Why aren't the keys on my computer in alphabetical order?
Whether it’s the flexible straw or the search engine, every invention has a story. Get a closer look at the inventors responsible for everything from dishwashers to dynamite in this animated series by HowStuffWorks.com.
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While Alfred Nobel is credited as the creator of dynamite, he is better known for creating the Nobel Prize. In this episode, we trace Nobel's life from the accidental creation of the explosive through his subsequent creation of the Nobel Prize.
Alfred Nobel: Dynamite
While Alfred Nobel is credited as the creator of dynamite, he is better known for creating the Nobel Prize. In this episode, we trace Nobel's life from the accidental creation of the explosive through his subsequent creation of the Nobel Prize.
Aloysius Lilius: Modern Calendar
Nowadays it's easy to take the calendar for granted -- nations across the world have agreed that (for business purposes) each year is twelve months long. But how did we get this calendar in the first place? Tune in and find out.
Arthur Wynne: Crossword Puzzle
Crosswords are one of the world's most popular word games, but how did they get invented? Tune in to learn how hard-working newspaper employee Arthur Wynne struck upon the Stuff of (Crossword) Genius.
Bartolomeo Cristofori: The Modern Piano
Before Bartolomeo Cristofori began tinkering with musical instruments for Ferdinando de Medici, no one had heard of a piano. Tune in to learn how Cristofori's Stuff of Genius changed music -- and history -- in this episode.
Chaz Holder: (Modern) Prosthetic Limbs
Prosthetic limbs have been around for thousands of years, but they've usually been clumsy and expensive. Tune in and learn how Chaz Holder's Stuff of Genius made prosthetic limbs more affordable -- and more comfortable -- for people across the world.
Chester Greenwood: Earmuffs
As a big-eared child in Maine, Chester Greenwood was used to freezing weather. Of course, that doesn't mean he enjoyed it. Learn how his Stuff of Genius kept ears across America toasty (and made Chester famous) in this podcast.
Christopher Cockerell: Hovercraft
Christopher came from a smart family, and he was no exception to the rule. Tune in to learn how the purchase of a marina inspired this engineer to build something that's not quite a boat, and not quite a plane -- but certainly the Stuff of Genius.
Christopher Sholes: The QWERTY Keyboard
Although the keys on the original typewriter keyboard were alphabetized, consumers quickly realized the swift taps of typists would inevitably jam the machine. Learn how Christopher Sholes saved the keyboard in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Daniel Fahrenheit: Mercury Thermometer
Daniel Fahrenheit built several types of thermometers, but his Stuff of Genius wasn't restricted to a few temperature measuring devices. Tune in and learn how Daniel Fahrenheit invented the system that bears his name today.
Daniel Peter: Milk Chocolate
Nowadays milk chocolate is everywhere, but this wasn't always the case. Tune in to learn more about Daniel Peter, who took bitter cocoa tablets and -- with loads of hard work and a neighbor named Nestle -- created the Stuff of (chocolate) Genius.
Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel: Metronome
Today metronomes are a fairly common sight in music halls and studios around the world. But who invented them? Tune in to learn more about the metronome.
Dmitri Mendeleev: Periodic Table of Elements
You've probably seen it in every science classroom you've been in, but what's the story behind the Periodic Table of Elements? Find out in today's Stuff of Genius!
Douglas Engelbart: The Computer Mouse
Before Douglas Engelbart invented the mouse, computers received input through typed commands -- but that all changed once this handy pointer hit the scene. Learn more about the Engelbart's Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Edmund McIlhenny: Tabasco Sauce
You might be surprised to learn that the creator of modern-day Tabasco sauce was once a banker. Yet when the Civil War wiped his fortunes away, Edmund didn't give up. He hunkered down in his garden and made the Stuff of Genius. Tune in to learn more.
Edward Budding: Lawnmower
Before 1830, trimming a lawn was time-consuming and difficult. At least, that is, until a fabric-shaving machine inspired Edward Budding to invent the lawnmower -- and save future landscapers from hours of hacking at the ground with scythes.
Edward Jenner: Smallpox Vaccine
Although forms of vaccination had been discovered thousands of years ago in Asia and Africa, Western Europeans didn't pick up on it until Edward Jenner turned an old wives' tale into the Stuff of Genius.
Edwin Land: Polaroid Camera
When Edwin Land's daughter asked why she couldn't see a photograph immediately after it was taken, inspiration struck. Learn how this prolific inventor's Stuff Of Genius polarized light and made every camera user an amateur film developer in this episode.
Erno Rubik: Rubik's Cube
As a professor in Budapest, Erno Rubik had a pretty swell day job -- but his hobby was even more fascinating. Tune in and learn how Erno Rubik's hobby became the brain-teasing Stuff of Genius that baffles millions in this episode.
Ernst Alexanderson: Long-Range Radio
Before Ernst Alexanderson designed the high-frequency alternators that transmitted radio broadcasts in a continuous wave, radio was not usable over long distances. Tune in and learn more Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Ferdinand Zeppelin: Zeppelin
When the German aristocrat Ferdinand Zeppelin traveled to the U.S. during the Civil War, an unexpected encounter with Thaddeus S.C. Lowe's aviation experiments changed his life. Tune in to learn more about the rise and fall of the Zeppelin airship.
Frank Epperson: Popsicle
Frank Epperson wasn't the typical inventor -- in fact, he wasn't even old enough to drive when he invented the popsicle. Tune in and learn the story behind this Stuff of (Frozen) Genius.
Frank Zamboni: The Zamboni
If you've ever been to a hockey game or an ice-skating rink, then odds are you're already familiar with the quirky, unique machine known as the Zamboni. But where did come from? Tune in to find out.
George Crum: Potato Chips
Frustrated by a picky customer, cook George Crum fried up some paper-thin potato slices. Find out how George's revenge scheme went awry -- and how his potato chips became the Stuff of Genius -- in this episode.
George de Mestral: Velcro
When George de Mestral and his dog set out on a leisurely mountain stroll, they returned covered in burrs. Learn how an afternoon walk inspired the creation of Velcro in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
George Ferris: Ferris Wheel
When Chicago began planning for the World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893, the city's planners asked George Ferris to build something "original, daring, and unique." Tune in to learn more about his invention.
Gerardus Mercator: Mercator Projections
Mercator projections are a common sight in classrooms across the planet, but who invented them? Tune in to find out.
Hans Geiger: Geiger Counter
Today, the Geiger counter used across the planet -- but who invented it, and how? Tune in to find out.
Harry Coover: Superglue
Everyone knows superglue can fix broken mugs and car models -- but it's also strong enough to staunch bleeding wounds. Learn the amazing story behind Harry Coover's Stuff of Genius -- and its original use -- in this episode.
Howard Garnes: Sudoku
Math-based puzzles have been around for centuries, but how did modern Sudoku get its start? Tune in to learn more about Sudoku in this episode.
Hubert Cecil Booth: Vacuum Cleaner
Today vacuum cleaners are a commonplace sight in homes and businesses across the planet -- but where do they come from, exactly? Tune in to learn more.
Hugh Bradner: Wetsuits
Today wetsuits are considered essential equipment for most divers -- but this wasn't always the case. Tune in to learn how a brilliant physicist created the Stuff of (underwater) Genius.
Jack Cover: Taser
As a leading physicist at NASA, Jack Cover already had a few achievements under his belt. Yet his Stuff of Genius was something completely unrelated. Tune in and learn how a fateful encounter with an electric fence led to the taser in this episode.
James Russell: Compact Disc
As an audiophile, James Russell loved his record collection despite the scratching and warping of vinyl. As an inventor, he knew there had to be a better way to play music. Learn more about his Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Jaques Brandenberger: Cellophane
It's easy to take cellophane for granted, but without Jacques Brandenberger we may have never discovered this biodegradable packaging. Learn how one man's quest for a stain-proof tablecloth changed in the world in this episode.
John A. Roebling: Brooklyn Bridge
When New York's leaders contacted John Roebling for help on the Brooklyn Bridge, he was already a well-known engineer -- but was he up to the task? Tune in and learn how Roebling used his cable designs to spin the Stuff of Genius in this episode.
John Herschel: Blueprints
Before the days of copiers and electronic documents, duplicating documents was a time-consuming, arduous task. Learn how John Herschel's blueprints changed the face of the modern world -- and why they're blue.
John Walson: Community Antenna Television
John Walson couldn't sell many television sets in Mahanoy City -- the reception was terrible, and no one wanted a television that couldn't pick up any channels. Tune in to learn how John fixed the problem and invented cable TV in the process.
Joseph Friedman: The Flexible Straw
Joseph Friedman took beverage technology to a whole new level with the invention of the flexible drinking straw. Find out how Friedman came up with his bendy creation in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Joshua Silver: Self-Adjustable Glasses
Professor Joshua Silver isn't an optometrist, but his self-adjustable eyeglasses have improved the vision of people across the developing world. Tune in and learn how this Oxford physicist plans to improve the vision of a billion people by 2020.
L.L. Zamenhof: Esperanto
L.L. Zamenhof was fascinated by language from a young age. He also believed the majority of human conflict arose from miscommunication. Tune in to learn how Zamenhof used his Stuff of Genius to build a universal language.
Levi Strauss: Blue Jeans
Today, blue jeans are one of the world's most iconic forms of clothing. But who came up with the idea? (Hint: It wasn't just Levi Strauss.) Tune in to learn more about blue jeans in this special episode featuring two inventors.
Louis Braille: Braille
Learn how Louis Braille invented the system that sparked Helen Keller to say, "we the blind are as indebted to Louis Braille as mankind is to Gutenberg."
Louis Reard: Bikini
Louie Reard wasn't the typical automobile engineer, and his Stuff of Genius has nothing to do with cars. Tune in and learn how an otherwise mild-mannered inventor created one of history's most iconic -- and controversial -- pieces of swimwear.
Mary Phelps Jacob: The Modern Bra
Frustrated by the cumbersome and uncomfortable whalebone corsets common in her time, Mary Phelps Jacob decided that something had to be done. Tune in and learn how her Stuff of Genius became one of the world's most popular undergarments.
Mikkel Frandsen: Lifestraw
In a world where millions of people don't have access to clean water, entrepreneur Mikkel Frandsen saw a simple solution: the Lifestraw. Listen in and learn how this Stuff of Genius is changing lives across the developing world.
Momofuku Ando: Instant Noodles
Momofuku Ando didn't set out to create noodle bowls, but the former textile company owner had an epiphany while watching a line of hungry people waiting for food. Tune in to learn what led him from garments to instant noodles in this episode.
Muhammad Yunus: Microloans
For most of the modern age, conventional bank loans have been beyond the reach of the poor, forcing families across the globe to do business with loansharks. At least, that is, until Muhammad Yunus invented microloans. Learn more in this podcast.
Nick Holonyak: LED
The light emitting diode, or LED, emits less heat than a traditional incandescent light bulb and it lasts much longer. But where did these brilliant diodes come from? Tune in to find out!
Nicolas Appert: Canned Food
Nowadays, canned food is everywhere -- but how did this industry begin? Tune in to learn how Nicholas Appert discovered the principles used in canning food -- and why we have Napoleon to thank for this Stuff of Genius.
Nikolaus Otto: Internal Combustion Engine
Nikolaus Otto wasn't the first to design an internal combustion engine, but his improved design made the engine practical and popular. Learn more about Otto's auto-related Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Nils Bohlin: Modern Seatbelt
Before Nils Bohlin created the modern seatbelt, he designed ejection seats for Saab aircraft. Learn how Nils' Stuff of Genius changed the world -- and saved millions of lives -- in this episode.
Norbert Rillieux: Refined Sugar
Before Norbert Rillieux's sugar evaporator, slaves across the New World risked severe -- and often fatal -- injury while refining sugar. Learn how this Stuff of Genius saved hundreds of lives and modernized sugar in this episode.
Norm Larsen: WD-40
Norm Larsen started with a simple idea: If water causes rust, then a substance that displaces water can prevent rust. Sure, his first 39 tries didn't work out -- but the last one was pure genius. Tune in and learn more.
Norman Borlaug: Super Wheat
Norman Borlaug spent most of his life fighting world hunger and led the effort to grow more productive, disease-resistant wheat strains. Learn more about The Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Ole Evinrude: Outboard Motor
Ole Evinrude grew up loving machines, but he may never have stumbled across the Stuff of Genius if he hadn't had a grueling quest for ice cream. Tune in to learn more about outboard motors.
Otto Rohwedder: Bread-Slicing Machine
We've all heard the expression 'the best thing since sliced bread,' but did someone actually invent slicing bread? Tune in to learn how Otto Rohwedder made the world's first bread-slicing machine in this episode.
Percy Spencer: Microwave Oven
Today, microwave ovens are a common sight in kitchens across the world -- but who invented them? Tune in to learn how Percy Spencer accidentally struck upon the Stuff of Microwaving Genius.
Peter Henlein: Watches
Nowadays, wristwatches aren't anything to write home about ... but this wasn't always the case. Learn how locksmiths like Peter Henlein miniaturized the dubious clocks of the day to create portable timepieces in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Philip Diehl: Ceiling Fan
Originally born in Germany, Philip Diehl immigrated to the US in 1868. Although he has several fascinating inventions to his name, the ceiling fan remains his most well-known innovation. Tune in to learn more.
Philo Farnsworth: Television
When Philo Farnsworth was just 14 years old, he had an epiphany that changed his life -- and ours. Tune in and learn how this former sharecropper created the modern television in The Stuff of Genius, a video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Ralph Baer: Video Games
Ralph Baer was working for a U.S. defense company when he invented the world's first video game system. Luckily, this Stuff of Genius was too fun to remain locked away from the public. Learn more about video games in this episode.
Ralph Teetor: Cruise Control
Although he was blinded at the age of six, Ralph Teetor rose through the ranks of industry to become the president of his own manufacturing company -- and he didn't stop there. Tune in to learn how an uncomfortable ride inspired the Stuff of Genius.
René Laennec: Stethoscope
Nowadays it seems that every doctor has a stethoscope. But who invented this nifty device, and how? Tune in to learn more.
Robert Adler: TV Remotes
Modern TV viewers use remote controls to channel surf from the comfort of their seat -- but it wasn't always this easy. Learn more about the convenience -- and consequence -- of Robert Adler's Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Robert Cades: Gatorade
When a local football coach asked Robert Cade to help hydrate his players, he set off on a journey to find the perfect sports drink. Tune in and learn more about Cade's Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Robert Jarvik: The Artificial Heart
Robert Jarvik wasn't the first person to patent an artificial heart, but his design was the first heart successfully implanted in a human patient. Tune in and learn how Jarvik's Stuff of Genius gave new hope to heart patients in this episode.
Robert Wilhelm Bunsen: Bunsen Burners
Nowadays Bunsen burners are an everyday laboratory device, but this wasn't always the case. Tune in and learn more about the fascinating life of Robert Bunsen and his Stuff of Genius in this video podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Peter Robertson: Robertson Screwdriver
After he was injured using a conventional flathead screwdriver, frustrated tool salesman Peter Robertson took matters in his own hands. Learn more about his Stuff of Genius in this episode.
Rudolf Diesel: Diesel Engine
Born in 1858, Rudolf Diesel was fascinated by engines from a young age. However, the engines of the time were incredibly inefficient -- at least, that is, until Rudolf's Stuff of Genius struck. Tune in and learn more in this podcast.
Sarah Goode: Folding Bed
During a time when women were treated like second-class citizens and African-Americans were relentlessly persecuted, Sarah Goode built her own business from the ground up. Tune in to learn more about Sarah Goode and the folding cabinet bed.
Stephanie Kwolek: Kevlar
When Stephanie Kwolek couldn't pursue a career in medicine, she took a job as a research chemist. Tune in to learn how this unplanned career led to the Stuff of Genius that changed the world and saved thousands of lives.
Sylvan Goldman: Shopping Cart
As a grocer in Oklahoma, Sylvan Goldman had a hunch that he was losing business because customers only bought as much as they could carry. Check out this episode to learn how his Stuff of Genius saved his store and spread throughout the world.
The Stuff of Genius: A Thanksgiving Special
Whether they're building blood banks or conveniences like air conditioning and the world wide web, inventors have given us a lot to be thankful for. Tune in and watch as we thank three inventors in particular in this special Thanksgiving episode.
The Stuff of Genius: Best of 2009
Over the past year, Stuff of Genius has covered dozens of inventors and world-changing inventions. Tune in as our narrator, Marshall Brain, takes a look back at some of our favorite inventors from 2009.
The Stuff of (Sustainable) Genius: Bioplastics
Plastic is a ubiquitous and incredibly useful invention, but it has some serious downsides. But what if plastics were biodegradable? Tune in to learn more about the evolution and advantages of bioplastics.
The Stuff of Genius: Scanning Electron Microscopes
Once we exhausted the ability to magnify objects through the use of light and lenses, we had to look for a new method. We wanted to go smaller. Enter the electron microscope.
The Stuff of Genius: The Development of Nuclear Energy
While nuclear energy has not become the dominant form of energy in the world today, it is still a viable option. See how the process works.
The Stuff of Genius: The Evolution of Rubber
Derived from tree sap, the rubber used to make rubber bands is fascinating. See how rubber bands came to be in this episode.
The Stuff of Genius: Breaking Down the Space Shuttle
One of the most influential icons of human progress is the space shuttle. It represents the ability of human kind to wade further into the unknown frontier. Learn how it was developed in this episode of Stuff of Genius.
Theophilus Kannel: Revolving Door
Today, revolving doors are a common sight in large buildings across the world -- but how did they get here? This episode ... wait for it ... revolves around Theo Kannel and his astonishing Stuff of Genius.
Tim Berners-Lee: World Wide Web
Nowadays the internet is nearly ubiquitous -- but how did it all begin? Tune in for a closer look at the man who changed the world -- and invented the world wide web -- in this episode.
Whitcomb Judson: Zipper
Nowadays zippers are everywhere -- they're faster than buttons, convenient and reliable. But where did they come from? Tune in and learn more about Whitcomb Judson's stuff of genius in this episode.
Willem Einthoven: ECG
Today, doctors across the planet use the ECG -- also known as the EKG -- to detect and diagnose heart conditions that might otherwise go unnoticed. But who gets the credit for making the first reliable ECG? Tune in to find out.
William Dobelle: Artificial Eye
While working at the Artificial Organ Institute, William Dobelle came up with the idea for the artificial eye, a device that could potentially bring sight to millions. But what exactly is it and how does it work?
Willis Carrier: Air Conditioning
When Willis Carrier set out to solve inking problems for a local printing press, he didn't set out to change the world. Luckily for us, he did. Tune in and learn the story behind the modern air conditioning unit in this podcast.
Zhou Youguang: Pinyin
The Chinese language uses non-phonetic characters, which means that a reader can't tell how a word is pronounced by looking at its written form. For readers facing unfamiliar Chinese words, life was rough -- at least, that is, until Zhou Youguang.