Exploring Ideas

Ever wondered how much of our life has been affected by inventions? How has the telephone, for example, impacted human society? Would our society be different without the television? Can you imagine modern society without the personal computer?

Inventions, creations of new gadgets or processes, have dramatically shaped our world. They have given us control over our environment and enabled us to live better, easier, and happier lives. Although most inventions have benefited people, some inventions, such as weapons of war, have been harmful. Certain other inventions have been both beneficial and harmful. The automobile, for example, has given us a fast, convenient means of transportation. However, it has also contributed greatly to air pollution.

According to an old saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention." However, if we examine the processes of successful inventors, we learn that it takes more than mere need to produce innovation. It also takes knowledge, skill, creativity, and, sometimes, luck.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

Amelia Bloomer
Travel to Homer, New York in the 1800s and learn about Amelia Bloomer. Her ideas about how women should be allowed to dress changed the history of women’s fashions.
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
From the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Lemelson Center's "Centerpieces" provides virtual tours on such inventions as the electric lightbulb, the electric guitar, whole cloth, and the quartz watch. Their "Digging Deeper" section has links to other web sites.
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame where the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of great inventors is celebrated. You can search for a specific inventor or for a certain invention.

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People To See's Inventors
Loads of information here on inventors of assorted ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. It also covers many angles about inventions.
Alexander Graham Bell: The Inventor
American inventor whose interest in the applications of electricity to sound led him to invent a new telegraph system, patented in 1875, and to experiment with methods of transmitting voice sounds.
Benjamin Franklin
He became famous for being a scientist, an inventor, a statesman, a printer, a philosopher, a musician, and an economist. Today, we honor Ben Franklin as one of our Founding Fathers and as one of America's greatest citizens.
Exploring Leonardo
Explore this site and learn about this fascinating scientist, inventor, and artist of the Italian Renaissance. This online exhibit developed by the Boston Museum of Science focuses on Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions and scientific studies. 
The Farnsworth Chronicles
At age 13 Philo Farnsworth dreamed of "trapping light in an empty jar and transmitting it, one line at a time, on a magnetically deflected beam of electrons." His dreams led to a revolutionary invention that has transformed our society--the television.
Thomas A. Edison
When Americans think of inventors, they typically think of Thomas Alva Edison. Learn more about the man that is credited with numerous inventions such as the light bulb, phonograph, automatic telegraph repeater, electric vote recorder, and much much more.

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Things To Do

Watch videos about inventions and the inventors who created them.
Zoom Inventors & Inventions
Here you can find out about all kinds of inventions from adhesive tape to the zipper.
A Walk Through Time
Learn about the history of keeping and measuring time. Beginning with ancient civilizations and the earliest recorded year (4236 BCE), this site progresses through the "atomic" age. Each section has photographs and/or sketches.
American Experience Technology Timeline
View the timeline of important American inventions. Spanning the years from 1752 to 1900, this site lists everything from the lightening rod to the Hubble telescope.
Great Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century
Explore this list of the top 20 achievements, and learn how engineering shaped a century and changed the world.
How Stuff Works
Have you ever wondered how the engine in a car works or what makes a refrigerator cold? The "How Stuff Works" site is the place to find answers to such questions.
Riley's Kid Inventor Resources
Check out this site that shows students what it takes to be an inventor. Plenty of advice here on how to get started on the road of invention.
Schoolhouse Rock Lyrics: "Mother Necessity Room"
Read the lyrics to the SchoolHouse Rock song "Mother Necessity," which focuses on famous American inventors and their inventions.

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Teacher Resources

Inventions that Changed Our World
Teachers will find several lesson plans related to inventions here.
Inventive Thinking Curriculum Project
This website is designed to provide resources to encourage students to develop critical and creative thinking and problem-solving skills through the activity of creating an innovation or invention.

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  • Baker, David. Inventions from Outer Space: Everyday Uses for Nasa Technology. Random House, 2000.
  • Caney, Steven. Steven Caney's Invention Book. Workman Publishing Company, 1985.
  • Carrow, Robert and Rick Brown. Turn on the Lights - From Bed!: Electronic Inventions, Contraptions, and Gadgets Kids Can Build. McGraw-Hill, 1996.
  • Egan, Lorraine Hopping. Inventors and Inventions: Creative Cross-Curricular Activities, Fascinating Background Information, Problem-Solving for All Students. Scholastic Trade, 1997.
  • Erlbach, Arlene. The Kids' Invention Book. Lerner Publications Company, 1999.
  • Flatow, Ira. They All Laughed: From Light Bulbs to Lasers: The Fascinating Stories Behind the Great Inventions That Have Changed Our Lives by Ira Flatow. Harperperennial Library, 1993.
  • Jones, Charlotte Foltz and John O'Brien. Mistakes That Worked. Doubleday, 1994.
  • Kenda, Margaret. The Big Book of Cool Inventions: Tons of Inventions, Experiments, and Mind Bending Games. McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing, 2000.
  • Hudson, Wade and Ron Garnett. Five Notable Inventors. Cartwheel Books. 1995.
  • Thimmesh, Catherine and Melissa Sweet. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
  • Tucker, Tom and Richard Loehle. Brainstorm!: The Stories of Twenty American Kid Inventors. Sunburst, 1998.
  • Wulffson, Don L. The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions. Puffin, 1999.
  • Yenne, Bill and Dr. Morton Grosser. 100 Inventions That Shaped World History. Bluewood Books, 1993.