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Curtiss, Glenn Hammond (21 May 1878–23 July 1930), aeronautical inventor and manufacturer, was born in Hammondsport, New York, the son of Frank R. Curtiss, the owner of a harness shop, and Lua Andrews. After the death of his father in 1883, Curtiss was raised by his mother and his strong-willed grandmother Ruth Curtiss in the bucolic Finger Lake region of western New York. After graduating from the eighth grade in 1892, Curtiss secured a job stenciling numbers on the backing of photographic film for the Eastman Dry Plant and Film Company (later Eastman Kodak Company) of Rochester. The next year he purchased a bicycle and found employment as a messenger for Western Union....

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Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....

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Holland, John Philip (24 February 1841–12 August 1914), inventor, was born in Liscannor, County Clare, Ireland, the son of John Holland, a coast guard officer, and Mary Scanlon. The Hollands lived in a small coast guard cottage, and though they had greater economic security than many residents of the village, the poverty, famine, and disease that surrounded them and that led to the death of John’s younger brother Robert and two of his uncles had a profound impact on him, initiating a strong anti-British sentiment that influenced much of his life. In 1853 Holland’s father died and the family moved to Limerick, where Holland entered the monastery school. He was very committed to his studies and rapidly excelled in the physical sciences. The hardship caused by his father’s death, along with Holland’s strong interest in education, prompted his entrance into the teaching order of the Irish Christian Brothers in 1858. He was sent to the North Monastery School in Cork for further training and apprentice teaching. Over the next fifteen years Holland moved to various teaching posts throughout Ireland and taught a variety of subjects ranging from the physical sciences to music. However, his poor health forced him to take periodic breaks from his teaching duties and, along with his interest in designing submarines, influenced his decision to move to the United States in 1873 to join his mother and two brothers, who had moved to Boston several years earlier....

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Westinghouse, George (06 October 1846–12 March 1914), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Central Bridge, Schoharie County, New York, the son of George Westinghouse and Emeline Vedder, farmers. In 1856 his father, blessed with mechanical aptitude, relocated the family to Schenectady, New York, where he formed G. Westinghouse & Company. The firm manufactured agricultural implements, and its machine shop provided young Westinghouse with his first opportunities for mechanical experimentation. Westinghouse divided his time between attendance at local schools and tinkering in his father’s shop. He produced his first invention, a rotary engine, by the age of fifteen. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, however, he followed the example of two older brothers and ran away from home to join the Union army. He briefly served with the Twelfth Regiment, New York National Guard, before his parents forced him, because he was still only fifteen, to return home. Finally able to sway his parents to his wishes, Westinghouse joined the Sixteenth Regiment, New York Cavalry, in 1863. He resigned from the army in December 1864 to join the Union navy, where he served as acting third assistant engineer aboard the USS ...

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See Wright, Wilbur

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Wright, Wilbur (16 April 1867–30 May 1912), and Orville Wright (19 August 1871–30 January 1948), inventors of the airplane, were born, respectively, near Millville, Indiana, and in Dayton, Ohio, the sons of Milton Wright, a clergyman, and Susan Catherine Koerner. Their father, who rose from circuit preacher to bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and their mother presided over a loving home where children were encouraged to think for themselves and support one another. “From the time we were little children,” Wilbur remarked just before his death, “my brother Orville and myself lived together, played together, worked together, and in fact, thought together… . nearly everything that was done in our lives has been the result of conversations, suggestions and discussions between us.”...