Top 5 Inventors of All Time

top 5 inventors of all timeThe top 5 inventors of all time is a subjective list because on one hand the top inventors should include Leonardo Da Vinci, whose inventions are still being built and tested today. Unfortunately, Da Vinci never filed for a patent; patents didn’t exist yet and his designs were ideas, many of which were undeveloped. This list is based on the inventors holding the most patent families, and the most US utility patents. A patent family is the result of a single invention that is patented in multiple countries. A utility patent covers an actual invention rather than an idea, design or modification.
Some of these names will be unfamiliar, but when you learn why the inventor made the top five, the reason for their inclusion will be clear. By comparison, the number of inventions in today’s top five outweighs the inventions of the historical figures we’ve come to admire. By the same token, it must be admitted that without their predecessors, these five would not have made the list, because all inventions are a combination of necessity and the foundation on which to build.

#5 Leonard Forbes

Leonard Forbes was born in 1940 and is the owner of 1012 patent families. His primary inventions are concerned with semiconductor memories, thin film processes, CCDs and VLSI. VLSI stands for Very-large-scale Integration and involves combining thousands of transistors into a single chip. The micro-processor in your computer and other electronic devices is an example of a VLSI. A CCD is a charge-coupled device used to move an electrical charge from within the device to a place where the charge can be manipulated. This technology is necessary for digital imaging, among other things.
Leonard Forbes owns 946 US Utility Patents and 2010 worldwide. He is a retired professor from Oregon State University.

#4 Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was born in 1847 and lived until 1931. Edison is credited with 1084 patent families, and 2332 international patents. He is best known for the light bulb which he did not actually invent, but perfected. Thomas Edison actually invented the first practical electric light bulb; but before that he had to harness electric power in a usable form. He is the father of Direct Current which is used in batteries and generators. In addition to electrical power and lighting, his patent areas include the Phonograph, Cement, Telegraphy, and Mining.
Thomas Edison held 1093 US Utility patents, when he topped Time Magazines list of top five inventors in December of 2000.

#3 Paul Lapstun

Paul Lapstun is an Australian inventor holding over 1240 patent families and 3135 international patents. His areas of expertise include printing, digital paper, internet, electronics CGI and VLSI. Paul Lapstun works with closely with our number 1 inventor of all time.
In May of 2011, Business Insider credited Lapstun with 969 US Utility patents; he filed for 85 additional patents that year.

#2 Shunpei Yamikazi

Shunpei Yamikazi was born in 1942 and is an inventor from Japan. Yamikazi holds 3013 patent families and 12019 international patents. His area of expertise is in thin film transistors, LCDs, solar cells, flash memory and OLED which is an organic light emitting diode. OLEDs are used to create digital displays in devices like television sets and computer monitors. They are also used in portable devices such as mobile phones, PDAs and handheld game consoles.
Shunpei Yamikazi is credited with 2,591 granted U.S. utility patents and 9,700 patents worldwide.

#1 Kia Silverbrook

Kia Silverbrook was born in 1958 and is an inventor from Australia. Silverbrook is the holder of 4544 patent families and 9777 international patents. His areas of expertise include printing, digital paper, internet, electronics, CGI, DNA, LOC, MEMS and VLSI along with chemical and mechanical patents. He also holds patents in LOC which is a laboratory on a chip, integrating multiple lab functions. LOCs are a sub-set of MEMS devices which are referred to as micro-machines in Japan or micro-systems in Europe.
Kia Silverbrook is credited with 4508 granted U.S. utility patents as of October, 2012 and 11,146 patents worldwide.

As stated in the beginning, many of these inventors wouldn’t be anywhere without the following inventions and inventors.

#5 The Camera

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre is considered the inventor of the first practical process of photography in 1837.


LASER is short for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation and is used in everything from home blu-ray players to advanced weaponry. Albert Einstein was the first one to initiate its development in 1917 when he proposed that atoms could be stimulated to emit photons in a single direction. Three decades later, this phenomenon was first observed. And in 1960, Theodore Maiman, a physicist, built the first working laser. (Credit )

#3 Television

In 1884, Paul Nipkow sent images over wires using a rotating metal disk technology with 18 lines of resolution. Television then evolved along two paths, mechanical based on Nipkow’s rotating disks, and electronic based on the cathode ray tube. American Charles Jenkins and Scotsman John Baird followed the mechanical model while Philo Farnsworth, working independently in San Francisco, and Russian émigré Vladimir Zworkin, working for Westinghouse and later RCA, advanced the electronic model. (Credit )

#2 The Internet

The Internet and the World Wide Web are the foundation on top of which the top five inventors of today have built their massive portfolios. The internet was created by the Department of Defense and the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, an employee of CERN which is the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

#1 The Telegraph

The telegraph is the basis for digital sound and imagery as well as the transfer of data packets over long distances via the internet protocols and the World Wide Web. Without the telegraph as a fore-runner, Alexander Graham Bell would not have invented the practical telephone. Thomas Edison started out his early career as a telegraph operator. He came to use what he learned from life in his later inventions of the phonograph and the motion picture camera.

So it is easy to see that the inventions of the past have heavily influenced the inventors of today and these top five will clearly lay the foundation for the inventions of the future.

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