1996 INVENTION INDEX™
NATIONAL SURVEY ON INVENTIONS SHOWS
AUTOS RATE HIGHEST, PCs AS VITAL AS HAIR DRYERS
CAMBRIDGE, MA (January 1996) — Personal
computers are as vital as blowdryers but television and autos outrank
both, according to the Invention Index™, a national survey
on inventions and inventors sponsored by the Lemelson-MIT Prize
Program, the world's largest program recognizing and rewarding American
The Index, commissioned in November 1995 to determine
American perceptions of inventions, asked more than 1,000 adults,
ages 18 and older, which inventions were most important, which inventions
they could not live without, and what attributes inventors have.
The Lemelson-MIT Program at MIT is an initiative designed to encourage
inventing as a career and will award a half-million dollars to an
outstanding American inventor on April 11, 1996.
Autos were voted the most important invention (34
percent), that most (63 percent) could not live without. The Invention
Index™ found that eight percent of people cannot live without
a personal computer — or a blowdryer. Only five percent voted
television most important, but 22 percent admitted they couldn't
live without it. Some 16 percent thought inventors were "rich."
"Inventions are part of the fabric of American
life," said Dr. Lester Thurow, author, professor of Management
and Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management and chair of
the Lemelson-MIT Prize Board. "But these results reveal a disconnect
in our perception of inventors. Many major U.S. corporations started
from an invention. Inventions create jobs -- MIT graduates and faculty
inventions created some 452,000 jobs in just California and Massachusetts
— yet few respondents consider inventing a route to prosperity.
We need to change this perception or face an 'invention deficit'
in the future. We hope the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program will help."
The automobile is the most important invention (34 percent), and
outranks phones two-to-one and personal computers six-to-one.
Appropriately, the winner of the first Lemelson-MIT
Award of $500,000 for outstanding invention and innovation last
year was awarded to William Bolander, an automotive engineer with
a 12 year track record of invention. Mr. Bolander's innovations
with Saturn, Cadillac and General Motors have improved the safety
and efficiency of the American automobile.
The light bulb came in second (28 percent) followed
by the telephone (17 percent). The PC and aspirin tied for fourth
place at 6 percent.
"I COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT..."
The automobile (63 percent) and the light bulb (54 percent) received
the most votes in this category. Telephones came in third with 42
percent, followed by television (22 percent). Aspirin was fifth
(19 percent), the microwave oven sixth (13 percent) and personal
computers and blowdryers tied at 8 percent. (Note: total equals
more than 100% as answers reflect multiple responses.)
MEN VS. WOMEN
More women (20 percent) than men (14 percent) said the telephone
was most important, while more men than women (8 percent vs. 4 percent)
voted for PCs. However, slightly more women than men (8.1 percent
vs. 7 percent) of women said they could not live without PCs.
BILL GATES: NOT THE TYPICAL INVENTOR
Inventors were seen as eccentric (45 percent) and over 40 (32 percent).
Only 16% called inventors "rich." "What people don't
realize is that corporations like Microsoft began with an idea and
an invention," notes Thurow. "Inventors drive our economy
and help maintain America's status as a world leader."
Last year's co-recipients of the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime
Achievement Award demonstrate the economic impact of invention:
William Hewlett and David Packard founded the Hewlett-Packard Company
with $538, one product — a resistance-capacity audio oscillator
— and two employees (themselves). Hewlett Packard is now a
$25 billion corporation employing more than 98,000 worldwide.
About the Lemelson-MIT Program — Based at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late independent
inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The Program celebrates
inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual
awards including the world's largest for invention, the $500,000
Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages young Americans to pursue
careers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship.
The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation ,
which supports other invention initiatives at the Smithsonian's
National Museum of American History, Hampshire College, the National
Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the University
of Nevada, Reno.
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