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Celebrating American Inventions: The Beat Goes On

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The 4th of July celebrates the birthday of our country, and allows us to take time to reflect on life, liberty and all the other great freedoms we have living here.  As part of that celebration, this week we’re highlighting some prominent inventions that have impacted all of our lives since the founding of our country.

We’ll highlight one invention from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. We can’t cover every invention, so feel free to share other great inventions in the comments, and check back throughout the week to share how you’ve been impacted by the inventions we’ve selected.

The Artificial Heart

The human heart beats around 2.5 billion times in an average lifespan. Each day, it pumps over 2,000 gallons of blood, providing each cell in the body with fresh oxygen - without which, we cannot survive. It seems like without a heart beating in our chest, we would be toast, right? Not so fast…

Dr. David Lederman, who founded Abiomed, Inc. a year after his father died of a heart attack, didn’t quite see it that way. “There is no reason a person should die when their heart stops,” Lederman said in a 2003 interview with CBS News. “If the person’s brain and the rest of his body is in good shape, why should people die?”

With that in mind, Lederman and Abiomed, Inc. created the AbioCor, a grapefruit-sized, plastic-and-titanium artificial heart. Robert Tools became the first human recipient of a self-contained artificial heart on July 2, 2001. The company deemed it would be considered a success if Tools survived for 60 days following the procedure. He survived for 151. Before his death, his artificial heart had beat over 20 million times inside Tools.

AbioCor was named Time Magazine’s Invention of the Year for 2001 (#1 in Health category), “for saving the life of Robert Tools and changing our perception of what is possible.”

Unlike the world’s first artificial heart, the Jarvik-7, developed in the 1980s by Dr. Robert Jarvik and its modern version,the SynCardia CardioWest, the AbioCor is self-contained, meaning it isn’t connected to external machines. And unlike its predecessors, which were created as a temporary solution for patients waiting for a human heart transplant, the AbioCor is a permanent  replacement.

Though many developments have been made in the 12 years since AbioCor’s creation, it can be traced back as the spawn of these new devices, responsible for redefining perceptions of life, and allowing humans to survive without a living heart.

Whether you’re watching fireworks or barbecuing with friends, make sure your own 4th of July celebration is safe and fun with these tips. And check the #july4 and #madeintheusa hashtags on Twitter to read about more American inventions this week.

Read this post in Spanish.

Celebrating American Inventions: The World at Your Fingertips

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The 4th of July celebrates the birthday of our country, and allows us to take time to reflect on life, liberty and all the other great freedoms we have living here.  As part of that celebration, this week we’re highlighting some prominent inventions that have impacted all of our lives since the founding of our country.

We’ll highlight one invention from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. We can’t cover every invention, so feel free to share other great inventions in the comments, and check back throughout the week to share how you’ve been impacted by the inventions we’ve selected.

The Internet

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’re using the Internet. You’re one of the more than 2 billion Internet users worldwide - a number that has grown by 566 percent since 2000!

It seems absurd, now, that there was ever a time before the Internet existed. Today, there are Internet-enabled smartphones, wireless Internet connection exists in restaurants and coffee shops across the country, and often it’s difficult to even imagine accomplishing tasks or homework without access to the Internet.

This wasn’t always the case, though. There was a time when the Internet was a distant dream, far from reality. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the United States government started looking into what we know now as the Internet.

The government commissioned a research program to investigate technologies for communications via computer networks. The creation of this program, known as ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) marked the beginning of a new era of computer exploration.

In 1973, Vinton Cerf, an American computer scientist known as the “Father of the Internet,” developed the TCP/IP Protocol Suite, a complicated name for what is essentially the system of protocols that underlie the workings of the Internet. This new system, created with American engineer Robert Kahn, improved the efficiency of the network and allowed different networks to connect - essentially creating what we know as the Internet today.

Though the World Wide Web came later, with the contributions of the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, the creation of TCP/IP and the Internet by Cerf and Kahn allowed the idea of a global network to become a reality - and has transformed life as we know it today.

To learn more about the Internet, you can visit the kid-friendly site “The History of… The Internet”.

Whether you’re watching fireworks or barbecuing with friends, make sure your own 4th of July celebration is safe and fun with these tips. And check the #july4 and #madeintheusa hashtags on Twitter to read about more American inventions this week.

Read this post in Spanish.

Image description: Sparklers can burn at 2,000F - hot as a blow torch! Know the risks. Prevent the tragedies.
Always use fireworks and sparklers with extreme caution and follow these safety tips to prevent injury:
Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
Image and tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Image description: Sparklers can burn at 2,000F - hot as a blow torch! Know the risks. Prevent the tragedies.

Always use fireworks and sparklers with extreme caution and follow these safety tips to prevent injury:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

Image and tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Celebrating American Inventions: Beyond Morse Code

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The 4th of July celebrates the birthday of our country, and allows us to take time to reflect on life, liberty and all the other great freedoms we have living here.  As part of that celebration, this week we’re highlighting some prominent inventions that have impacted all of our lives since the founding of our country.

We’ll highlight one invention from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. We can’t cover every invention, so feel free to share other great inventions in the comments, and check back throughout the week to share how you’ve been impacted by the inventions we’ve selected.

The Telephone

“Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.”

These famed words, the first communicated clearly over telephone, are historic in the world of American inventions. Spoken by Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant on March 10, 1876, they marked the beginning of a new era - the era of the telephone.

It’s hard to imagine a world without telephones now, but prior to 1876, the world communicated without them, often with a telegraph and Morse code. While Alexander Graham Bell was attempting to improve the telegraph, he came up with the idea of a telephone and the ability to “talk with electricity.”

The first sound transmitted over a telephone, the twanging of a clock spring, occurred June 2, 1875, and provided more motivation for Bell to continue improving his invention. He filed for a patent on February 14, 1876 and received United States Patent No. 174,465 on March 7 of the same year.

The patent filing came with some controversy surrounding it, as Elisha Gray, another inventor, filed for a caveat hours later on the day! A famous legal battle later ensued between Western Union (Gray’s telephone company) and Bell Telephone, which Bell won.

To see a full collection of Bell’s letters and drawings - including his experimental notebook - you can visit the “Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers”  from the Library of Congress.

Whether you’re watching fireworks or barbecuing with friends, make sure your own 4th of July celebration is safe and fun with these tips. And check the #july4 and #madeintheusa hashtags on Twitter to read about more American inventions this week.

Read this post in Spanish.