Inventors and Patents From the City of Lake Forest
In June, the City of Lake Forest was the site of the longest delay between filing a patent application and its approval, with 1,390 days. That happened to an automotive operating company that filed an application on Aug. 31, 2018, and received approval on June 21. Getting a patent is important to protect an invention, but is no guarantee of commercial success.
Elisha Gray was an inventor of many new devices for the railroad. His inventions included a microphone printer and needle annunciators for elevators and hotels. The company he co-founded later changed its name to the Western Electric Manufacturing Company and he continued to invent for it.
Elisha Gray’s first patent application was for a device that could transmit voice. He didn’t disclose his invention until 1876. Alexander Graham Bell, meanwhile, filed a patent application on the same day as Gray. Both men are sometimes accused of stealing Gray’s idea, but the truth is that Gray’s device was improved and used by Bell for commercial use.
Bell later claimed that Gray had stolen the idea of the telephone, but he did not. He had actually been using liquid transmitters for over three years prior to the patent application’s filing. Bell had even filed a patent application for a primitive fax machine in 1875. A few months later, he received Patent No. 161739 for his invention.
Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray both worked in the same city. Bell, an electrical engineer, applied for the patent for the telephone on the same day as Gray. However, both men filed applications for patents on the same day, resulting in a controversy over the ownership of the concept and the instruments. Eventually, Bell won the patent and became the first person to transmit voice.
Bell and Gray had a heated rivalry over who invented the telephone. Neither of them could prove their invention, but Bell’s lawyers were able to win over the Bell Company and win a patent. Gray later moved on to other fields.
David de Forest
De Forest is known as one of the most important innovators in the history of radio and television. He was instrumental in establishing public radio broadcasting. His experimentation with Tosca in 1909 and live broadcasts and performances of the opera are credited with establishing the development of public broadcasting.
De Forest is also credited with developing the first electric light bulb. He was also involved in the invention of the steam engine. His patented design was a result of his collaboration with Theodore Case. However, De Forest misused his collaborator’s inventions. Theodore Case refused to publicly acknowledge de Forest’s contribution. In 1924, the Case Research Laboratory produced its own camera. The president was recorded by this camera. De Forest then claimed that the camera was a result of his inventions.
De Forest made several patents during his lifetime. He was also the inventor of diathermy machines, which used electricity to heat the human body. His patents numbered about 300, although only a few of them became viable business ventures. Interestingly, his last patent was for an automatic telephone dialing machine, which he patented when he was 84 years old. Another important patent that de Forest held was for the triode, which revolutionized the electronics industry.
After graduating from Mount Hermon School, De Forest attended the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University in 1893. However, he was suspended from the university for blacking out. He paid for his tuition with the proceeds from his mechanical and gaming inventions. In 1896, he received his bachelor’s degree. He went on to earn his Ph.D. at Yale University in 1899.
De Forest also received a patent in 1919 for a process that recorded sound directly onto film. His Phonofilm process improved on earlier work done by Eric Tigerstedt and Tri-Ergon. The new technology recorded electrical waveforms on the film and translated them into sound waves when the movie was projected. It was this process that allowed theaters to begin using sound in their movies.
After de Forest’s initial success in New York City, he sought to raise capital to help expand his ideas and create a successful company. Abraham White became De Forest’s main sponsor for five years. He had a vision and a lot of ambition but was dishonest and unreliable. The American DeForest Wireless Telegraph Company was incorporated and de Forest was given the position of Scientific Director.
Lee de Forest
Lee de Forest was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and was the son of Henry Swift DeForest and Anna Margaret Robbins. He was a member of the Institute of Radio Engineers and was also an inventor. His work in the field of radio led to the creation of the audion, which became a very popular type of amplifier. His invention was later honored with the Edison Medal, which is given annually by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. In addition to being an inventor, Lee de Forest was a friend of Herman A. de Vry and he made many accurate predictions about the future of radio.
In addition to creating a variety of radios, audio equipment, and sound recordings, De Forest was also an early pioneer in sound-on-film recording. His inventions included a system for recording sound using a vacuum tube. His system was adopted by large Hollywood studios and his zeal for promoting mass media helped mold what we know today. However, Lee de Forest’s life was not without controversy. He had to contend with patent lawsuits and was even accused of mail fraud. Although his inventions were widely used, his life was marred by legal battles and ultimately led him to bankruptcy.
Lee de Forest’s most notable patent, the telegraph receiver, was developed at a company in Chicago. De Forest later worked for Marconi and the Western Electric Company. His invention was based on the work of two German scientists. Their coherer consisted of a tube filled with iron filings that coalesced when exposed to radio waves and conducted electricity. De Forest made his invention even better by using a liquid electrolyte instead of a solid. He called this invention the responder.
The De Forest Radio Telephone and Telegraph Company, which specialized in making commercial radios, remained in business until 1909. De Forest’s company was eventually purchased by a group of automobile manufacturers. The new owners of the company expanded their factory in order to meet the demand for radios. However, it also took De Forest several years to get his radios into the hands of the public.
Lake Forest resident Jerome Caruso is a multi-talented inventor and patent holder whose designs have earned him many international awards. Jerome’s work with Herman Miller has been instrumental in developing ergonomic contract-seating products. His sophisticated task chair designs incorporate patented Intelligent Surface technology to provide unique regional responses, comfort and control. He has also developed innovative technologies, such as Harmonic Tilt, which allows users to achieve a smooth transition from one sitting position to another.
Jerome has designed more than 100 patents, including a design for Sub-Zero’s “invisible refrigeration.” He also designed Wolf cooking ranges and the Evolution System. His designs have been incorporated into products ranging from office chairs to furniture. His Bi-Cast chair, for example, was the first mass-produced stacking chair. It is now included in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Another design he developed for Herman Miller is the Celle chair. He is also credited with creating the “Allusionism” art form, which blends art and science.
De Forest was also a pioneer in phonofilm technology. His research on radio was abandoned in 1921 and he concentrated on the optical sound-on-film process. His Phonofilm system was patented in 1919. It was an improvement over earlier research by Tri-Ergon and Eric Tigerstedt. He developed a system that utilized parallel lines of variable shades of gray and density. This system was different from the RCA Photophone, which converted electrical waveforms into sound when a movie film was projected.