What do Presidents, Explorers and Inventors have in common?

We have all heard the saying – “Necessity, the mother of Invention” coined by Plato.  It was a truism in 400bc and it has proven to continue to be true for thousands of years.  When in need individuals tend to create the tools they need to accomplish the mission at hand.  This has never been truer than those few individuals throughout history that happen to be rugged explorers.

  • Original Publication Date November 19, 2013 -Washington, DC – Fun facts in History.  Tom Velasquez   Reprint Rights Granted

Seems when faced with dire situations and life or death consequences, explorers tend to some up with some amazing inventions.  The following is a list of those elite who happen to of haven been or currently are famous explorers (whether explorers of land, new frontiers or futuristic technology) who also happen to be accomplished inventors.  Some of the people on this list may surprise you, since society today usually associates inventors with the laboratory-locked “nerd-stereotype” and not that of hardy adventurers, explorers and warriors.

George Washington

Explorer – Warrior – President:  ohio-webBesides being credited as the “inventor” and “Commander” of our nation, George Washington played a role in establishing the U.S. patent system. But why was he interested in inventing at all? Washington ran into a man named James Rumsey at an inn where both were staying. Rumsey showed Washington a model of his invention: a mechanical boat that could propel itself upstream by grappling on the bottom. Washington must have liked what he saw, because he wrote a letter of recommendation for Rumsey. Rumsey used Washington’s certificate to obtain patents and support for his inventions from various state legislatures. But Rumsey’s predicament required so much labor that it sparked Washington’s interest in supporting inventors. In order to eliminate the need for inventors like Rumsey having to go from state to state to get patent protection for their idea, Washington pushed for the development of a constitution that could help establish a unified patent system for inventors. In 1790, President George Washington signed the Bill that laid the foundations of the American Patent System.

Thomas Jefferson

Adventurer – World Traveler – Inventor – President:  Thomas Jefferson (Sully)In addition to penning the Declaration of Independence, holding the office of President, and being a highly regarded founding father, Thomas Jefferson also came up with many inventions throughout his lifetime. Two of his more famous inventions were the “personal plow” and the “macaroni machine.” An avid farmer, Jefferson decided to invent a plow that could dig two to three inches deeper than the standard wooden plow common at the time. Through his creation, Jefferson also helped prevent soil erosion, a major problem in many areas of Virginia. Along with his interest in farming, Jefferson enjoyed continental cooking. Taking delight in serving his guests food and drinks they could enjoy, he came up with a drawing of a macaroni machine that could give his guests and himself a way to enjoy a base food that has its start from curly shaped dough. It was Jefferson that commissioned the Lewis and Clark- Corps of Discovery Expedition (see below).

Abraham Lincoln

Militia Commander – Freedom Warrior – President: lincolnAbraham Lincoln is the only U.S. President to hold a patent. While an Illinois congressman in 1849, Lincoln was issued a patent for a “manner of buoying vessels,” commonly called a “floating drydock.” While growing up, Lincoln experienced a few close calls when traveling by boat. His idea featured attaching a set of bellows to the hull of the ship just below the water line so the boat could float clearly in shallow water. Lincoln’s patented invention was never commercialized. Lincoln called the development of patent laws one of the most important developments “in the world’s history.” He thought it “added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” You can take a look at the model for his invention at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

Theodore Roosevelt

Naturalist – Explorer – Hunter – Author – Inventor – Commander and Chief:  theodore-roosevelt-at-yosemiteTheodore Roosevelt’s greatest contribution to inventing still delights children (and some adults) to this day. While visiting the south to settle a border dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana, President Roosevelt took a hunting trip in the area. His hunt was going poorly and his staff tried to help him by capturing something that he could shoot. The staff tied up a small Louisiana black bear cub for the president to “hunt.” However, Roosevelt could not, uh, “bear” the thought of shooting the cub, so he spared its life. A political cartoonist used the story as a metaphor for how he handled the Mississippi and Louisiana boundary dispute. The cartoon showed Roosevelt with his back turned on a cute little bear. A Brooklyn toy store owner was so inspired by the story and cartoon that he decided to make a stuffed bear and put it on display. Even though he only intended it as a display item, hordes of customers wanted to buy such a stuffed bear. The store owner asked for permission to use his name for making stuffed bears and the “Teddy Bear” had its beginning! The most ironic thing, though, is that Theodore Roosevelt loathed being called “Teddy.” Theodore Roosevelt was also the first President to ride in a car, to own a car and to ride in an airplane.

Some modern day examples of this rough and tumble, yet inventive crowd are the following.

Sir Richard Branson

Virgin Group head Sir Richard Branson sits on top of a solo piloted submarine during a photo opportunity at a news conference in Newport Beach, California April 5, 2011. Branson and explorer Chris Welch announced plans to launch the submarine to the deepest points of the world's five oceans. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT MARITIME SOCIETY BUSINESS)

Virgin Group head Sir Richard Branson sits on top of a solo piloted submarine during a photo opportunity at a news conference in Newport Beach, California April 5, 2011. Branson and explorer Chris Welch announced plans to launch the submarine to the deepest points of the world’s five oceans. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo (UNITED STATES – Tags: ENVIRONMENT MARITIME SOCIETY BUSINESS)

Adventurer – Explorer – Author – Eco-Warrior – Entrepreneur:  “If you opt for a safe life, you will never know what it’s like to win. Whenever anyone tells me that I’ve got no option, I try to prove them wrong.” As an English business magnate and investor. He is best known as the founder of Virgin Group of more than 400 companies.  His first business venture was a magazine called Student at the age of 16. In 1970, he set up a mail-order record business. In 1972, he opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, later known as Virgin Megastores. Branson’s Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s, as he set up Virgin Atlantic and expanded the Virgin Records music label. Branson is the 4th richest citizen of the United Kingdom, according to the Forbes 2012 list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of US$4.6 billion.

Known as a focused Commander, Branson attempted to accomplish the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing. His first attempt in the “Virgin Atlantic Challenger” led to the boat capsizing in British waters and a rescue by RAF helicopter. In 1986, in his “Virgin Atlantic Challenger II”, he beat the record by two hours. A year later his hot air balloon “Virgin Atlantic Flyer” crossed the Atlantic.  In January 1991, Branson crossed the Pacific from Japan to Arctic Canada, 6,700 miles, in a balloon of 2,600,000 cubic feet. This broke the record, with a speed of 245 miles per hour.

In March 2004, Branson set a record by travelling from Dover to Calais in a Gibbs Aquada in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 6 seconds, the fastest crossing of the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle.  In September 2008, Branson and his children made an unsuccessful attempt at an eastbound record crossing of the Atlantic Ocean under sail in the 99 feet sloop Virgin Money.  After 2 days, 4 hours, winds of force 7 to 9 (strong gale), and seas of 40 feet, a ‘monster wave’ destroyed the spinnaker, washed a ten-man life raft overboard and severely ripped the mainsail. She eventually continued to St. George’s, Bermuda.

Commander J. Hutton Pulitzer

commanderExplorer – Adventurer – Author – Inventor – Entrepreneur:  “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt.    It is that quote by Theodore Roosevelt (on list above) that actually signs off every personal email sent by J. Hutton Pulitzer.  Known and referred to as “Commander” by his team of professional explorers and history researchers at ExpeditionHistory.org, Pulitzer has accomplished more historic re-discoveries than any historic or modern explorers.  Many know Commander as the author of over 200 history, legend, exploration and adventure books, but most do not know they use his patents and technology almost every day.  Pulitzer credited with being the Father of “Scan Commerce” and “Scan to Connect” is the inventor who dreamed up using your connected devices, PC and cell phone to scan both standard bar codes and unique Q Codes to get instant access and information on any product, idea or service in the world.  As a result of Pulitzer’s patents and invention over two billion users globally  daily scan codes to connect and an estimated twenty five billion global mobile devices are licensed to use Pulitzer’s portfolio of patents.

Commander and his team at ExpeditionHistory.org came to exploration fame by locating the 150 year old treasure legend called “The Lost Adams Diggings”, solved and found the legendary “Lost Ship of the Desert” located in the Mojave, calling the “discovery of America by Columbus” into academic question; and for discovering and proving the mythical origin myth of the Aztec peoples, by discovering Aztlan and its evidence as being in North America.  Aztlán is the legendary ancestral home of the Nahua peoples, one of the main cultural groups in Mesoamerica and, by extension, is the mythical homeland of the Aztec peoples. Aztec is the Nahuatl word for “people from Aztlan”.

James Stephen “Steve” Fossett

fossettEntrepreneur – record-setting aviator – Sailor – Adventurer – Author – Inventor:   Fossett (April 22, 1944 – c. September 3, 2007) was the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon. He made his fortune in the financial services industry, and was best known for many world records, including five nonstop circumnavigations of the Earth: as a long-distance solo balloonist, as a sailor, and as a solo flight fixed-wing aircraft pilot.  A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, Fossett set 116 records in five different sports, 60 of which still stood when he disappeared.  Known for his patentable Carburetion/Fuel Injector modifications which helped him to pursue “Chasing the Wind” (name of his autobiography), Fossett contributed numerous improvements to the field of aviation.

Elon Musk

Elon-MuskEntrepreneur – Investor – Inventor: “I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself” – Musk is currently the CEO & CTO of SpaceX and CEO & Chief Product Architect of Tesla Motors. After studying commerce at the Queen’s School of Business for two years, Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. He founded SpaceX and led Tesla Motors and PayPal.

Musk developed the person-to-person payment platform and renamed his company PayPal.  PayPal’s early growth was due in large part to a successful viral growth campaign created by Musk. In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock. Before its sale, Musk, the company’s largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal’s shares.  Like Commander Pulitzer above, Musk is better known for his adventures than his technology inventions.  Hundreds of millions of users around the globe use his person-to-person payment technology to conduct billions of transactions annually.

So what is the common thread among these well-known explorers and inventors?

Seems the same school of thought and brain genius that enables one to seek adventure and tackle things others don’t even dream of doing is the same common thread to inventing ideas that change society and lead to a better way of life and productivity.

Of course there were other notables to add to this prestigious list and all could not be named here, but we will leave you with one interesting trivia point to share and amaze your friends with:

Q:  Which Explorer(s) – Adventurer is credited with creating the following:  (1) this first portable, collapsible and snap to assemble boat? And; (2) the first recorded “air gun” (precursor to pellet guns and paint-ball guns of today)?

A:  Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark – The Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson (on this same list above).

Seems the saying is true – “Necessity IS the mother of Invention” and who finds their needs challenged more than past and modern Explorers?  Plus I think we can all agree, those on this list would not come to mind when thinking of laboratory-locked “nerd-stereotypes” who come up with patents!


KEYWORDS:  Top Inventors, Explorers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Branson, Sir Richard Branson, Commander Hutton Pulitzer, J Hutton Pulitzer, Elon Musk, Steve Fossett, Lewis and Clark, Corps of Discovery, Lewis and Clark Expedition, Mother of Invention, Plato, Cacheology, Exploration,


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