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From A Teddy Bear and Barbie Doll to An Uzi Submachine Gun and More
Considering that the Jewish people constitute just one half of one percent of the world’s population, it’s amazing how much they’ve contributed to the world. In the field of medicine alone, Jewish contributions are staggering. It was a Jew who created the first polio vaccine, who discovered insulin, who discovered that aspirin helped relieve pain, who discovered the origin and spread of infectious diseases, who identified the first cancer virus, and so much more. Jews actually came up with many modern inventions. Here are some that you may not know about.
Uzi Submachine Gun
Gal was born Gotthard Glas, in Germany. When the Nazis came to power, he moved first to the United Kingdom and later to Kibbutz Yagur in the British Mandate of Palestine, where he changed his name to Uziel Gal.
He began designing the Uzi submachine gun shortly after the founding of Israel. In 1951, it was officially adopted by the IDF and was called the Uzi after its creator, which didn’t make Gal happy. In 1958, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion presented him with the first Israel Security Award. In the early 1980s, he assisted in the creation of the Ruger MP9 submachine gun. He continued his work as a firearms designer in the US until his death in 2002.
While working as a journalist in Hungary, László Bíró noticed that the ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper smudge-free. He tried using the same ink in a fountain pen but found that it would not flow into the tip. Working with his brother György, a chemist, he developed a new tip consisting of a ball that was free to turn in a socket; as it turned it would pick up ink from a cartridge and then roll to deposit it on the paper. Argentina’s Inventors’ Day is celebrated on his birthday, September 29.
Robert Adler was associate director of research at Zenith in the 1950s when the company’s founder, Commander E.F. McDonald Jr., challenged his engineers to develop a device to tune out commercials. Adler’s solution was to use sound waves to transmit signals to the TV—thus inventing the first remote control, called the Space Command. In the 1960s, Adler updated the remote control to use ultrasonic signals, a technology which was used for the next 25 years, until it was replaced by infrared systems. Adler’s last patent application was filed on October 6, 2006 for work on touch-screen technology. He passed away in 2007.
Ralph H. Baer
By the 1960s, millions of Americans had invested in televisions for their homes. In 1966, engineer Ralph Baer began to investigate how to play games on a television. Between 1967 and 1969, he and colleagues Bill Harrison and Bill Rusch created several video game test units. The result was the Brown Box, a prototype for the first multi-player, multi-program video game system which he licensed to Magnavox. In 1972, Magnavox released the design as the Magnavox Odyssey, paving the way for all video game systems that followed.
Ruth Marianna Handler
The Barbie Doll
Ruth Marianna Handler was an American businesswoman and inventor. She served as the president of the toy manufacturer Mattel and is remembered for her role in marketing the Barbie doll.
Her husband Elliot Handler and his business partner Harold Matson formed a small company to manufacture picture frames. Later, they began using scraps from the manufacturing process to make doll house furniture. The furniture was more profitable than the picture frames and they decided to concentrate on toy manufacturing. The company’s first big-seller was the Uke-a-doodle, a toy ukulele.
Barbie debuted at the New York Toy Fair in 1959 but was not an immediate success. However, after the company ran TV commercials for the doll, Barbie became more popular and eventually rocketed Mattel and the Handlers to fame and fortune. Subsequently, they would add a boyfriend for Barbie named Ken, after the Handlers’ son.
Handler was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1970 and had a modified radical mastectomy. Due to difficulties in finding a good breast prosthesis, she decided to make her own. She went on to found a company, Ruthton Corp., which manufactured a prosthesis called Nearly Me.
Spread Spectrum Communications
Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, she studied ballet and piano at age 10. As a teenager, she played major roles in German movies, and changed her name to Hedy Lamarr. Though known primarily for her film career as a major contract star of MGM’s Golden Age, she also co-invented an early technique for spread spectrum communications, a key to many forms of wireless communication. She made a valuable contribution to US intelligence by co-producing an anti-jamming device for torpedoes. She also devised a clever way of frequency hopping that prevented the interception of American military messages.
Morris and Rose Michtom
The Teddy Bear
In 1902, Morris Michtom and his wife Rose invented the Teddy Bear. In 1887, he owned a candy shop in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn by day and made stuffed animals with Rose at night. The Teddy Bear came about in response to a cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman depicting Teddy Roosevelt having compassion for a bear at the end of an unsuccessful hunting trip. Everyone loved the Teddy Bear and sales were so great that Michtom created the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.
Dr. Abraham Nemeth
System for Blind People To Read
and Write Mathematics
An American mathematician and inventor, Dr. Nemeth was blind from birth. He attended the Jewish Guild for the Blind School in New York. After graduating from Brooklyn College, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Columbia University.
During the 1950s, he accepted an offer from the University of Detroit to become a professor and remained there for 30 years. During the late 1960s he studied computer science. As the coursework became more advanced, he found that he needed a braille code that would more effectively handle the kinds of math and science material he was tackling. Ultimately, he developed the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation. The Nemeth Code has gone through four revisions since its initial development, and continues to be widely used today. After he retired, he transcribed Hebrew prayer books into Braille. He passed away in 2013.
Phillippe Kahn is a technology innovator and entrepreneur, who created the first camera phone. He is also a pioneer of wearable technology and founded three technology companies: Fullpower Technologies, LightSurf Technologies, and Starfish Software. He holds several dozen technology patents.
Isidor Isaac Rabi
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
Isidor Isaac Rabi was a Polish-born American physicist and Nobel Laureate, recognized in 1944 for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance, which is used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He was also involved in the development of the cavity magnetron, which is used in microwave radar and microwave ovens.\
Samuel Ruben was an American inventor who made lasting contributions to electrochemistry and solid-state technology, including the founding of Duracell. Although he had no college degree, he received several honorary degrees, including an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Columbia University in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Science.
Throughout his lifetime, he accumulated over 300 patents. The Army Signal Corps asked him to develope a mercury button cell in 1942 to replace zinc-carbon batteries, so he did. He passed away in 1988.q