Hoosier Hall of Fame: Hoosier Innovations
This story is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s 2016 Indiana Bicentennial coverage, which includes our list of the 200 Hoosier Hall of Fame picks, designated throughout in bold or highlighted. For more on this celebration of the state’s first two centuries, click here.
… for expecting to live to a ripe old age.
Returning Civil War vet Colonel Eli Lilly founded his drug company in Indianapolis in 1876. But not until after his grandson Eli Lilly Jr. came on board did Eli Lilly and Co. become a powerhouse on the strength of game-changing medications such as insulin, introduced commercially in 1923 for the treatment of diabetes. While the firm didn’t invent the drug—nor penicillin, nor the polio vaccine—it was the first to manufacture those cures for the masses. Blockbuster pills discovered by Lilly scientists include mood-boosting Prozac and libido-enhancing Cialis.
… for that pretty smile.
Before IU researchers Harry Day, Joseph Muhler, and William Nebergall invented a fluoride additive to toothpaste, which debuted in 1956, people sometimes used chalk and salt as abrasives to clean their teeth.
… for sharing the road with sober drivers.
When IU School of Medicine professor Rolla Harger patented his Drunkometer in 1936, the portable device measuring alcohol on a person’s breath made possible a nationwide bender of drunk-driving laws. His younger colleague Robert Borkenstein later refined the machine and renamed it the Breathalyzer.
… for listening to tunes on the go.
Invented by John Pies and Joe Weaver in Indy in 1954, the TR-1 transistor radio dispensed with bulky vacuum tubes and ushered in an era of ever-smaller, more-portable electronics. You could say it was the “podfather” of today’s mobile devices.
… for getting to bask in TV’s warm glow.
He lived in several states during his life, but Philo Farnsworth’s time in Fort Wayne in the 1930s and ’40s gave America one of its most significant products. At Farnsworth Television and Radio, he churned out early models and fought with RCA for the patents.
… for not having dishpan hands.
Valparaiso-raised socialite Josephine Cochrane found that her servants chipped her fine china while cleaning it. Rather than scrub the plates herself, she patented the first water pressure–driven dishwasher in 1886. Hobart, which later became KitchenAid and is now Whirlpool, bought Cochrane’s company.
… for storing your twee artisan pickles.
The functionally elegant Ball jar, made by brothers George, Lucius, Frank, Edmund, and William Ball starting in 1880, allowed generations of canners to preserve staples—before it became a staple in hipster restaurants.
… for your sleek Viking appliances.
The 1919 patent for stainless steel might be the most important from Elwood Haynes. That’s big, considering the Kokomo industrialist’s resume included the thermostat and an early gas-powered car.
… for being able to ride in comfort.
Indiana owned early automobile innovation. Headlights , rearview mirrors , tilt steering , cruise control , pneumatic rubber tires , heaters—it was Hoosiers Carl Fisher, Ray Harroun, Elwood Haynes (again), Ralph Teetor, D. C. Spraker, and Robert Arvin who, respectively, pioneered the indispensable car components listed above.
… for not having to leave your car on crummy winter days.
Particularly this time of year, we’re thankful for C.G. Johnson of Hartford City, who, in 1921, invented the electric garage-door opener.
… for your well-manicured lawn.
Unless you graze goats in your yard, you probably benefit from Richmond native Elwood McGuire’s 1870 development of the first push mower for widespread use on home lawns.
… for that bounce
in your step. The pride of LaPorte, William Scholl—Dr. Scholl to you—invented his famous arch-support shoe liner in 1904.
… for the Empire State Building and other skyline-shaping structures.
For consistency, strength, and handsome bone-gray color, nothing beats Southern Indiana limestone. New York’s Art Deco landmark might be the most famous birthed by Hoosier quarries, but just barely: The Pentagon, Lincoln Memorial, new Yankee Stadium, and Tribune Tower all incorporate our limestone as well, to name just a few.
… for hours of mind-tickling diversion.
He is the only person in the world officially academically recognized as an “enigmatologist”—but you likely know Crawfordsville native Will Shortz as editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle, a post he’s held for 20-plus years.
… for even more hours of fun when you’ve run out of crosswords.
Sudoku first gained popularity in Japan in the 1980s, but you need travel no further than Connersville, home of puzzle inventor Howard Garns, to find the birthplace of the numbers game, which had to cross the Pacific before returning to captivate American puzzlers.
… for finding a cure for cancer.
The bloom may be off of Lance Armstrong, but that doesn’t diminish the achievements of IU Med School oncologist Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, who successfully treated the now-disgraced cyclist’s late-stage testicular cancer. The disease once claimed the lives of 95 percent of its victims but now, with the combination of radiation and chemotherapy refined by Einhorn, has a 95-percent survival rate.
… for that cushy office job.
South Bend foundry owner James Oliver patented Oliver Chilled
Plows (so called for a process that kept cast-iron blades harder and sharper for longer), which became the worldwide standard in farming. The plows helped make the occupation less labor-intensive and ultimately cleared the way for people to leave farm work for town jobs.
… for not having to wear hard-soles to the gym.
When Brown County native and early pro basketball player Charles Taylor signed on with Converse All-Stars a few years after the company’s advent in 1917, he proved such an effective salesman that the shoes soon came to be known as Chuck Taylors , popularized rubber-sole athletic sneakers, and remain one of the most enduring product designs.