There are times throughout history when a leap forward from the current status is not only wanted but demanded. Inventions and innovations come about in these times, all out of sheer necessity. If the population demands something and the need is there, innovation is encouraged and has the potential to book. There are many commonly used items and world changing ideas that have come about in times of crisis.
The iron industry has a long history going back over 2,000 years, but it was during the Industrial Revolution that the necessity for strong, lightweight materials became apparent. As with all good struggles nations were seeking to be the world’s foremost in the steel race. Countries like the United States and the UK led the way by putting a lot of time, effort and research into finding ways to make steel stronger, cheaper and in bigger batches to prove they were the country that was making the most progress into a new century. Outward indicators showed winners in this race were major cities, especially factories. Thanks to better steel production, we are now able to construct buildings more than five stories tall, and faster and more efficient means of transportation by way of railroads and bridges.
The crisis in this case was to be competitive in an advancing age of world supply and demand markets. When countries and growing industries fail to keep up with the progressing times they can find themselves playing a game of catch-up in which they may never manage to navigate well.
The first canned food was more of what you’d consider bottled or jarred food. In 1795, Napoleon Bonaparte was on the march and needed food that would last for his troops. He offered a reward to anyone who could come up with a method that would preserve food for months at a time.Nicholas Appert figured out that heating up the food and the container, and then sealing everything in with wax, did the trick.
Later on, giants like John Mason, William Charles Ball, and Alexander Kerr added aspects like twist on caps, reusable lids and uniform sizes that made canning a staple within many homes and stores.
>In this case, it was an actual mother that invented the cloth-like, waterproof tape to help secure boxes of ammunition the military used during World War II. Vesta Stoudt worked at an ordnance plant in Illinois during the war. She packaged and inspected the ammo parcels and noticed that the paper tape being utilized easily tore and came loose. This left soldiers scrambling while on the frontlines and made them more vulnerable while under attack.
Her bosses and the plant rejected her idea, so like any good, determined woman, she wrote President Roosevelt, who in turn passed her letter on to the War Productions Board. The board recognized the utility of the tape and asked Industrial Tap Corporation to begin production.
Today, the tape is used in many industries, has been to the moon and back, and is found in almost every home.
Some inventions come about by accident when trying to develop something else entirely. Dr. Harry Coover was working on creating a crystal clear, plastic-based gun sight for military personnel during World War II. During one of his attempts, he fabricated a substance that bonded things together permanently, but because that was not his intent, the clear adhesive glue joined the pile of previous unsuccessful attempts.
It was only years later when he was working on designing a heat-resistant jet canopy that a fellow supervisor tested out the substance and realized the potential for household and many other purposes.
During the First World War, chemical warfare in the form of chloride gas was used against soldiers. Gas masks became a necessary tool during battles and Kleenex created a disposable, crepe paper that was used as a filter for the masks.
After the war, adaptations to the marketing and composition of the paper were made. Designers saw a need that could be fulfilled with first a cold cream and makeup remover and then a single-use handkerchief. They made the paper thinner and softer, and now we don’t know what to do if we don’t have a Kleenex nearby.
In 1935, Great Britain began to realize that another world war was probably coming. All the signs were there and the advancement of the Nazis’ reach was beginning to be felt all over Europe. Government researchers had already been developing better ways to detect far off aircraft by bouncing radio wave signals off objects in the sky, but it soon became imperative that radar detection be established. German planes with large payload capacities were dropping bombs all throughout neighboring countries as a way to disrupt food and supplies, as well as bring about heavy casualty numbers.
Radar technology was tested and implemented as quickly as possible as a way to provide earlier detection of enemy planes and deploy an air defense against the German attacks. Although not all incoming strikes were detected, radar helped to save tens of thousands of lives and went on to become more accurate and used for different purposes such as weather forecasting, anti missile defense and ocean surveillance.
The most notable version of the ballpoint pen came from a newspaper editor in Hungary around 1931. László Bíró noticed that the ink from the printers dried faster than that in a fountain pen, and he was looking for a writing utensil that was portable, didn’t have much smudging of the ink and wouldn’t leak.
Bíró had little success with his invention in Europe, however, after having to flee Nazi Germany to Argentina, his pens were made and sold under the name Birome and saw a fair amount of profitability.
Reusable N95 Masks
We’re throwing our hat in the ring with our uniquely designed reusable respirator. With the onset of COVID-19 and the N95 mask shortage for frontline healthcare workers that soon followed, we found ourselves wanting to help. A few of us got together and found inspiration in a Jimmy John’s cup we had in front of us.
There were still some design aspects that could be worked over and perfected, but what we can offer is a mask that creates a great seal around the nose and mouth, doesn’t require much maintenance other than cleaning and sanitization after use, and uses replaceable filters that can quickly be inserted and changed out.
If you are inspired by some of these items, there is no time like the present to work on your own concepts and dust off those drawings you’ve had in the back of your closet. You never know if you have the next big idea that will change the world.