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10 Obscure Inventions by World Famous Inventors

Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, George Washington Carver - most of us know these famous figures for their greatest contributions to the modern world. But many of these famous historical figures have issued dozens of other patents and achieved greatness in many other facets of life, which only makes them the more awe-inspiring and worth looking up to. In this article, we’d like to bring your attention to 10 lesser-known inventions of famous figures in history, which will reveal a new and different side of these inventors to you.

1. Remote Control Boat by Nikola Tesla

unknown inventions of famous inventors Remote Control Boat by Nikola Tesla
Image Source: Reddit
In 1898, Nikola Tesla presented a 4-foot-long (1.22 m) remote-controlled boat at an exhibition in Madison Square Garden. The battery-powered boat (seen in the image above) had a radio-controlled propeller, rudder, and lights, and was the first-ever remote-controlled toy in history.
Legend has it that Tesla tricked the crowd into believing that the boat is responding to the commands they shouted out. Since not many people knew about the existence of radio waves at the time, the public totally bought it and was completely astounded by the wizardry.

2. Talking Dolls by Thomas Edison

To this day, Thomas Edison is still the absolute master of inventions, having accumulated a record number of 1,093 patents in his lifetime. And while most of us will know Edison as the inventor of the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and one of the earliest versions of the motion picture camera, the Wizard of Menlo Park had a fair share of unsuccessful inventions, too.

One of such flops were the first talking dolls, which he started producing in 1890. The 4-pound heavy dolls had a miniature version of the phonograph nestled in their torso, and each doll spoke a unique rhyme pre-recorded by the women who worked at Edison's factory. The dolls weren't a monetary success mainly because they were expensive, costing $20 each (this is equal to nearly $600 in today's money). Also, kids who did get to play with them found them really creepy, and if you watch the video above, you'll certainly understand why.

Related Article: 20 Incredible Inventions That We Have Completely Lost

3. Soybean Car by Henry Ford and George Washington Carver

unknown inventions of famous inventors Soybean-Powered Car
Henry Ford and Robert Boyer with the Soybean Car, 1941 Image Source: The Henry Ford/ Flickr
The Soybean Car was the result of a collaboration between Henry Ford and George Washington Carver, and it was essentially a plastic car, the body, and fenders of which were made of a strong material derived from soy, corn, and wheat.
Presented in 1941, the car was designed to run on hemp fuel, and was supposed to be Ford's response to steel and fuel rationing during World War II, as the body of the car was lightweight and thus required less fuel, too. Unfortunately, the mass production of soybean cars was halted by WWII.

4. Airplane Wing De-Icer by Katharine Burr Blodgett

unknown inventions of famous inventors Airplane Wing De-Icer by Katharine Burr Blodgett
Katharine Burr Blodgett (1898-1979), demonstrating equipment in lab Image Source: Smithsonian Institution/ Flickr
Katharine Burr Blodgett is a famous American physicist and chemist specializing in surface chemistry. Blodgett is most famous for her invention of "invisible" or non-reflective glass that's glare-resistant. The film industry was the first to pick up the invention, and film lenses like those which filmed Gone with the Wind (1939) were covered by her non-reflective coating, which added more clarity to the picture. Since then, the use of invisible glass had expanded to airplanes, submarines, cars, and even eyeglasses.
But this was hardly Blodgett's only invention. During WWII, for example, she invented a new way to de-ice airplane wings, which allowed planes to fly in freezing temperatures and ended up being an important advantage during World War II.

5. Metal Detector by Alexander Graham Bell

unknown inventions of famous inventors  Metal Detector by Alexander Graham Bell
An early experimental metal detector named the "Alpha" designed by M. Guitton
In 1881, American President James Garfield had been shot and wounded by Charles Guiteau. All attempts to locate and retrieve the bullet from Garfield's chest were unsuccessful. So, Alexander Graham Bell created the metal detector in an attempt to help doctors locate the bullet. The device was inspired by French inventor Gustave Trouvé's hand-held metal detector developed to be used on patients as well, and Bell's prototype worked as expected.
Unfortunately, it didn't help detect the bullet, as the president's bed was comprised of metal coil springs that confused the detector. The surgeons did manage to retrieve the bullet in the end, but the poor surgical hygienic practices of the time resulted in an infection, which ultimately led to Garfield's departure on September 19, 1881.

6. Copier by James Watt

James Watt was a Scottish engineer and inventor, and he's certainly most well known for his improvement of the steam engine. The Watt Steam Engine is one of the greatest technological contributions of the time, and one of the triggers of the Industrial Revolution.

However, Watt also patented other inventions, including a mechanical copier in 1780. The portable and quite convenient device allowed users to transfer written text from a top page to the second bottom page in reverse. The device was a great success, and over 600 units of the machine were sold in the 1st year of its production. Unique at the time, Watt's copy press had been used by many famous statespeople and businessmen at the time, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

7. Charity Donations through Text Messages by Marian Croak

unknown inventions of famous inventors Marian Croak
Present-day innovators, too, continue the tradition of inventing novel ways of doing things in many facets of technology. Marian Croak, a Vice President of Engineering at Google, is certainly one of them, as she invented the technology that allows us to carry out calls through Skype and has over 100 patents related to various Internet innovations. Among these patents is the technology that allows people to make donations through text messages.

8. Mock Trial Card Game by Elizabeth Magie

unknown inventions of famous inventors Elizabeth Magie monopoly
Image Source: Pikabu
Never heard of Elizabeth Magie? That's not a surprise, as her legacy and greatest invention has been stolen from her. But we're willing to bet that you've heard about the game Magie invented, a little something called Monopoly. Magie patented her invention in 1903, and she called it The Landlord’s Game, envisioning it as an anti-monopolist game where "all were rewarded when wealth was created".
Alas, her game had been stolen by one Charles Darrow, who sold it to the Parker Brothers, all of whom ultimately made billions on the game. Few people know, however, that Elizabeth Magie actually also published a card game called Mock Trial with the Parker Brothers in 1910 as well.

9. The Glass Harmonica by Benjamin Franklin

unknown inventions of famous inventors Glass Harmonica
A modern recreation of Franklin's glass harmonica
Benjamin Franklin was a real Renaissance man, but one of his earliest and greatest passions throughout his life was inventing things. In fact, Franklin reportedly made his first invention at the age of 11 - a pair of wooden paddles that would be attached to the wrists and make swimming faster.
Certainly, Franklin's most musical invention was the glass harmonica, which he supposedly was inspired to when he heard someone playing on wine glasses with the fingers. As a result, the glass harmonica was born, which was a number of differently-sized glass bowls arranged on a spindle. A foot pedal brought the spindle into motion, and a musician would play the instrument by touching the bowls with their fingers. At first, the glass harmonica was quite popular - Mozart and Beethoven even composed music to suit the instrument. However, with time, it became obsolete.

10. Diving Suit by Leonardo da Vinci

unknown inventions of famous inventors Diving Suit by Leonardo da Vinci


Speaking of Renaissance men, you all likely know that Leonardo da Vinci was an inventor and scientist apart from being a genius artist and sculptor. Well, one of the creepiest and yet most astonishing inventions belonging to da Vinci was that of the diving suit he designed and built while he was in his 40s. The leather suit featured tubes for breathing, an inflatable wineskin for sinking and floating, and even special peeing pouches (he really thought everything through).

Da Vinci envisioned that the suit had military potential that could help the Republic of Venice beat the Ottoman navy, which had superior strength. This is why Leonardo kept his sketches of the leather scuba suit away from prying eyes. Above you can see an exact recreation of these 16th-century sketches displayed in a museum, and we must say, we wouldn't want to meet anyone wearing that thing on the street let alone watch them emerge from the water in the suit. Still, experts say that it's quite functional and is a pretty good and realistic attempt at a diving suit.

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