Favourite Inventions

By Laura Taylor-Jones, Marketing Assistant

There have been many inventions that have transformed our society from the computer to vaccinations to celluloid. Inspired by the TIME article, ‘Best Inventions 2019’, which listed innovations in beauty, sustainability, education, health care and design to name a few, we asked some of the people of Haseltine Lake Kempner what their favourite inventions are.

Natasha Fairbairn, Associate in our Tech team, considers the laser (which stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) to be “one of the best physics-based inventions in recent history. There is still some controversy surrounding who first invented the laser, but the first working laser was built in 1960 by Theodore Maiman. Many different areas of technology make use of laser technology, including fibre optic communications, laser surgery, CD and DVD players, barcode scanners and laser printers. The invention of the laser has also led to huge advances in scientific discovery and measurement techniques, enabling the detection of gravitational waves with LIGO and setting the record for the coldest temperature in the universe using laser cooling of atoms.”

Kate Hackett who is PA to the Senior Management team, opted for a medical invention, the Apgar score. The inventor Virginia Apgar, an American obstetrical anesthesiologist, understood that infant mortality rates in the first 24 hours following birth were not improving. Through her own research and experience she was able to document the underlying trends/causes and combatted this by inventing the Apgar score, a quick method to assess and measure a newborn’s:

  • A (activity)
  • P (pulse)
  • G (grimace/response to stimulation)
  • A (appearance)
  • R (respiration)

“In my opinion the Apgar score is my favourite invention, it was adopted in many hospitals and is still in use today. It provides an accepted and dependable way to assess the status of a newborn immediately following birth, ensuring babies needing further medical attention are quickly identified and referred.”

Next Jordan Mitchell, Patent Administrator in our Chemical and Life Sciences team, explains why the carbon light bulb filament is his favourite invention.

“It is my favourite invention not because it is particularly exciting (although it was very important for creating longer lasting light bulbs), but because it was invented by Lewis Latimer. He was the son of runaway slaves who, after serving in the American civil war, ended up working in a patent firm. Over many years his talent for drafting patents was recognised and he began working closely with both Thomas Edison, leading to the invention of the carbon filament (originally bamboo or paper filaments were used), and with Alexander Graham Bell, helping to draft the patent for the first telephone. This is why the carbon light bulb filament is my favourite invention; it was crucial in making electric lighting practical and affordable for the average household and is a great example of how innovation is a collaborative process with countless unsung heroes from many different backgrounds.”

Senior Patent Administrator, Elizabeth Misselbrook credits her GPS (Global Positions System) watch, or “running watch” as they are commonly referred to, which she uses primarily for fitness purposes as her favourite invention. “Rewind 10 years. It’s 2010 and I’m getting ready to head out the door for a run. I hoist my MP3 player on to my arm and attempt to untangle my earphones. The grunt in response from my other half that I’m heading out for a run is the only kudos I’m likely to get for today’s efforts. How far and fast did I go? Who knows?! It took me roughly 40 minutes to follow the route I’d highlighted on a map and I’m out of breath so my best guess is that it was a success. Fast forward to the present day. I’m heading out for a run but now I’m wire-free and weighed down by nothing more than my watch and ear buds. I monitor my distance, pace and heart rate throughout, attempting to maximise my efforts. Once finished, the details of my run are seamlessly uploaded to a popular social fitness network. I personalise this latest entry with a pithy comment regarding the weather and wait for the recognition to pour in. Packing the punch of a desktop computer into a watch and adding wireless connectivity has changed the landscape for many runners today. We may still need roads, but we may no longer need maps, additional music devices or even arguably personal trainers.”

Lastly we have Trainee Patent Attorney Erin O’Connor, from our Glasgow office. “As a national and resident of Scotland, I think my favourite invention has to be the waterproof jacket, specifically the waterproof part. It’s not only that it keeps me dry every day in typical Scottish weather but that I find the science behind it interesting. The material used in the waterproof layer was discovered by manipulating the polymer PTFE to give its expanded form, a seemingly minor change, but one that dramatically changed the properties and capabilities of the material. This ePTFE can be adapted to give a coating to jackets (better known by its trademark Gore-Tex™) that is waterproof with the added advantage of being light-weight and breathable. Not only did ePTFE revolutionise waterproof outerwear, it’s highly adaptable nature means it can also be used in applications as wide-spread as medical devices, protection of artefacts and sealed battery products. It can even be found on the Mars Rover!”

Hopefully this article has made you ponder what inventions have changed the way you socialise, work, and think in everyday life.