The National Inventors Hall of Fame has revealed the list of inductees for their 50th Induction Ceremony in October. NASA chemist Robert Bryant will be among the living inductees for 2023. (Headline photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith)
Bryant has been recognized for his impressive achievements in various fields. He created a polymer called LaRC-SI (Langley Research Center-Soluble Imide), which is now used as an insulation material for leads in implantable cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices, starting from a laboratory discovery.
He has been inducted into the NIHF, the Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame, and the NASA Inventors Hall of Fame. Among his many accolades, he has received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal, NASA Langley’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Valparaiso University’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and a Doctor of Science Honoris Causa.
He has also been awarded three R&D 100 Awards, including an Editor’s Choice. Additionally, Bryant holds 33 U.S. patents, over a dozen foreign patents, and over two dozen commercial licenses to NASA. Bryant was born in Chicago to an engineer father and a reference librarian mother, who instilled in him a love of exploration and learning from a young age. As an Eagle Scout, he enjoyed spending time outdoors, taking things apart, and reading the books his mother brought home from work.
Bryant faced significant vision challenges due to oculocutaneous albinism type 2, a genetic condition. However, he developed excellent reading comprehension skills during his youth, which later proved to be advantageous for him when reading technical papers and books.
In an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, Bryant advised kids to read as much as possible. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Valparaiso University in 1985 and then pursued his master’s and doctorate degrees in polymer science under NASA’s Graduate Student Research Program (GSRP) at the University of Akron, where he was a fellow.
In the year that Bryant joined NASA’s Langley Research Center, he became a part of a team that was researching composite materials that could be used for high-speed civil transport aircraft and lightweight rocket bodies. During his investigations, he stumbled upon a polymer formulation called LaRC-SI that unexpectedly remained soluble during the process of polymerization. Bryant continued working on LaRC-SI, and it was tested by several different NASA research groups to determine its potential applications. Scientific and technical communities were made aware of the formulation through published articles.
Bryant credits his ability to invent LaRC-SI to the freedom he had at NASA to explore and develop subject matter expertise in various areas.
Marjorie Stewart Joyner, the inventor of the permanent wave machine, is one of the two Black historical inductees. She was an influential beautician, salon owner, instructor, and executive for the Madam C. J. Walker Co. In addition to patenting the permanent wave machine in 1928, she also established beauty industry standards.
Durimet 20 stainless steel alloy was invented by metallurgist James A. Parsons Jr. during the 1930s. This highly resistant alloy is commonly used in various industrial processes today.
Parsons was born in Dayton, Ohio, and had received an appointment to the US Naval Academy. However, his father, high school guidance counselor, and his father’s employer, Duriron Co. founder Pierce Schenck were concerned for his safety at the institution. They convinced him to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York instead. During his summers, Schenck paid for his studies, and in exchange, Parsons worked at Duriron, a Dayton manufacturer of pumps and valves for chemical processes.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from RPI in 1922, Parsons began working full-time for Duriron as an analytical chemist. He focused on researching and developing corrosion-resistant alloys and metal processing methods, initially working with aluminum, bronze, and high-silicon castings. Eventually, Parsons focused his efforts on the development of the highly successful Durimet 20 stainless steel alloy.
As the National Inventors Inventors Hall of Fame embarked on Black History Month, they announced the unveiling of a new exhibit at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, located at the United States Patent and Trademark Office headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
The exhibit highlights the achievements of six distinguished Hall of Famers whose inventions have influenced various aspects of our lives such as health, safety, transportation, communication, beauty, and even play.
Marian Croak significantly contributed to the advancement of Voice over Internet Protocol technologies, making video calls an essential part of our daily routines. Her work has facilitated communication technology with more than 200 U.S. patents, helping us stay connected with distant friends and family, even when working from home.
Meet Lonnie Johnson, the inventor of the Super Soaker®- one of the most popular toys in the world that has revolutionized the toy industry and changed the way we play. Since its launch in 1990, the Super Soaker has sold over $1 billion worth of products and has had more than 170 different models on the market. Johnson also utilized the compressed air technology from his water blaster to create the famous N-Strike® Nerf® dart toys.
Charles Richard Drew was a pioneer in preserving blood plasma and saving lives. His innovative methods rescued many Allied troops during World War II and are still being used today. He set industry standards for storing, processing, and shipping blood plasma, and he served as the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank in New York.
Did you know that Frederick McKinley Jones revolutionized the distribution of perishable items like food and medicine? He invented a mobile refrigeration system for trucks, railroad cars, and airplanes, which surpassed the use of salt and ice. Jones introduced a more efficient method that allowed fresh fruits and vegetables to be transported safely and successfully over longer distances.
Did you know that Garrett Morgan invented the three-way traffic signal that we use every day to help decrease traffic congestion and increase pedestrian safety? His invention has been so effective that hundreds of thousands of traffic signals are used in the United States alone.