Ruth Handler and Barbie

Ruth Handler’s Barbie doll was introduced to society at the New York Toy Fair on this date in 1959. Born Ruth Marianna Mosko in 1916 in Denver, Colorado, Handler was a child of immigrant parents from Poland. Her creation of Barbie (named after her daughter, Barbara) was designed as a quantum leap in how preadolescent girls approached doll […]

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Edwin Land and the Instant Camera

Edwin Herbert Land, a Harvard drop-out, demonstrated the first instant camera (soon to become the Polaroid Land Camera) on this date in 1947. Land had already founded the Polaroid company in 1937 after inventing an inexpensive polarizing filter used in film, sunglasses, optical microscopes, and other gadgets. He later served as a scientific adviser under the […]

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The Original Teddy Bear

On this date in 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a letter to cartoonist Clifford Berryman praising his Washington Post portrayal of Roosevelt refusing to shoot a small bear. The cartoon was based on an actual incident in which Roosevelt, a prodigious hunter, had refrained from killing a cornered young bear in Mississippi. Berryman’s drawing inspired Brooklyn candystore […]

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The Ventriloquist of the 60s

Ventriloquist and voice actor Paul Winchell (Wilchinsky) was born in New York City on this date in 1922. His grandparents had emigrated to the U.S. from Poland and Austria-Hungary. With his two dummy “sidekicks,” Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff, Winchell hosted one of the most popular children’s television shows of the mid-1960s and (along with Shari Lewis) […]

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April 28: Hertha Ayrton, Inventor

British scientist and inventor Hertha Ayrton (Phoebe Sarah Marks), the first woman to be proposed for the fellowship of the Royal Society (in 1902), was born in Portsea, Hampshire, England, on this date in 1854. Ayrton was refused admission to the Society because, as a married woman, she had no legal status under British law. Four […]

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February 8: A Billion Slippers

Florence Zacks Melton, who invented Shoulda Shams, removable shoulder pads, in the 1940s, and Dearfoams, foam-soled, washable slippers — introduced in 1958, with more than a billion pairs now sold — died at 95 on this date in 2007. Co-founder of R.G. Barry Corporation, which today controls nearly 40 percent of the U.S. slipper market, […]

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March 8: The Father of Video Games

Ralph H. Baer, an American refugee from Nazi Germany who became an electronics inventor who conceived of playing games on television screens as early as 1951 and helped to pioneer their creation in the 1960s, was born in southwest Germany on this date in 1922. Baer served in U.S. military intelligence during World War II, […]

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February 18: Kodachrome

Leopold Godowsky, Jr., a concert violinist who joined with another musician, Leopold Damrosch Mannes, to develop Kodachrome film, died at 82 on this date in 1983. Their experimentation began in 1917, when they saw a movie advertised as a color film and felt dissatisfied with the color. They designed their own movie camera and projector […]

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November 24: You Wouldn’t Be Reading This Without Him

Inventor Stanford Ovshinsky, who died with more than 400 patents to his name, was born to Lithuanian immigrants in Akron, Ohio on this date in 1922. His inventions included the nickel-metal hydride battery used extensively in laptop computers and cell phones (and the Toyota Prius), as well as flat-screen liquid crystal displays and numerous modern […]

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October 2: Mathematics in Braille

Abraham Nemeth, the founder of a system of Braille for mathematics that enabled people without sight to study and work in the field, died just short of his 95th birthday on this date in 2013. Born blind into a Yiddish-speaking family of Hungarian Jews, he developed the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation […]

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