28 Interesting facts about inventors mental floss electricity and magnetism quiz questions


1. Did you know that Alfred Nobel was inspired to start the Nobel Prize when he read his own obituary in a newspaper that ran it by mistake? Nobel didn’t like the headline, "The Merchant of Death is Dead," a reference to the fact that he invented dynamite, so he found a new legacy for himself. The internet may tell you this is a myth, but it’s not. See the video description below for proof. Anyway, that’s the first of many interesting facts about inventors I’m going to share with you today, brought to you by our friends at Geico.

2. Inventor of vaccines and pasteurization, Louis Pasteur was the head of the science program at a French school during the mid 1800’s. He once told students that anyone caught smoking would be expelled. Seventy-three of the school’s 80 students resigned.

3. Steve Jobs has claimed that taking calligraphy courses in college is one of the reasons that the earliest Macintosh computers were successful. They were the first ones with beautiful typography. Take that opponents of cursive! Just kidding. I’m also an opponent of cursive.

5. Speaking of Henry Ford, when President Woodrow Wilson asked him to run for a seat on the Senate, Ford responded with a letter that read, "If they want to elect me let them do so, but I won’t make a penny’s investment." He lost the election.

7. Alexey Pajitnov invented Tetris in 1984, but because he lived in the Soviet Union at the time he had to cede its rights to the government. He did eventually received royalties in the ’90s, but the Tetris theme song is still in the public domain, which is why you are hearing it right now. By the way, I’m sorry we didn’t pay your royalties, Tetris guy, but we didn’t pay the Duck Hunt guy either.

8. A man named Yoshira Nakamatsu has 3377 patents, which is about three times what Thomas Edison accumulated. Some of his patented inventions include a toilet seat-lifter, a self-defense wig, and a musical golf putter. Also, he claims to have invented the basic technology for the floppy disk, which is all fine and good, but where would we be without musical golf putters?

10. The inventor of the bread clip, Floyd Paxton, thought of the idea when he was on an airplane and needed to reseal a bag of snacks. So he created one on a whim, out of a piece of plastic. Needless to say, this was before planes had Wi-Fi.

11. Among his many eccentricities, Nikola Tesla hated pearls. He wouldn’t speak to a woman who was wearing them, and if his secretary came to work wearing pearls, she was sent home for the day. He also once fell in love with a pigeon, presumably because they never wore pearls, but let’s move on.

14. Garrett Morgan who lived from 1877 to 1963, invented many things with only an elementary school education. He created some of the earliest gas masks and hair straightening creams. He also improved pre-existing sewing machines and traffic signals. We have a sewing machine on our wall. We love it so much it’s guarded by a lion.

17. A similar inventor, Robert Taylor, came up with the idea of soap in a pump bottle, and to make sure no one stole his idea, he bought about 100 million of those pump bottles. After cornering the market for pump bottles, after about six months he made about $25 million.

19. Douglas Fuller designed the computer mouse, but the invention never made anybody rich because its patent expired before it became a commonly-used technology. Some advice for inventors out there—be ahead of your time, but not too far ahead of your time.

21, 22, and 23. Alright, let’s speed up. The snowmobile was invented by Joseph Armand Bombardier who started working on it when he was just 19 years old. Margaret E. Knight was only 12 when she invented a device for textile mills that would stop them if they got stuck. Leo Fender, who invented the first mass-produced electric guitar, never learned to play the guitar.

24-27. John Landis Mason invented Mason jars. He also invented screw-top salt shakers. Before that, you just poured salt onto your food willy nilly. The guy who invented the saxophone was named Adolph Sax. A man named Heinrich Dreiser invented both heroin and aspirin. The inventor of the smiley face symbol, Harvey Ball, was paid just $45 for the design.

Thanks for watching mental_floss video, which is made with the help of all of these nice people. And thanks again to Geico, who made this video possible. Hopefully, we’ve inspired you to invent a convenient ketchup holder and become a millionaire and, as we say in my hometown, "Don’t forget to be awesome."

Folks in Arizona know that it’s too hot there to wear layers; that’s why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware’s priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you’re watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you’re probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively.

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it’s Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.