You Can’t Take It With You: Inventors!

by | Feb 15, 2013 | Uncategorized

King Richard III via WikiCommons.

Paul Tanner 1917 to Tuesday
Tanner co-invented the Electro-Theremin, the next generation of the instrument named after Professor Leon Theremin and made famous in films sci-fi and zombie.  Tanner and his instrument leave behind the hook from this greatest-of-the-Beach Boys:

Nevin S. Scrimshaw 1918 to last Friday
Nevin made cheap gruel.  A nutritionist, he encountered children suffering from severe malnutrition in Central America because their mothers could not afford milk.  So, he mixed cottonseed meal with vitamins and Incaparina was was born.  He leaves behind millions of healthier children and his comically Dickensian name.

Manuel Rojas 1933 to Tuesday
In a city of taco stands, Señor Rojas built the LA’s legendary El Tepeyac Cafe.  He leaves behind that restaurant and its famed pillowcase-sized, five-pound (!) burritos.

King Richard III 1432 to twenty-two thousand four-hundred sixty-one weeks ago Saturday
His recently unearthed bones give reason to reconsider the legacy of this much-maligned “little of stature, ill-featured of limbs, crook-backed … hard-favoured of visage” King with “fierce and savage nature.”  Despised by the Scots (who doesn’t hate occupying royalty?), Richard still left behind England’s first public defenders, an end to taxation without representation (though not quite for good), and a beginning to freedom of the press (though, again, not quite forever).

Ronald Dworkin 1931 to Thursday
A legal philosopher, Dworkin posited (yes, he was the kind of man who used the word ‘posited’ in everyday speech) that the principles behind the law not the text of the law itself ought.  His view that the fundamental principle in democracy is equality of voice, not dependent on social or economic status leaves behind the Americans with Disabilities act.

John E. Karlin 1918 to two-weeks-ago Monday
I was shocked to learn just how much Mr. Karlin shapes my everyday life.  After all, he was once called “the most hated man in America” for his work.  His research in industrial psychology showed people didn’t mind a 2-foot (rather than former-industry-standard 3-foot) long telephone cord (there was a time when all telephones into the wall were plugged).  But, most famously, he made the decision to place the numbers of the touch-tone dial pad in a 3×3 grid with 1-2-3 at the top and 0 hanging off the bottom.  Without him, who knows how we’d dial, much less input numbers in places as varied as ATMs and gas pumps.  He leaves behind this video, explaining his brand spanking new touch-tone dialing:


Cover image of King Richard III via WikiCommons.


Perry Petrich, SJ   /   @ppetrich   /   All posts by Perry