his hometown.

Andrew Taylor Still – physician who moved to Kirksville in 1875, and opened the world’s first osteopathic medical school there in 1892. He is considered the founder of osteopathic medicine – and one of the first physicians to promote the idea of preventive medicine and treating the disease and not just the symptoms. Visit the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University in Kirksville.

And now for the foodies:

Charles Leiper Grigg – Missouri born and bred inventor of Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda (later name 7 Up)

Chris L. Rutt – editor of the St. Joseph Gazette was the co-creator of the Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix in 1889, the first ready-made food sold commercially

John Hoffman – owner of the St. Louis bakery where a new baker invented gooey butter cake in the 1930s when he accidentally reversed the proportions of butter and flour

Whichever chef accidentally dropped ravioli into hot oil for the first time (several claim the honor), creating toasted ravioli

Ernest Hamwi – Syrian concessionaire whose efforts to help out the ice cream seller next to him at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair who had run out of dishes, introduced the ice cream cone to the world.