You know New Jersey is a state rich in intellectual history when Thomas Edison is — spoiler alert — not considered its greatest innovator.
At the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Innovation Gala held Monday in Somerset, the chamber revealed its picks for the 25 greatest innovators in New Jersey history as part of the celebration of the state’s 350th anniversary.
Some of the names are familiar to every American, and some only to those who study their particular field, but everyone on the list compiled by the chamber in conjunction with NJBIZ is a star in the field of invention.
“This list is meant to salute New Jersey for its broad history of innovation, and we hope it will generate debates over who are truly the greatest thinkers in New Jersey history,” Thomas Bracken, the chamber’s CEO and president, said in a prepared statement.
It was developed by a “research and discussion” team at the New Jersey chamber and NJBIZ, which included innovators born in New Jersey or who made significant strides in their field while working in the state.
Some of these innovators and inventors created the light bulb and the transistor; they won women the right to vote and changed their fashions forever; one even walked on the moon.
“New Jersey has been home to an incredible number of innovators,” Ray Zardetto, the chamber’s vice president of communications, said.
The All-Time Top 25 Innovators in New Jersey History:
25. Donald Fletcher Holmes: Invented “do-it-all” polyurethane, the durable, flexible synthetic material
24. Elizabeth Coleman White: Cultivated the blueberry into a $40 million industry
23. John Roebling: Improved engineering design to make longer bridges possible
22. Wally Schirra: Trailblazing astronaut who was first to dock with another spacecraft
21. Claude Shannon: Devised the “Rosetta Stone” of computer language, leading to info age
20. Alice H. Parker: Patented home heating system while working from her home in 1919
19. Ida Cohen Rosenthal: Transformed women’s fashions, including the bra, igniting multibillion-dollar industry
18. Seth Boyden: The most prolific U.S. inventor before Thomas Edison
17. John J. Mooney: Devised the three-way catalytic converter, forever ending the “toxic tailpipe”
16. Lloyd Conover: Developed chemical process leading to new disease-fighting antibiotics
15. Alice Paul: Her unique brand of activism won women equal rights, like the right to vote
14. John Dorrance: Invented condensed soup, transformed Campbell Soup into an empire
13. John Stevens: Granted patent for the steam engine, known as “Father of American Railroads”
12. Allen DuMont: Developed the first commercially sold television sets
11. Vladimir Zworykin: Turned century-old dream of sending moving images over a wire into reality of TV
10. Beatrice Alice Hicks: Pioneering engineer, shattered the glass ceiling for women in this field
9. Robert Wood Johnson: Transformed Johnson & Johnson into a global powerhouse
8. John von Neumann: Nobel Laureate, built computers in ’40s that remain the blueprint for modern computers
7. Buzz Aldrin: Pioneered working in space and walked on the moon
6. David Sarnoff: Father of broadcasting, ran RCA and NBC, helped develop TV and radio
5. Lyman Spitzer: Visionary physicist, founder of Princeton Plasma Physics Lab
4. John Bardeen, William Brattain, William Shockley: Nobel Laureates invented the transistor, the brain of modern electronics
3. Selman Waksman: Disease-conquering Nobel Laureate called the “Father of Antibiotics”
2. Thomas Edison: Most prolific inventor in history. Light bulb, telegraph, motion picture camera
1. Albert Einstein: Nobel Laureate named “The Greatest Mind of the 20th Century”
Of Edison and Einstein, Zardetto said: “Their worldwide fame attracted the best minds to come to New Jersey to live and work. These protégés landed at New Jersey universities and R&D institutions, helping turn the Garden State into an innovation powerhouse.”
Einstein was chosen as New Jersey’s No. 1 innovator because “He is without a doubt one of the most unique and incredible men in history, and his name is synonymous with ‘genius,’” Zardetto added. “His insights into, and theories on, the workings of the universe took the human mind where it has never been before, and his conclusions so revolutionary, physicists today still marvel at his accomplishments.”
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