An invention is the creation of something that didn't exist before. It can be a simple gadget, a novel process, a new material, or a complex machine. It requires creativity and imagination to be an inventor. People invent for a variety of reasons. Some invent in order to meet basic human needs. Other invent to fulfill their own creative desires. Many inventions are inspired by social or economic reasons--by the desire to make life easier and more comfortable or by the need to make money.

Inventions play a part in our daily lives by providing us with the things we need to live comfortably and healthily or by saving us precious time and effort as we carry out our daily tasks.

Sample some of the following activities to learn more about inventions and inventors.


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

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about inventions and inventors.

Gallery of Obscure Patents
Go to the Gallery of Obscure Patents and learn about the Gravity Powered Shoe Air Conditioner and other creative inventions
Innovative Lives
Smithsonian site allows you to search by name or subject
National Inventors Hall of Fame
An extensive list searchable by name of inventor, the invention, date or decade
Zoom Inventors and Inventions
List of inventors and inventions throughout history

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People To See

Exploring Leonardo
Take the opportunity to get to know Leonardo da Vinci. He was a remarkable man. From this website, you can see sketches and explanations of many of his inventions
Richard Drew
Scotch tape was invented in 1930 by banjo playing 3M engineer Richard Drew
Meet Richard James. He invented the Slinky in the 1943 by accident. He was trying to develop a spring that could help keep sensitive ship-board instruments steady at sea. He knocked some of these experimental springs off a shelf, and was amused by the way they "walked" down, rather than just falling
Learn more about Velcro and its inventor, George de Mestral. One day he went for a walk in the woods and we he came home, he noticed that his dog's coat and his pants were covered with cockleburrs. His inventor's curiosity led him to study the burrs under a microscope, where he discovered its natural hook-like shape.

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Things To Do

A History of American Agriculture 1776-1990
Find out how the invention of barbed wire by Joseph Glidden changed the history of the American west and midwest
All About Ketchup
The Chinese were the first to invent ketchup which was called ke-tsiap. It was a made of pickled fish, shellfish, and spices. Find out who invented peanut butter. Did George Washington Carver or John Harvey Kellogg invent it? Have students research how other popular foods were invented like potato chips
The Art and Science of Microencapsulation
Discover how scratch-and-sniff items were invented
Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century
Explore this list of the top 20 achievements of the 20th century and learn how engineering shaped a century and changed the world
The History of Plumbing 
Find out how the Minoans were great innovators and were ahead of their time
Making Nonstick Teflon Stick
If teflon is not supposed to "stick", how do they make it stick to the pan when the manufacture cookware? Find out
QWERTY Keyboard
Discover the origins of the keyboard commonly used today.
Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking 
Learn about the invention of paper and its long history
Telephone History
Learn more about who invented the telephone and how it was done
Ultimate Roller Coaster
Find out about the invention of the earliest roller coasters and how their design has changed over the years. Have students research the physics behind roller coaster design.
Who Invented the.....?
You choose the invention and then find out who invented it and when. The electric hair dryer was invented by Alexandre Godefoy in 1890. The watch was invented by Peter Henlein in 1509

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Teacher Resources

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  • Casey, Susan. Women Invent: Two Centuries of Discoveries That Have Shaped Our World. Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review Press, c1997.
  • Clements, Gillian. The Picture History of Great Inventors. New York : A. Knopf, 1993.
  • Haskins, James. Outward Dreams: Black Inventors and Their Inventions. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
  • Hudson, Wade. Five Notable Inventors. New York: Scholastic, c1995.
  • Jeffries, Michael. Inventors and Inventions. New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1992.
  • Kozar, Richard. Inventors and Their Discoveries. Philadelphia, Pa. : Chelsea House Publishers, c1999.
  • Lomask, Milton. Invention and Technology. New York: Scribner's; Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, c1991.
  • McKissack, Pat. African American Inventors. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, c1994.
  • Noonan, Jon. Nineteenth-century Inventors. New York: Facts on File, c1992.
  • Sullivan, Otha Richard. African American Inventors. New York: Wiley, c1998.
  • Vare, Ethlie Ann. Women Inventors and Their Discoveries. Minneapolis : Oliver Press, c1993.