Mormon Inventors

Thursday, February 28, 2008

As Mormons, inventiveness is in our blood. Many of us are the direct descendants of the pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake valley in the 1840's and innovation was necessary to their daily survival. As for myself, I am a descendant of Joel Hills Johnson (1776-1882) who was both a pioneer and an inventor. In 1829 he patented a shingle cutter machine and the patent was signed by President Andrew Jackson and VP Martin Van Buren. (I can just imagine Pres. Jackson's Secretary reviewing his calendar with him, "Mr. President, you will be decertifying the National Bank from 8:00-11:00, signing patents from 11:00-12:00, removing the Indians from 1:00-2:30, and then your 3:00 appointment will attempt to assassinate you." A defiant Old Hickory responds with, "Ugh, another assassination attempt? Can you move that up to 11:00 so that I can sign patents in the afternoon? I tend to write faster after the adrenaline gets going.")

Our Mormon heritage of hard work and inventiveness were later reflected in Utah's one-word state slogan - "Industry". At the time, most state mottos were written in Latin, but our ancestors wanted to make sure that future generations were not stuck with something meaningless such as, "Ad astra per aspera" (Kansas), "Sic semper tyrannis" (Virginia)", or "Visit Dollywood!"(Tennessee). Our forefathers continued on the hard work/inventiveness theme when they designated the honey bee as the state insect. Not only did the bee invent how to harvest, process, and preserve honey, it also works every minute of every day of it's life until one day it freaks out, goes insane, and says, "I can't take it anymore! I'm going to sting the next person I see mowing a lawn, even if it does kill me! I welcome death when compared to this life." If we could hear what bees say, I'm pretty sure that after being stung we would hear a faint, wispy, defiant voice saying, "'re....allergic...." Hopefully we as a people have adopted the innovation and industrious qualities of the honey bee, and not the inclination to harm others. Well, except for during men's church basketball, of course.

The list of Mormon inventors is actually pretty impressive. Here are some of the most recognizable contributions to humanity provided by members of the LDS faith:

-Television. Invented by Philo Farnsworth in Rigby, Idaho. Legend has it that when he first got the TV to work, "Music and the Spoken Word" was already being broadcast on KSL. I've also heard that on his deathbed he commented, "I foresee the day in the year 2008 when my talkie-picture-jigger will allow two Mormons named Brooke White and David Archuleta to gain national fame as the last two finalists on American Idol. (He also said Shawn Bradley and Keith Van Horn would be perennial NBA All-Stars, so Idol fans need to take that prediction with a grain of salt.)

-Synthetic Diamonds. Invented by William Hall, who was probably really young, really broke, and really wanting to get engaged. He is the unsung hero for all poor 22-year-old return missionaries who have been dating the same person for more than six weeks. Real diamonds are way too expensive, anyway. Well, William Hall is a young LDS man's best friend until that dreaded day six years into his marriage when his wife comes home after getting her wedding ring cleaned and says, "Honey. Guess what? The jeweler said the strangest thing when he looked at my ring today......"

-Scrapbooking. Seriously, we get credit for inventing scrapbooking. If you don't believe me, read the third paragraph under "Creative Memories" in this CNN article. I originally wanted to die cut this section of the blog and put some fancy journaling along in bottom in a font called, "A Yummy Apology", but my HTML skills are not good enough.

-Loud Stuff: Electric guitars (Alvino Rey), stereo sound (Harvey Fletcher), and headphones (Nathaniel Baldwin) all originated from LDS inventors. Now every time your 15-year-old junior Home Teaching companion insists on listening to his iPod on the way to your monthly visits, you will know that we only have ourselves to blame.

-Hearing Aids: In addition to inventing stereo sound, Harvey Fletcher is also credited with inventing hearing aids. He was probably in the same ward as Alvino Rey and Nathaniel Baldwin and overheard them at the Pinewood Derby discussing the electric guitar and headphones. Brother Fletcher could immediately see that in about 10 years, a fair amount of people would lose their hearing thanks to those two inventions.

Random tangent on hearing aids: When we were first married, my wife took a job as a telemarketer with a small hearing aid company in Provo. She would randomly dial names from the phone book to ask people if they were interested in purchasing hearing aids. People who had no interest immediately hung up, but the people who were hard of hearing would say, "What? Speak up, I can't hear you." She would then ask them in a louder voice if they needed hearing aids. The customer would ask her to speak up again, and the vicious cycle continued until my wife was shouting and the person would eventually hang up in frustration. Could you dream up a less effective way to sell hearing aids? The story gets better - my wife quit after her first payday when she was given an envelope full of cash and was told that no taxes needed to be taken out.)

Since inventing is in my blood, I wanted to throw a couple of ideas out to my faithful readers. Each of you has exquisite taste, so please comment and let me know which invention you think would sell the best if it were launched:

1. Taco Bell Burrito Repair Kit -
I have an unhealthy appetite for Taco Bell burritos (hold the onions, and the e-coli, please). They are cheap and delicious, but can also be very messy because as soon as I take my first bite, the remainder of the burrito explodes out the bottom of the tortilla. Am I the only person with this problem? Am I too aggressive with my eating style? I need to know if I'm alone in this. Or is this just a way for Taco Bell employees to get back at us after taking 6 1/2 minutes to place our orders, only to change them at the last moment? Anyway, the invention that I am envisioning would look almost like a glue gun that you would load with Mild Sauce sticks. Once the burrito begins to break, you cauterize the hole with a sticky, delicious shot of Mild Sauce. Presto! No more Taco Bell messes and the last few bites will be heaping with sauce. Sounds like a win-win.

2. Sound-Proof Baby Carriers - My wife and I are excitedly expecting our third child in May. With the wisdom of two children behind me, I've considered creating a sound-proof baby carrier. It would look like a normal carrier, but would have a clear plastic retractable dome shield. There would also be oxygen pumps to make sure the baby had plenty of air. Look, there are times when a baby is going to cry no matter what you do. When that happens, just slide the sound-proof shield down, keep making cutsie faces at your child, and then open the hatch back up when the child settles down or goes to sleep. Just think how much better Sacrament meeting and airplane flights would be with this contraption.

3. Dual Exhaust Snorkeling Kit. My wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary with a cruise through the western Caribbean. While we were snorkeling, I felt like I was breathing through a straw and swallowing a lot of ocean water. And while swimming on the surface, I struggled to last more than a few seconds at the bottom where the fish were. The DESK (Dual Exhaust Snorkeling Kit) would have two very wide tubes for you to breath through. They would also be about four feet long so that you could swim beneath the surface without holding your breath.

4. Bacon Scented Candles. I normally only eat bacon on special occasions like my birthday and Father's Day. Smelling the sweet aroma of bacon wafting through the house makes me believe that today is a special day. Bacon also has a wonderful lingering power. After smelling it all morning, you become accustomed to it. Then you leave for church, come home four hours later, and the house still smells like Jimmy Dean! It's wonderful. The final touch to the bacon candle is that the wick would be coated with a special resin so that it makes popping sounds, like bacon grease in the frying pan. Mmmmm......bacon.

If you haven't invented anything recently, then it is your duty to your heritage to comment and let me know which one I should try to bring to market. Who knows, working together we may become the next Philo Farnsworth, William Hall, Alvino Ray.....


manaen said...

mahogany windshields, copper-coated aspirin

3:05 AM
Natalie said...

Wait, are Brooke White and David Archuleta really mormons? I assumed Brooke was, but didn't know for sure.

As for your ideas, I like the baby sound proof carrier. Sounds genious. The bacon smelling candle was appealing as well, but it would be torture to smell bacon, and not eat it. So that would be too big of a tease.

5:36 AM
andrea said...

I've always been a doubter when it came to the burrito repair kit, but your description made it a seller for me. Yes! I see millions in our future. Retirement at 55, here we come.

7:08 AM
Megan said...

Ok Andrew...

The bacon scented candle is the invention for you. A product created by a man for a man. Finally, the perfect Father's Day gift!

Secondly, please make sure you eat said onionless Taco Bell burritos with the folded-in side on the bottom. The open side is for consumption first. I'm sure you know this, but I don't want any young ones to make this mistake. Clearly a major detail!

Thirdly, scrapbooking. Yet another bain on the Mormon Mommy guilt list. I remember seeing Becky Higgins on Oprah after helping with a scrapbooking segment and I knew scrapbooking had arrived. She and Michele Kennedy were pros way before then. Have you received any Christmas cards from them? The craftiness is out of the book too. I groan each year at my lameness.

Loved the post! :)

8:54 AM
Heather O. said...

I'd pay one thousand dollars for that air dome baby thingie if it will let me watch 'Lost' on an airplane in peace.

12:01 PM
Papa D said...

I'd pay $1000 for it, since that would mean I had $1000 to blow on something like that.

1:22 PM
Ang said...

Good old Grandpa Joel Hills is also the inventor of the lyrics to "High on a Mountain Top," and some excellently entertaining observations from his personal journals. (He was particularly taken with Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as unto the Lord," and was continually vexed by his own four wives and convinced that, "so confident are most of the women of this age that God made a mistake in giving the rule to Adam but meant to give it to Eve, that they contend not only for the rule of their husband, but to become judges, governors, presidents and rulers of nations! But God will set all things right in its time."

I can see Joel Hills in my mind's eye up in the spirit world, cheering on Barak Obama.

And I like the DESK idea, except that some smartie pants tourist at Hanauma Bay would get the bright idea of shoving a seashell in your breathing tube, and then you'd be REALLY stuck.

And I can't really go there with the bacon candles. Mom wouldn't abide it. You know she stole my Sandalwood scented candle and hid it in the cold storage when she was here watching Wyatt? Can't imagine what she would do with bacon!

1:35 PM
Sandy said...

Although I would be totally grossed out if one were ever lit in my house, I could see bacon scented candles rocketing to popularity besides such classics as the "Singing Bass" wall fish, those fake arms people hang out of their car trunks and those smashed witches' backsides stuck to half the houses in town on Halloween. Its just one of those, "Oh my gosh! Look at this! A candle that smells like bacon! We HAVE to get this for Uncle Albert! HAHAHAHAHAHA!" items.

My personal invention (please don't steal my idea...I'm planning on making millions off of this) will be to develop portable seatbelts for church pews. I may see how your sound proof baby carrier works out, though, and "borrow" some of that technology to also develop a line of portable sound proof booths (also compatible with church pews) more mad grabs under the pews for escaping children. Everyone firmly and safely attached to the bench.

Jake found that someone had linked your blog to the cougarboard forums today. You may have just hit the big time.

2:07 PM
Clare said...

all these years in graduate school for audiology being lied to. you see, I was told it was Alexander Graham Bel that accidentally invented the hearing aid while trying to invent the telephone. minor details. i wonder what else isn't true?

2:13 PM
Joseph said...

Natalie, Brooke and David are indeed mormon, as reported in the Deseret News. My wife says that Cardon (the last girl to see the judges... and didn't make it onto the show) is mormon too.

8:38 AM

I would so buy a bacon-scented candle! I think it is in the same league as the holiday dinner flavored Jones sodas. mmmmm.....

12:12 PM
Colleen said...

I'm related to J.H.J. too! We're probably sixth cousins three times removed!

11:46 AM
Jami said...

Along the lines of your baby carrier, I would be willing to pay a bizillion dollars for a sound proof divider between the front and back of my minivan. Something to keep the flying marshmellows and insults in the back where they belong.

11:56 AM

Jami - fortunately for you they have already invented what you want. It's called taxi cab. And just think, after you've been hauling your kids around all day you can look back at them and say, "That'll be $89.04". They'd be cleaning the house for months to work that debt off.

Overall, looks like the bacon-scented candle is gaining some support. It may go down as one of the all-time gag gifts.


9:06 PM
go boo boo said...

The burrito saver is funniest, but I like the soundproof baby carrier (although I call that a car)...I think bacon scented candles would be most profitable (and realistic).

6:19 AM
go boo boo said...

I love the seatbelt in the pew idea from Sandy, that is seriously ingenious.

6:21 AM
Shepherd Family said...

I had the same problem with snorkeling...until I learned how to SCUBA dive! There is nothing like it...and way cooler than should try it sometime!

6:11 PM
Amy said...

Just thought I would let you know, while Rigby, ID claims Philo T. Farnsworth, he was actually born in Beaver, UT. Yes, he got the idea for television while living in Rigby, but didn't actually invent it until living in San Francisco.

11:59 AM