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Visionary Inventors

Published: 11/2/2011

Steve Jobs (AP Photo)Appreciation for the genius of inventor Steve Jobs and his contributions to our daily lives flooded the media – print, online, broadcast and social – when the Apple founder and Pixar visionary died Oct. 5.

Loads of other inventors, patent holders and innovators died in recent weeks. Most of their obituaries offer only generic references to their ingenuity.

Among those whose contributions were spelled out in the obits are:

Edgar Villchur, 94, of Woodstock, N.Y., invented an acoustic suspension loudspeaker in 1954 that revolutionized the field of high-fidelity equipment, providing better bass response than was previously possible, at the same time radically reducing the size of the cabinet, according to the obit in the Daily Freeman of Kingston, N.Y.

He also received a patent for the dome tweeter, which greatly improved the ability of loudspeakers to reproduce accurate high-end sounds. His AR-3 speaker is on display in the Smithsonian Institute's Information Age Exhibit in Washington, D.C.

Villchur later went into hearing aid research and developed the multichannel compression hearing aid, whose basic design has become the industry standard for hearing aids.

Robert Hurley (Indianapolis Star)Robert E. Hurley, 99, came up with numerous process and methods, which were part of the early days of the electronics industry development, during his 30-year career as a chemical engineer with RCA, per the Indianapolis Star obituary.

Among his many credits are his work on the printed circuit board, the refinement of radar and the ferrite ceramics which made up the component for the first color television picture tube.

Jack Edmonds (Ithaca Journal)Jack Edmonds, 74, worked on projects for the country's defense, including bioluminescence in ocean flagellates, according to the obituary in the Ithaca (N.Y.) Journal.

He worked on methods to clear airplane wings of ice and ways to detect hazardous road conditions in inclement weather. Weeks before his passing, he was developing methods to detect the content of plumes from volcanoes.

Kimball Allen (San Francisco Chronicle)Kimball W. Allen, who died 12 days before his 92nd birthday, developed the first coin-operated laundry mat, according to the obit in the San Francisco Chronicle.

It was such a novel concept that he had to hire an attendant with a white uniform just to explain the concept and the use of the equipment. He soon had a small chain of laundry mats in San Francisco.

He never stopped inventing and later he developed and patented a coin-operated shoeshine machine which he manufactured himself.


Stanley Grossman (The Oklahoman)Stanley Grossman, 80, of Norman, Okla., participated for over forty years in many key transportation and building projects throughout the state and nation, per his obit in The Oklahoman.

He was also an inventor, holding numerous patents, most prominently for the Inverset bridge system, a prestressed, modular product that could be erected in a few days instead of the months ordinarily required to complete or replace a highway bridge.

Melanie Sue Eldridge, who died at age 59, was the inventor of the Red and Blue alert and the Community Exchange systems, which helped thousands of people with mental health challenges receive assistance in their time of need, according to the obit in the Arizona Republic.

Lloyd Johnson (Peoria Journal Star)Lloyd Johnson, 96, was listed as the inventor and a major or sole contributor on 18 U.S. Letters of Patent in diesel and gas turbine engine technology during his career in research for Caterpillar Inc., according to the obit in the Peoria Journal Star.

In 1954, he initiated research on gas turbine engines for Caterpillar and managed its gas turbine research program for 14 years.

In 1949 and 1950, Mr. Johnson tested what is now known as ethanol on his new 1949 Ford for the Peoria Research Laboratory of the United States Department of Agriculture (Peoria Ag Lab).


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.

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