Great Ohio State inventors
Here at Ohio State, we are no strangers to genius.
Giant brains roam our halls, research in our labs and sleep in our dorms. Buckeyes create and invent like it’s their job, and the world is a better place for it.
Below, we celebrate just a few of our extraordinary inventors and their creations.
One of Roy Plunkett’s first assignments after he graduated from Ohio State in 1936 was to find a non-toxic, non-flammable refrigerator coolant for DuPont. His work led to the creation of a slippery powder that came to be known as Teflon. According to the Ohio History Connection: “In 1954, two French engineers discovered that cookware coated in Teflon prevented food from sticking to the pots and pans. This discovery led to the first widespread commercial use of Teflon. Later in the twentieth century, scientists began to develop ways to utilize Teflon in the practice of medicine, as well as in numerous other industries.”
In the late 1950s, Walter McClure and Ben Lamp in the Department of Agricultural Engineering discovered that a significant number of highway travel deaths were related to slow-moving vehicles. So in 1962, under the supervision of the department’s Ken Harkness, researchers completed design and testing of a highly visible Slow Moving Vehicle sign. Ohio State President Novice G. Fawcett dedicated the red-and-orange emblem to the public a year later. You’ve seen it a million times, and now you know where it came from.
Born and schooled in Brussels, Belgium, Albert Leon Henne joined Ohio State’s faculty as a special lecturer in 1929. By 1942, he was a full chemistry professor and a U.S. citizen, naturalized in 1933. Henne was largely responsible for the discovery and development of Freon as a refrigerant, leading to the worldwide use of Freon in refrigeration and air conditioning, and making the fridge a daily household appliance.
Linda Saif ’71, ’76, a researcher and professor in the Food Animal Health Research Program and Veterinary Preventive Medicine Department, is one of the university’s most prolific inventors. Saif is known for her work with viruses, some of which are fatal for humans and food-producing animals. She has discovered new intestinal viruses and new ways to study them in the laboratory. An example: Based on Saif’s research, the university licensed to animal pharmaceutical makers specific strains of viruses that cause epidemic — and fatal — diarrhea in pigs, for use in vaccine development.
Hesham El Gamal, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is a world-renowned information theorist and inventor, with key contributions to wireless communications, game theory and machine learning. He holds 15 U.S. patents and is the ninth Ohio State inventor to be chosen as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. His most recent work has focused on improving and optimizing smartphones and other mobile technologies to more easily stream content.
Liang-Shih Fan, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of Ohio State’s Clean Energy Research Laboratory, pioneered the CDCL technology, which chemically harnesses coal’s energy and efficiently captures the carbon dioxide produced before it can be released into the atmosphere.
You’ve probably seen this guy’s name on a building. Harry Drackett graduated in 1907 with a degree in chemical engineering and joined his father’s company, the P.W. Drackett and Sons Company, in 1915. There, Drackett invented Windex, and we’ve been seeing better out of our windows ever since.
In addition to his timeless board game — the Game of Life, which has sold more than 50 million copies — Reuben Klamer ’44 is the creator of more than 200 toys and responsible for introducing one of the most important innovations in that industry: unbreakable plastic.
A healthier blue M&M? Thank Monica Giusti. The food science and technology professor studies polyphenolics, potent antioxidants abundant in fruits and vegetables that are believed to help fight chronic diseases. She’s been developing natural food colorants for more than 20 years, which brings us to the blue M&M. Blue is a tricky candy color, because there aren’t many natural sources of blue. In 2018, Mars, the maker of M&Ms and many popular candy brands, patented Giusti’s method of extracting anthocyanins — pigments that give red, purple and blue plants their coloring.
There are a lot of reasons you know about this former Ohio State football coach (1941-43), but we’re focusing on just one here: the modern playbook. Paul Brown introduced playbooks and classroom teaching to professional football.