At Pivot, we love inventors. We love your drive, your ambition, your bold thinking—and we love the fact that you’re able to turn those things into ideas for products that will improve people’s lives.
We know that the road from concept to production can be a long and difficult one. And we also know that it’s almost impossible to travel it alone. That’s why we’re so passionate about helping inventors with services from concept, design for manufacture and assembly, and supply chain management to setting up a business.
In honor of all you do, we’d like to present a list of our favorite top five lesser-known inventors.
Edward Nairne—the eraser
Where would inventors, or any great mind, be without the eraser? Up until Nairne invented the rubber eraser in 1770 (according to popular belief, anyway), people used pieces of bread, bits of sandstone or pumice, or wax to remove marks from paper. So next time you break out a pencil, think of this visionary Englishman.
Robert Yates—the can opener
It’s Yates, another Englishman, whom we can thank for not having to open canned food with a hammer and chisel. Seriously. Back when canned food was patented, in 1820, there was no way to open it other than brute force and a bit of finesse. Yates invented the first can opener in 1855, but the can opener we all know and love didn’t come along until William Lyman created it in 1870. Up until then, can openers were so heavy duty that they mainly stayed in grocery stores.
James Goodfellow—the ATM PIN
Now, this is a guy we can really get behind. With the invention of the PIN in 1966, Goodfellow changed personal finance forever. He had been hired to figure out how to let people take money out their banks on nights and weekends, and it is said that he invented the ATM (although there are two other inventors, John Shepherd-Barron and John D. White, who can claim some credit as well).
Goodfellow did definitely invent the PIN system for verifying identity, matching a four-digit numerical code to an encrypted card. He received royal honors for the invention in 2006.
Jack Clements—the travel coffee cup lid
Without Clements, there’d be a lot more coffee spills in our cars, at work, in department stores—really anywhere you see that ubiquitous white plastic coffee cup lid. Clements was hired by the Solo Cup Co. to figure out how to make it easier to drink coffee while traveling, and he came up with the domed lid that you see on Starbucks cups and many others. The dome was an important innovation, as it helps to reduce the spills you often get with the flat, fold-back lids that preceded Clements’ invention.
Incidentally, the dome also prevents the whipped cream on your gingerbread latte from being totally flattened.
Margaret Knight—the flat-bottomed paper bag
Children everywhere would be bringing their lunches to school in shapeless paper sacks if it weren’t for Margaret Knight. Knight was an employee at a paper bag factory in the 1850s when she came up with the idea for a new and improved paper bag. After realizing how flimsy the typical bag was, she invented a machine that would fold paper and glue it together, creating a bag that was both stronger and could stand up on its own. She created a wooden prototype, and sent it off to a machine shop to be replicated in iron. While it was there, a male employee stole the idea and patented it as his own. But ultimately, justice was served—Knight sued the employee and won, eventually establishing her own paper bag factory.
Of course, these are just a few of the inventors who have improved our daily lives with their creative thinking. Here at Pivot, we’ve been able to help many more. Find out more about the products we’ve helped develop on our portfolio page, and if you have a great idea that you need some help getting to market, contact us!