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What is an Inventor?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An inventor is considered the first person to create a new item or different way of doing something. Inventors are highly original thinkers who tend to look for ways to solve problems and improve on existing ideas to develop a useful item that fills a need. Some have changed the way entire nations of people live.

Thomas Edison, born 11 February 1847 in Milan, Ohio, was an inventor who certainly changed the world with his invention of the light bulb in 1880. Edison not only invented the light bulb, but also the systems to use it with such as electricity generators for homes. He also created systems for sound and film recording.

It's important to note that perfecting an invention until it's completely usable is an important quality of being an inventor. Inventors aren't people who just come up with a new idea. Rather, they actually create a finished product or method of doing something. Anyone could potentially do this, but few people have the perseverance to follow an idea through to an original, perfected product or method because this takes a great deal of time, research and experimenting.

For example, Edison tried more than 1,600 different materials before discovering that bamboo worked best as the filament in his light bulb. He wrote more than 40,000 log book pages documenting and analyzing his experiments before finally perfecting the light bulb. Documenting everything from the idea onward is an extremely important part of being an inventor. Writing down and dating everything that is done and thought of concerning his or her invention can prove that the idea is an original creation.

Inventors often work to get a patent for their inventions. A patent is like a copyright on an original literary work, as it protects intellectual property rights. Patent lawyers help inventors understand how to fill out the legal forms needed to receive a patent for an invention.

Marion Donavon, born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1917 received a patent in 1951 for her invention of a snap-on diaper cover that later became the inspiration for the first disposable diaper. Her first attempt at her invention that she called the Boater because she thought the diaper cover looked like a boat, involved sewing a piece of a shower curtain to a cloth diaper. Donovan wanted to avoid using safety pins, so she included snap closures on the sides. Like most inventors, Donovan thought of original ways to improve upon a product that wasn’t effective. The rubber infant pants made at the time caused diaper rash, were difficult to put on and take off the baby and the elastic edges tended not to fit very well around the legs.

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Discussion Comments

By JimmyT — On Aug 19, 2012

@cardsfan27 - The first thing anyone needs to do when they believe they have invented something, or may have made a discovery, is to immediately file a patent claim with the United States Patent Office.

If someone files a claim right away it does not matter if someone else comes in claiming credit to the same invention, because the date of the claim is all that matters.

I heard a story that Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone, filed his claim a mere few hours before another person claiming the invention.

Also, a person should always follow up with the patent office, as it may take a couple years for them to research and make sure that it is in fact a new discovery.

As far as being a full time inventor goes it all depends on the ideas one comes up with and whether or not it is something marketable and that they will be able to make a living off of it.

Besides that, one only needs to follow procedures in the patent office and anyone can become an inventor.

By cardsfan27 — On Aug 18, 2012

I have heard of many stories of celebrities and famous people creating inventions simply because they had an idea and realized that they could make a task a lot simpler by merely creating something that could accomplish the task.

I know that magician Penn Jillette holds a patent in something that merely started as a simple idea and that Abraham Lincoln patented a device, while he was on the farm, that made his tasks so much easier.

I think that for most people inventions come as a hobby and is more of an "ah ha" type of thing as opposed to someone going into it as a profession.

I know that is is a difficult profession to get into, but I am wondering what people have to do in order to become a full time inventor?

By kentuckycat — On Aug 18, 2012

@matthewc23 - You are correct. The essence of being an inventor is to simply progress society and by creating something that helps people accomplish tasks, no matter how small, allows the inventor to provide a service.

There are many people that are simply inventors in their spare time and they are merely looking to do it as a hobby or as a way to simply contribute to society.

I know that most inventors do not even make profit off of their inventions and that their prototype may even be the only one in existence. In cases like this they are at least credited with the idea and someday their invention may in fact be used.

If their invention is never marketed, they at least came up with an idea that no one else ever did and that is something to be proud of.

By matthewc23 — On Aug 17, 2012
The beauty of being an inventor is that an inventor can more or less create anything they want that will make life a little easier.

I know a guy one town over from me that had the idea to create a snap on plastic device that simply clipped two lotion bottles together, so that one that is nearly empty would flow what's left in it into the other bottle, without having to cut that near empty bottle.

Something as simple as this only makes life a little bit easier and although he will probably not see much profit from this, he will be able to claim that he contributed to society and progressed technology, just a little bit, even though his invention was so simple.

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