Chester Greenwood's ears were more frozen than the ice he was skating on near his home in Farmington, Maine. One wintry day, in 1873, his ears had had all they could take. Chester ran home and twisted some wire into two loops. He asked his grandma to put cloth over them. Once outside, he tried them on and his ears stayed warm! That is how earmuffs were invented.
An invention is something new usually intended to improve life for humanity. Some inventions, like the airplane, take years of hard work and disappointment before they finally succeed.
Orville and Wilbur Wright had to do tons of research on birds and flying. Then they conducted experiments with kites and gliders. Sometimes their experiments failed, but the Wright Brother's didn't give up. They learned from their mistakes and kept trying, and on December 17, 1903, their biplane flew in the air for 12 seconds. A success!
There are other inventions that are completed almost immediately. Potato chips are a good example. In 1853, a chef named George Crum got angry at a customer who said his french fries were too thick and soggy. So Chef Crum thinly sliced a potato and soaked the slices in ice water. Then he fired them until they were crisp and brown. for an extra touch, he poured salt all over them and served them to his customer.
What a hit!! Soon, everyone in town was asking for Crum's "Saratoga Chips." Today the average American eats at least four pounds of chips a year.
Some inventions are made to make things better, like safety pins. The sharp tips poked out of old pins and would stab people. In 1849, Walter Hunt made a pin with a clasp that covered the tip. He had a deal with a creditor (someone you owe money to) that if Walter could make something useful out of a piece of wire, he would get $400 and his debt would be canceled. Three hours after he started, Walter Hunt had invented the modern safety pin.
When an inventor comes up with a new invention, they get a patent on it. A patent is a paper from the government that makes sure they are the only person who can make, use, and sell their invention for a certain period of time. However, not all patented inventions are successful.
In 1879, a man invented a way for people to escape from a burning building. A parachute cap was supposed to slow people down after they jumped, and padded shoes would cushion their fall. People thought the contraption was more likely to kill them than to save them and so it was never a "hot" item in the stores.
Some inventions have changed the world, like plastic and computers. Others have only effected certain people like eyeglasses and false teeth. But all inventions are the product of somebody's imagination. And all inventors are practical thinkers. That means they can think through a situation instead of giving up because they don't know the answer. Inventors can be young or old, rich or poor, black, white or yellow.
Do you have a good imagination? Can you think through a problem and find a solution? Can you learn from mistakes and not give up? Then maybe you are an inventor. Go see what you can invent to improve the world. Who knows, you might be famous one day.